The very concept of'Government of the people, for the people and by the people' , puts human beings at the centre stage and unless the State makes Human Rights its focal point, it cannot provide good governance. Democratic governance refers to the management of societal affairs in accordance with the universal principles of democracy as a system of rule that maximizes popular consent and participation, the legitimacy and accountability of rulers, and the responsiveness of the latter to the expressed interests and needs of the public.
It is now well-accepted that the State is primarily responsible for both formulating and enforcing polices relating to good governance and human rights. Unless human rights are made the focal point, good governance would remain only a distant dream. The rule of law is a higher ideal and it must be recognized by those governing the State that adherence to the rule of law is sine-quo-non of any society that hopes to have stability and peace and achieve social equality.
Leaders of the movement for Independence in India were aware of the enormous inequities and injustices in the society. On the attainment of Independence in 1947, they had the choice to adopt governance either by an authoritarian rule or through the Rule of Law and constitutionalism of the Western Model. In framing our Constitution, our Founding Fathers made a conscious and deliberate choice to adopt democracy or rather the democratic way of life as the basis of our Constitution. They were committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and incorporated the same as Fundamental Rights in Part-III of our Constitution and made them enforceable by an independent judiciary.
On 26 th of November, 1949, our Founding Fathers accomplished the challenging task of framing a Constitution for free India. WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA resolved to give to ourselves the Constitution aimed at securing for all its citizens - Justice, social, economic and political; Equality of status and opportunity, besides Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship and Fraternity. The Founding Fathers were conscious of the need to provide for real freedom for each of its citizens. Civil and Political Rights were, therefore, incorporated in the Constitution as Fundamental Rights in Part-III and made enforceable. The rationale underlying these Rights being that human rights flow from the common humanity and inherent dignity of every human being irrespective of race, religion, caste, colour, sex or status and these inhere in all human beings by reason of his/her birth as a member of the human family. These rights are not negotiable and no compromise with their violation is permissible.
In Part-IV of the Constitution, with the aim of creating a Welfare State, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were enshrined as Directive Principles of the State Policy. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, while explaining the nature of Directive Principles, opined that they would be the 'Guiding Principles of Governance'. The inter-dependence of both sets of rights is essential for full development of human personality. Governments have so far contented themselves by chalking out only strategies for promotion of economic and social rights. Even those strategies have hardly borne any fruits because of rampant corruption in implementing the same. Millions of people in this country live in a state of abject poverty, without food, shelter, employment, health care and education.
Corruption is a potent violator of human rights, particularly the economic and social rights of individuals as well as those of the State. It not only undermines development and growth, it also inhibits efforts aimed at poverty eradication, socio-economic transformation and creation of an egalitarian society in accordance with the Directive Principles of the State Policy. Corruption inhibits enjoyment of human rights. It has become all pervasive and is eating into the vitals of the society. It directly contributes to inequalities in income, status and opportunities. It remains one of the biggest threats to 'full human development' and 'human rights for all'. It undermines the Rule of Law. It distorts the development process and also poses a grave threat to human security. Corruption is not a new phenomenon. What is new and worrying is the magnitude and size of corruption. It has spread its tentacles to every sphere of national life. It is one of the biggest threats to development. It can tear the very fabric of the society and, in fact, it is doing so. Corruption benefits the rich and the well-to-do. It enriches the rich and disproportionally affects the poor, unprotected and the underprivileged and thereby it deepens their deprivation. Unless it is checked, the governments and people will have to pay a very heavy price in the consequent result of lower incomes, lower investments and lower developments resulting in volatile economic swings. It is high time that we appreciate an urgent need to combat the deadly menace which poses a threat to the democratic fabric of our nation. It is unfortunate, but true, that growing politicization of public services and criminalization of politics have contributed in no small measure to let corruption flourish and the corrupt not only go scot-free but even earn a position of false respectability!
Internationally, the world community has been concerned about the growing phenomenon of corruption. With a view to launch a global war against it, United Nations' Convention against Corruption, adopted by the General Assembly on October 31, 2003, came into force on 14 th December, 2005 with the 30 th ratification of the Instrument. The Instrument, after its adoption in 2003, was open for signatures till December 9, 2005. India was perhaps one of the last member States to sign it, though ratification is yet to be announced. This Convention deals with crucial aspects of corruption. It is a significant step towards meeting the challenge of corruption. Let India not delay joining the global war.
We have cried ourselves hoarse about the persistent evil effects of corruption and talked about it, yet it flourishes with impunity. The need of the hour is to bring about a change in our political morality and society's sense of values. We need to ensure that certain basic values like integrity and honesty are inculcated in our education system itself. What is more unfortunate, today, is the growing tolerance and our acceptance of corruption as an inevitable and integral part of the civil society. Unless an alert and active citizenry adopts zero-tolerance to corruption and shuns the corrupt, it may not be possible to meet the challenge with any amount of sincerity. Remedy, therefore, to a large extent, lies with us - WE THE PEOPLE.
Citizens' obligation in a democracy is not discharged by the exercise of franchise once in five years and thereafter retiring in passivity and not taking any interest in the working of the government. An alert and active and educated citizenry is essential to meet the challenges to democracy and to ensure its successful functioning. Accountability is a sine-qua-non of democracy because as Benjamin Disraeli rightly reminds us " all power is a trust - that we are accountable for its exercise that, from the people and for the people, all springs, and all must exit ". This accountability is to be enforced not merely at the time of elections but during the life of the government in power. Otherwise democracy will become merely a ritualistic exercise in voting and not a continuous process of democratic governance.