ABSTRACT

In conventional public administration, citizens remain recipients and hence they hardly have a role to play in governance. Endorsed by the Weberian notion of hierarchical bureaucracy, public administration, in its earlier articulation, did not seem to pay adequate attention to the role that the citizens are expected to play in public governance. Public administration was hardly public in sum and substance. The idea was challenged off and on; and there were changes in the texture and functioning of public administration as history progressed. One of the fundamental changes that was brought about as a result of politicoideological campaigns in various phases of history was about the nature of public governance in which the role of citizens began to be recognized as integral to its functioning. It was made possible in a changed environment where top-down administrative values no longer remained as attractive as before. Instead, the idea of the ‘bottom-up’ administration, entailing the critical importance of the public in decision making, seemed to have become theoretically far more acceptable. The idea that citizens are important in governance is not new; what is new now is the effort towards articulating this idea in practice. Citizens need to be taken into account seriously while formulating policy decisions: they do not remain mere cogs in a machine, but are actively involved in running the machine in accordance with their ideological priorities. Citizens’ involvement in decision making is critical to ethics in governance. In order to make administration transparent, the role of stakeholders can never be undermined because it was they who, being faced by the reality, know what is better for their well-being. Only then are administrative decisions likely to be based on an appropriate understanding of the reality, something usually sacrificed given the appreciation of the top-down strategy of public administration. The aim is to create and also sustain an administration that is responsive enough to arrive at effective decisions for public well-being. What is basic here is to evolve mechanisms whereby citizens’ views are respected while making decisions pertinent to their well-being both individually as well as collectively. This is an important aspect of governance in India, in its new avatar that has attracted immense attention. By concentrating on these instruments of citizens’ empowerment in the changed socio-ideological circumstances, the chapter provides an elaborate study not only of these mechanisms but also their contextual roots in

India’s volatile political milieu. The fundamental argument that the chapter makes relates to the consolidation of newer devices for citizens empowerment that are being meaningfully utilized to make public governance sensitive to the demands and also requirements of the stakeholders. These instruments seems to have become effective, the argument further underlines, because of a favourable socio-political environment supporting proactive citizens as integral to democratic political processes.