Transparency in governance refers to the absence of secrecy and mystery between the Government and those being governed. It implies that the Government shares as much information with the citizenry as possible. The information shared should not be ambiguous or selective, but complete and correct. A transparent Government does not just inform the people about decisions that affect them, but also lets them know the grounds on which such decisions have been taken. Transparency also implies that all rules and regulations regarding the functioning of the various arms of the government and the powers and duties of its officers are in the public domain.
While transparency offers great advantages to the people, it also has many benefits for the Government. For one, people have much greater sense of trust in governments they deem to be transparent and they are more likely to understand if the country is placed in a difficult situation. For example, during the runaway inflation in the middle of last year, the perceived anger against the Government was much less, compared to similar periods of price rise in the past, especially the onion crisis of 1998. one reason for this is that in recent years Governments have become aware of the difficult international situation over which the Indian Government has no control.
Transparency in governance in India has certainly improved in recent years, but a lot is still to be desired. The transparency international report in 2008 puts India at No.85 among 180 countries for corruption – which is the direct result of lack of transparency. Even as the country ranks right behind the developed nations in terms of economic development, it is still far behind in terms of transparency.
The two most important recent developments regarding transparency in governance in India have been the passing of the Right to information Act and the emergence of the concept of e-Governance. The passage of the Right to information act in 2005 has been a truly revolutionary event, in the sense that it has empowered citizens to seek information on all public matters without asking for justification, sets a time-frame within which officials must provide information, and also provides for punishments for those officers who wrongfully, or with mal-intent, deny information to the public. The RTI Act also states that an officer who denies any information to the applicant has to justify his reasoning for doing so, and also allows petitioners to appeal against his decision.
The RTI Act has indeed become a powerful tool in the hands of activists against corruption, who have used its empowering features for unearthing corruption in projects like road constructions to award to tenders by individual in Government’s claims regarding development.