Accountability: Angst, Awareness, Action

By Jay P. Desai | 15 March, 2012 | PEARSON

India is poised at a crucial juncture in its post-independence history. Accountability, the heartbeat of governance, is under siege. The epidemic of unaccountability lurks beneath India’s myriad tragedies, conquering the spirit of the citizen and constraining India from unlocking its full economic and social potential. The misgovernance so vividly visible today is a strong signal that India’s liberal democracy is disobeying the principles of its grand design. Citizens are deeply concerned about the state of their nation, but unsure what role they can play in improving accountability.

This book was written to increase the public understanding of ‘accountability’. Jay P. Desai asks very important questions: How did accountability historically evolve in India; can accountability be measured; how does India rank against other countries; does accountability impact economic and social performance; does our socio-cultural fabric influence accountability; and what role do existing accountability mechanisms and institutions play in strengthening, or weakening the four foundations of accountability?

The author constructs a three-dimensional lens with which he examines the mechanisms that hold our governance institutions accountable. Six initiatives that can improve our accountability in India are identified and evaluated. Citizens can play a key role in strengthening accountability, using the five-fold path set out. Desai explains why a burst of governance reforms are sorely needed and describes how the journey of accountability will play out over the next few decades.

Those who read this book will transit from a state of angst about accountability, to one of awareness and finally into action. India will then truly make its ‘tryst with destiny’.

What others are saying

Jay P Desai confronts this sensitive and grave issue, directly and head-on, and substantiates his arguments with extensive research, data, analysis and action points.   An essential read for the young citizen of India to understand the criticality of accountability and of taking concrete actions to help our nation achieve its full potential.

N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman Emeritus, Infosys Limited

As a long-time lover and admirer of India, I strongly hope that this passionate study on ‘Accountability’ by Jay P Desai, will serve as a guideline to all those invested with the responsibility of governing and administrating the world’s largest democracy.  What Jay advocates in this remarkable book, is, in fact, true for all nations in the world.  It should, therefore, be read all over the planet.

Dominique Lapierre, Co-author of 'Freedom at Midnight' and Author of 'City of Joy'

In writing this book, Jay P Desai has done India a great service; it is clear, well-researched, and superbly conceptualized.  India has long had severe governance problems that interfere with growth, with foreign direct investment, and with good public policy.  If the nation could reform its governance, in the manner that Jay suggests, the people of India would benefit, hugely.

Richard H. K. VietorPaul Whiton Cherington, Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, Harvard Business School

This is a great book. Governance is an extremely over-used term. However defined, there is a governance deficit in India. But nothing is going to change and accountability isn’t going to improve unless countervailing pressure is exerted. This book is not just about the angst, which is pervasive. For angst to become action, there must be awareness. This is compelling reading and far better than many other vague and general accounts I have read.

Bibek Debroy Professor, Centre for Policy Research

Jay P Desai’s book is very timely. Governance and public administration need great improvement in India and have become very hot topics not only in policy-making circles, but also in mass media. His structured analysis explains the steps to make necessary improvements.

Arun Maira Member, Planning Commission, Government of India

A timely and relevant book for today’s India.  It clearly brings out that GDP alone will not make us a powerful nation, unless we also focus on issues of accountability and misgovern that keep large numbers of our people deprived of their most fundamental needs….  a must read for those who want to see a better India.

Anu Aga Director, Thermax Limited

This is an excellent, well researched book which combines the dimensions of economics, politics and law to highlight the governance deficit in our country.  It sets out an actionable agenda to take accountability to the next level in India.  Fascinating read!

Davinder S. Brar Promoter Chairman, GVK Biosciences Private Limited

Jay’s meticulous research and attempt to connect the dots, including going back in time, is commendable. Accountability helps put in perspective this decline in governance prevalent across India and provides a practical call to action for us to do a lot more, to make our contribution to building the nation.

Amit Chandra Managing Director, Bain Capital Advisors (India) Pvt Ltd

Accountability is a very timely contribution to the current debate over accountability in India. Desai brings critical thinking, creative conceptualisation, and compelling empirical evidence to bear on this important topic. He traces the historical origins and the current multidimensional reality of this issue, shows how it hampers India’s progress and suggests a comprehensive but practical approach to corrective action.

Patricia M. Danzon, Ph.D. Celia Moh Professor The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Nothing is as important to India’s future well-being as governance. Jay P. Desai rightly focuses on accountability, which is at the heart of our governance deficit. Jay brings in considerable skills as a business consultant to diagnose the problem and offers solutions.

Gurcharan Das Author, India Unbound and The Difficulty of Being Good

Desai provides an insightful, analytical and practical assessment of the current situation in India and what can be done to take this cherished country to the next level. With his focus on accountability in public administration and among citizens, he lays out how the country might embrace long-term economic and societal change.  You will find provocative ideas on virtually every page.

Thomas J. DeLong Philip J. Stomberg Professor of Management Practice Harvard Business School

Accountability is a very timely publication on the deficit in accountability, probity, and transparency in India. An excellent read to better understand the current debate about governance in the country.

Adi Godrej Chairman, Godrej Group

Desai’s book is an important contribution to the literature on the governance deficit that plagues the world’s second-fastest growing economy. It makes us aware of what is wrong, how it must be addressed, and above all, that we must never forget our tragedies.

Samar P. Halarnkar Editor-at-Large, Hindustan Times

Accountability is a well-studied account examining India’s progress against the world’s other great democracies. Desai skillfully employs statistical evidence and insight to illuminate Indian performance gaps and establish key links among governance, accountability and performance…. This important book deserves our attention and a central role in any debate about the future course of India.

Michael L. Hand Professor of Applied Statistics and Information Systems Willamette University

There are few who would be able to apply the full power of their analytical skills to such a complex issue. This book manages to list all the excuses in the category ‘we are like that only’, and debunk them one at a time. Accountability will provide you with all the tools you need to develop your own road map of engagement. Highly recommended.

Abhay Havaldar Managing Director, General Atlantic Private Limited

Desai outlines the critical role that good governance must play for India to achieve its full economic and democratic potential. In this passionate study, he argues for the benefits of increased accountability. Drawing from numerous historical examples, Jay shows how accountability lapses contributed to social challenges. Most importantly, he offers an action-oriented framework designed to improve accountability in India—and bolster the nation’s long-term prospects.

Dipak C. Jain Dean, INSEAD

At a time when the whole issue of governance is at centre-stage, Jay P. Desai’s book … is timely. The book covers a vast canvas, taking us through the history to the current global context. It identifies the causes of low accountability, provides possible solutions and makes for very interesting reading.

K. V. Kamath Non-Executive Chairman, ICICI Bank Limited

I resonate strongly with the objective of providing the public with an accessible discussion of accountability and governance in India, in a way that goes beyond hand-wringing. I love the historical anchor and the practical suggestions… Desai has done us all a service.

Tarun Khanna Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Dissatisfaction with the working of governments seems to have peaked worldwide. In Accountability, Desai attacks this issue with a plan to bring cooperation between public administration and citizens. The book also provides detailed statistical correlation analysis between socio-cultural factors and good governance. This is a well-researched book …. the lessons are applicable worldwide.

Gerald J. Lynch Interim Dean and Professor of Economics Krannert School of Management, Purdue University

Desai has done a remarkable job analysing the state of accountability in the Indian legislative, executive and judicial systems …. What makes this book stand out is the amount of honest research effort that has gone into it.

Luis Miranda Chairman, IDFC Private Equity

Desai’s book is a must read for India’s administrative reformers, business leaders and ordinary citizens. The book shows step by step how to carry out a winning accountability campaign and its value …. Highly recommended.

Fred Thompson Grace and Elmer Goudy Professor of Public Management and Policy Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University

An insightful and in-depth study on accountability which lends clarity to an area which otherwise suffers from low visibility …. I have no doubt that this book will become one of the leading commentaries on the subject in our country, and rightly so. A must-read for all those who have a desire to invest in the future of this country.

Zia Mody Managing Partner, AZB & Partners

A perfectly timed and important book…. Jay Desai’s incisive but caring examination of the astonishing lack of accountability in India is essential reading for anyone trying to fathom and fix the problem. 

Jehangir S. Pocha Ex-Editor of Businessworld and Co-Promoter of INX News

This is an important book, written at a crucial time. Desai has brought together many fields; history, politics, economics and law. The book is well-written with strong conceptual foundations and empirical rigor and has many actionable implications for how the Indian system needs to change, to make progress in the years to come.

Jaideep Prabhu Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

From examples of lapses in individual responsibility to looming gaps in systemic responsibility, Jay’s work provides a well-reasoned, interdisciplinary and practical approach to addressing the most critical challenge to India’s development—the challenge of governance.

Roopa Purushothaman Head of Research, Everstone Capital Management Co-Author, Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050

A brilliant and detailed sociological exposition on accountability and governance; a comprehensive primer which should be a compulsory read for all those associated with governance, whether from the executive, judiciary, legislature, or civil society. Jay’s book is most timely and illuminating.

V. Raghunathan Author, Games Indians Play

A highly engrossing and monumental treatise on the role of citizens, media, businesses and civil societies in making public officials accountable. Accountability is full of concrete suggestions about how India, as a nation, can transform from a culture of ‘Chalta Hai’ (being indifferent) to one of action and achievement.

Jagdish N. Sheth Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing Goizueta Business School, Emory University

As India grapples with its challenges of delivering inclusive development to its people, the subject of governance has come to occupy centre-stage. But ‘governance’ is a fuzzy, catch-all word, one that can be best appreciated through various instruments of accountability. In this excellent book, Desai gives us a framework to assess accountability in our public institutions and provides specific pointers for practical action. It is a must-read for those interested in India’s transformation.

Ramesh Ramanathan Co-Founder, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy

Accountability is the cornerstone of good governance and Desai’s incisive but succinct presentation of this premise helps the reader navigate the challenge of remedying contravening behaviour. There are very few treatises on the subject where you see personal passion balanced neatly with erudite essay, and it is captured in this book.

Ranjit Shahani Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Novartis India Limited

A wonderfully timely and rigorous look at governance and accountability, the issues which most determine our country’s future.  Jay does an excellent job provoking thought and offering practical solutions so the reader is left with energy and hope rather than just angst.

Ravi Venkatesan Former Chairman, Microsoft India

Desai’s book … is a meticulous, systematic and holistic study of the neglect of governance due to poor accountability mechanisms …. Using modern analytical tools, he provides solutions, at the core of which is the need for greater participation and awareness of the ordinary citizens in enforcing accountability. Timely, topical and exceptionally relevant, this book is a must-read for all those concerned about the current drift and future aspirations of India.

Pavan K. Varma Writer-Diplomat Author, Becoming Indian and Being Indian