Book Review by Namrata
Title: Rethinking Good Governance — Holding to Account India’s Public Institutions
Author: Vinod Rai
Publisher: Rupa Publications, 2019
“Here is a hugely important book for India and Indians, especially those who should be guardians of the nation and rulers delivering good governance.”
– Baron Meghnad Desai, British economist and Labour politician
Bringing together his experience of heading various public institutions for the Government of India, Vinod Rai gives us a glimpse into the workings of these organisations through this book.
Vinod Rai is a man who needs no introduction. An IAS officer from the 1972 batch, he went on to head many important chair positions all through his illustrious career. Starting with being the Comptroller and Auditor General of India followed by being the chairperson for Banks Board Bureau and finally currently being the Chairman of the Supreme Court-mandated Committee of Administrators of the BCCI. Out of the many accolades he won, the most prestigious one has to be the Padma Bhushan awarded to him in 2016 by the Government of India in recognition of his services for the nation. He has previously authored two books, one where he shares ideas and reflections looking back at seven decades of independence and second where he shows us his diary, as the nation’s conscience keeper for being the symbol of anti-corruption movement within the country.
Neatly divided into twelve chapters, this book shows us what goes on inside the public institutions. The book starts with a brief introduction of what Rai means by ‘Holding to Account’ and he believes the most vital bond between a people and its government is that of trust. It is these accountability institutions that help maintain that trust.
“The transparency and openness seen in any society, the readiness with which it can indulge in creative disruption, and the ease with which the rule of law is permitted to prevail are important indicators of an able administration.” (Pg. xi)
Further we get to understand the functionalities and the impact on the society of the Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Civil Services and the Central Vigilance Commission. Rai also talks about ‘Right to Information’ along with the sports and temple administration, sharing the case study of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society with detailed analysis.
The book ends with an epilogue which is highly encouraging for the citizens of India as he talks about our greatest gift — democracy and how we should all strive to keep it intact while working in tandem with the government to make our country a successful one.
Rethinking Good Governance is an important read, as it shows us the strengths and weaknesses of these institutions and that too from an expert’s perspective. Many years ago, as an MBA aspirant, my group discussion topic was ‘If privatisation was helping India’. In a group of ten, I was the only one against the topic as I felt there is a lot of cleaning that needed to be done within the system before we introduced something so radical. My point was, a tree whose base itself is weak cannot lead to a fruitful harvest. Needless to add, I was selected on the basis of that answer. Today, years later, when I read this book, I feel proud to see how a lot of effort has been put in to ensure the roots of our systems are strong and able.
This book talks about all the machinery which ensures the smooth functioning of the country. With a population of close to one billion, it is a humongous task within India. Through various statistics and numbers, Rai highlights the different aspects that go behind it. They can easily be called the oil which ensure the machinery is running smoothly.
Through his balanced views and insights, Rai tells us how each one of these are striving to work in harmony to lead to the common goal of the country. All of these institutions are like the guardians of the country, the very pillars on which it stands proudly. They are responsible for keeping it operational without any hiccups.
Written with lucidity, the book is a reference bank for every curious learner who wants to understand India and its functioning at its best. Rai has a tone of honesty all through the book, where he puts forth facts for readers to analyse, interpret and process.
It is interesting to note how Rai not only shares insights into crisis handling efforts made by these institutions (like the Non Performing Assets impasse) but also talks about proposed amendments. His strong insight into the governance functionality and his deep understanding of its operations, makes this book a thoroughly insightful read. For a common man, there are a lot of questions that have been answered through this book as he talks about the issues and failures in the same tone as he speaks of the corrective measures and achievements.
For every person who has ever exclaimed in anger, “What was the government thinking?” while reading about any policy or operational changes, this book is the answer.
Reviewer’s Bio: Namrata is a lost wanderer who loves travelling the length and breadth of the world. She lives amidst sepia toned walls, fuchsia curtains, fairy lights and shelves full of books. When not buried between the pages of a book, she loves blowing soap bubbles. A published author she enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words and is always in pursuit of a new country and a new story. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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