Essay on the Importance of People’s Participation in Public Administration

In the modern world, public administration is an integral part of the development process and has a significant role to play in the gigantic task of national development. It would be a mistake if the importance of public administration were not fully recognised by those involved in national development.

More and more countries, especially developing countries and the United Nations (Public Administration Division) now attach too much importance to public administration as a mechanism for national development. It goes without saying that nature of public administration varies from country to country depending upon the political, social and economic systems. It functions in a particular environmental setting.

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As such any attempt to discuss the subject of public administration in the diversity of systems and situations, would invite the danger of over simplification in making generalizations. Nevertheless, there is convergence of experience about the increasing role of the government in the overall development efforts of national development.

This place an increasing responsibility upon the public administration, public sector and its effective functioning have, therefore, come to be recognised as key factors in national efforts for economic and social change.

In the developing world of Asia, Africa and Latin America governments play a pivotal role in national development. These countries want to be modern in the sense of increase in national income per capita and sustained social and economic welfare of their people. In these countries public sector has come to occupy a place of far-reaching importance.

Since the Second World War, the functions of all governments, especially governments of developing countries, have significantly increased. They are now concerned with more complex functions of nation-building and socio-economic progress of their countries. Development is the centre of their policies. They want to achieve national development.

There is great pressure on governments to accelerate national development, make use of up to date and relevant technological innovations, adopt and facilitate necessary institutional changes, increase national production, make full use of human and other resources and improve the level of living.

In developing countries there is national resurgence self-realization and aspiration for self-assertion and rapid socio-economic progress. This throws a challenge to public adminis­tration. To meet the challenge three propositions should receive widespread recognition.

First, the government of the developing country should play a central role in promoting, economic and social development. Second, to fulfill this role, there is the need of expansion of administration capabilities at all levels of government. Third, public administration must itself adapt to the changing circumstances, if it is to be a mechanism for developing process.

But in spite of all these things public administration alone cannot achieve the objectives of not on development if it does not have the support, cooperation and participation of people at large. It is a truism that quality of public administration in a country would depend largely upon the quality of the people meaning it. So it is the common man whether joins public administration or not is the most important element of the democratic system.

People’s participation has become an important part of present day administration when its scope and objectives have increased manifold in the modern welfare state. Involvement and participation of people is an important constituent of the formulation and implementation of development plans.

Since the late 1960’s the term people’s participation has been acquiring a growing popularity. It represents a revived interest in the philosophy of participatory democracy promoted by French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville who propounded that individual citizen participation is essential to the survival of a democracy, and that democracy is undermined when people are incapable of influencing government decisions.

This is known as the “bottom’ up rule”. The development process in a developing economy can acquire fuller meaning if the citizens not only associate themselves in planning development but also participate fully in development administration.

If the fruits of the plans have to reach the common men, it will be essential to ensure that at every stage of planning and implementation there is full participation of this citizens. V. Subramanian writes, “The success of any programme of action depends on response to it of the citizens and particularly the class of people whom the programme is intended to benefit.

The performance of a social welfare programme should be measured only against the criteria of social transformation and improvement in the standard of living. “Welfare of all” is the focus of all social welfare programmes. The limited success of these programmes, both governmental and voluntary is due to certain weakness.

1. Major social welfare programmes are controlled and regulated by government agencies. The red tape and political interference erode the spirit of service and hamper their progress.

2. There is over emphasis on the quantitative measurement of objectives of social welfare organisations, and the assessment of the improvement of the quality of life has been ignored.

3. Appropriate methods and techniques for changing the attitude of people have not been evolved.

4. People are not convinced about the utility of the programmes they are asked to supports.

5. Lack of appropriate management styles.

6. Training needs of social welfare workers have not been properly understood. They are, therefore unable to work as an effective instrument of change.

7. Most of the programmes are not perceived in the right perspective.

All this results in lack of people’s participation in these programmes. This is the root cause of their failure. People do not have that sense of belonging and involvement which is required for such activities. The present structure of social welfare organisations are such that a high level of people’s participation is not possible.

Most of the government programmes, whether controlled or regulated, do not encourage active participation of people. Administrative agencies which do have provisions for involving people in the programmes, do not implement the provisions. Committees formed to take strategic and operating decisions do not even meet once during the term.

Due to low education and training regarding the nature and objectives of the welfare programmes, people are less enthusiastic and active in contributing their efforts. Only right motivation can stimulate them to be active. People’s representatives are mostly nominated. So they cannot defy their masters. Influential people like politicians, administrators and landlords are, therefore, able to manipulate decisions.

Our political structure encourages participation of politicians in carrying out social work. This practice prevents others. What is required to make these social welfare and development programmes effective is people’s participation and not political participation.

Participation cannot be imposed on the people from above; it should be voluntary and based on will to participate. By participation, we mean direct involvements of people are not through their representatives.

This is because given the existing socio-economic, political structure of the society in most of the developing countries, the so called it representative of the people are most likely to represent the rich rather than the interest of the poor majority. People’s participation or involvement can better be understood in four senses:

(i) Participation in decision-making.

(ii) Participation of policy formulation and implementation of development programmes and projects.

(iii) Participation in monitoring and evaluation of development programmes and projects.

(iv) Participation in sharing the benefits of development.

In an unequal society like ours a minority of rich and powerful villagers have shared the large portion of benefits and the majority of the society i.e., poor section has always been deprived.

Actually what happens that the poor individually cannot share tip or speak out for their rights and privileges and remain simply silent spectators in the development process. Therefore, only through mass mobilization people’s participation, which implies effective participation of the majority, is possible.

However, mobilisation of the poor is not an easy task. In the face of their said experiences and economic hardships and social limitations, the poor are often skeptical of and apathetic to any new proposals and measures ostensibly designed to improve their lot.

Participation of citizens in national development effort is becoming increasingly prevalent both through voluntary agencies and non-government organisation. Citizen participation differs from country to country depending upon the political, social and economic system the country has.

In developed countries, participation is due to citizen’s consciousness of his responsibility and from his determination to be associated in some way or other with the process of governmental decision-making and action. But in developing countries participation has not taken the pace momentum.

Government of these countries feels the need to provoke the participation because it helps them to achieve their objectives. Participation in these countries initiated by government authorities.

It may, however, be stated that growth of participation in both developed and developing countries has arisen from three reasons one is the expansion of state activities and other is explosion of knowledge and communication and their contributory factor in the citizen’s participation is the perceived failure of bureaucracy to meet the growing demands of the people at the local level and the preachment that the amateur know more about policy needs at any level than the civil servants.

All these factors have made the growth of citizen’s participation in the national development efforts all the more effective and challenging.

Several areas of development programmes have been identified in which earnestness mention may be made of the following in the Indian conditions such as:

1. Planning and Implementation.

2. Development of Forests.

3. Development of Soil and Water Resources.

4. Health for All Programmes.

5. Social Welfare Programmes for Weaker Section and Rural Poor.

6. Implementation of Minimum Needs programme.

7. Environmental Protection Programme.