Bridging between planning and implementation

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"No matter how beautiful the blueprint of the programme is, a defective implementation of it will make nonsense of the whole programme."*

Independent India has (arguably) seen unprecedented innovations in the policy 'formulation' for socio economic development. Some of the policies and programs could taste the sweet of success but (again, arguably) most of them failed to 'change the lives around'. Some policies helped governments to win elections and some brought down the governments. Every government, while launching a new policy/programme, dreamt of 'changing the lives around', but nevertheless, failed to do so. Why? Why did programs like National Extension Service(NES), Food for Work Programme(FWP), Employment Guarantee Scheme(EGS), Women Development Programme(WDP), Jawahar Rozgaar Yojna (JRY, some pandits say it was a success) etc.. have failed to achieve the desired results? When these programs were drafted, most of the experts in the government and academia thought that they would significantly change the socio economic conditions of rural India. Well, nothing much happened. Why?

As a matter of fact, the actual problem in developing countries is not that of policy formulation but of implementation. Deeply institutionalized corruption, inefficiency, maladministration, non-accountability have deep rooted in Indian Democracy. "Little attention is paid to the subject of policy implementation by policy decision makers while it is often taken for granted that once a policy is adopted by government it must be implemented and the desired goals achieved."*

Why policies fail in implementation stage?
  1. Problems in identifying the "actual poor".
  2. Target beneficiaries are not allowed to contribute to the formulation of the policies that affect their lives.
  3. Some programmes get the final shape with catchy slogans (Example Gujrati 'asmita') just before the elections and, most of the time, will be shelved after the elections.
  4. Over-ambitious policy goals to attract the mass attention and win the elections, which ultimately end up in haphazard implementation.(Example, recent Rs. 60,000 crores loan waiver policy, which of course has adverse consequences).
  5. Apathy towards programmes (which are in implementation stage) commissioned by previous regimes due to ego clash.
  6. Lack of awareness about the programmes and lack of publicity.
  7. Lack of funding or some times the lapse of govt funds due to the unawareness of funds.
  8. Failure of the policy makers to take into consideration the social, political, economic and administrative variables when analysing for policy.*
  9. And of course, bribery, corruption, inefficiency, non-accountability and maladministration.

Most of the policy makers and bureaucrats sitting in New Delhi have never seen the ground reality. Some of the rural development programmes have been commissioned without testing their local suitability. Also, green signal was given to some policies without even verifying the prerequisites of policy implementation. For example, in case of small and marginal farmer development programmes in 60s, the policy "should have been preceded by land reforms but that was not done. For instance, well-digging activities had been undertaken without consolidating the land holdings!"

What should be done?
  1. Target beneficiaries should be involved at the formulation stage in order for them to have an input in what affects their lives. This will also give them a sense of belonging and, therefore, a sense of commitment.
  2. There must be effective communication between the target beneficiaries and the implementors of policy programmes.
  3. The culture of discontinuing a policy once there is a change in government should be discouraged because even though government comes and goes, administration is continuous. There should be continuity in policy except if the policy is found not to be useful to the people.
  4. Provision should be put in place for adequate monitoring of projects, as poorly monitored projects will only yield undesired results.
  5. For any government to be judged to be administratively competent, there must be evidence of bridging the gap between the intention of a policy and the actual achievement of the policy.*
Okay, all said and done, How can we achieve them?

The most conspicuous solution that I can think of is, bridging the gap between policy formulation and policy implementation. Policy makers sitting in capitals do not have sufficient data about the ground realities which are, unfortunately, specific to each region. Data collected from local bodies and surveying agencies (for example, NSSO) are not adequate/satisfactory. I believe this is the most important reason why our policy makers comes up with innovative policies which most often end up in haphazard implementation.

How can we build the gap between policy formulation and implementation?

Importance of academia in technology building is unanimously accepted. Similarly, I believe, academia should be involved not only in policy research and formulation but also in policy implementation. Just as it is mandatory for a medical graduate to serve in rural areas at least for one year after graduation, the students of social sciences or any other related discipline must be made mandatory to do projects/assignments related to socio economic development of rural India. For example, If a student is studying 'rural credit structure' in a local university, he/she can be assigned to collect 'authentic' data related to rural credit system in the area surrounding the university and such 'authentic' data collected must be used by policy makers to make better decisions while formulating the policies. The ideas and innovations generated out of such assignments/projects should be rewarded and showcased in the surrounding area. This will not only create awareness in the region, but also facilitate to understand what is more suitable for that particular area. So, the academia can act as a bridge between policy formulation and implementation by providing the data at a very first step. And yeah, its just another idea, but not the only idea. There may be better ways to do this, you are most welcome to suggest one.

But this kind of ideas will have better impact in long term. Definitely not short term solution like Rs. 60,000 crores loan waiver given by present government, which I think is just a political strategy. The same money should have been used in building the rural infrastructure and more importantly strengthening the rural credit structure which would have benefited farmers in long term. Strengthening the rural credit system can liberate farmers from money lenders' obligations which in turn could improve economical conditions of the farmers. The government should stop this political blackmail during the elections and should focus on "actually" changing the lives around.

*I had collected these data from my previous reading. I don't remember the sources. My apologies for not providing the appropriate links.

They killed him on this day, but not his ideas

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"....Very soon the final battle will begin. Its outcome will be decisive. We took part in the struggle and we are proud of having done so...." His vision of seeing freedom a reality did come true, but he was not around to see that. Even today, his very name gives a lightening effect in the hearts of millions! 23rd March, 1931 was the day when an inspiring revolutionary became Shaheed, but his ideas keep inspiring the millions.

Dear friends, join me in a well deserved salute to the legend, Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

[image source]

Related articles posted earlier.
1. Bhagat Singh and The Choice
2. ಭಗತ್ ಸಿಂಗ್: ದಾರಿ ಆವುದಯ್ಯ ವೈಕುಂಠಕೆ?

Changing the lives around

Monday, March 17, 2008

This should have been my first post, nevertheless, i guess it's not too late. I mostly blog on this concept, "Changing the lives around". If you are wondering what that is, here is what i want it to mean....

'Changing the lives around' is not feeding the gluttony, but the needy. Its not about making millionaire a billionaire, its about empowering the impoverished. Its not about sending the post graduate to Oxford, its about showing the light of literacy to the illiterate. Its not about building five start hotels, its about building shelter to the homeless. And the list goes on...

If that explanation doesn't sound conspicuous, here is the detailed and straight forward meaning of "Changing the lives around".

1. An improvement in living standards and access to all basic needs such that a person has enough food, water, shelter, clothing, health, education etc.

2. A stable political, social and economic environment, with associated political social and economic freedoms, such as equitable ownership of land and property.

3. The ability to make free and informed choices that are not coerced.

4. Be able to participate in a democratic environment with the ability to have a say in one's own future. [Excerpted from Kurukshetra, December 2007].

Dynastic Politicians - Can they deliver?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Significant rush of young blood in Indian polity is definitely a good omen, but the most disappointing thing is that the "dynastic politics". Its not just Congress party which is practicing dynastic politics. If you exclude Communists, all other parties are playing around with sympathy votes. Most of us are happy that younger generation is looking forward for politics as their career. But the hard reality is that, majority of the elected young legislators and parliamentarians are sons/daughters/widows or blood relatives of prominent politicians of their areas. Recently, Conard Sangma and James Sangma, two sons of former speaker P. A. Sangma got elected to Meghalaya legislative assembly. What if Conard Sangma and James Sangma were not the sons of P. A. Sangma? We wouldn't have seen them as legislators even in our wildest dreams. Ask yourself these questions, what if Rahul Gandhi was not the son of Sonia/Rajiv Gandhi, what if Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Neeraj Shekhar, Milind Deora, and many others were not the sons of prominent politicians? Do you think they could have made it to the parliament at such an inspiring young age? Do you think they could be charismatic leaders in future as their fathers? Most of the political pandits' opinions are divided.

I feel that Indian voters who elect the leaders from political dynasty are 'feudal people'. Why can't we see the credibility of a candidate before we go for sympathy vote? "In most states there are constituencies that have been handed down for generations. It's only leaders who don't have sons who don't promote them. Everybody else does. As the late Devi Lal once remarked: 'If I don't promote my own sons, whose sons should I promote -- someone else's?' It is not a matter of surprise to me [rediff news]." I have no problem in having elected representatives from political family as long as they are capable of changing the lives around. Once elected, he/she should not be a symbolic representative, one has to have that pure and intense desire to make our society better than what it is. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, these elected representatives (especially in states) become symbolic and fail to contribute to the very basic functioning of democracy.

Its quite disappointing to know that dynastic politics is pervasive in Indian democracy. Take a look at the following vital data that i have collected over past few days.

I. Dynasties in parliament (Please note that the list is incomplete).
  1. Sachin Pilot, son of former union minister Shri. Rajesh Pilot.
  2. Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of former union minister Shri. Madhavrao Scindia who was the son of the last ruling Maharaja of Gwalior.
  3. Neeraj Shekhar, son of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar.
  4. Priya Dutt, daughter of former union minister late Shri. Sunil Dutt.
  5. Manvendra Singh, son of former Finance Minister Jaswant Singh.
  6. Sandeep Dikshit, son of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
  7. Dushyant Singh, son of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia.
  8. Milind Deora, son of former minister Murali Deora.
II. Dynasties in Legislative assemblies in various states.

Let us take Karnataka Legislative assembly as an example[source].
(a) Sons of the soil who won the now suspended legislative assembly:
  • H.D. Kumaraswamy, H.D. Revanna, sons of former prime minister and JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda,
  • Dinesh Gundurao, son of former Chief minister Gundurao,
  • Kumar Bangarappa, son of former Chief minister S. Bangarappa,
  • Krishna Bhairegowda, son of former MLA Bhairegowda,
  • Mahima Patel, Prakash Khandre, Sudhakar Choudareddy, Tanvir Seth, U.T. Khadar, all of them are sons of former MLAs.
(b) Women legislators: Bhagirathi Marulasiddanagowda, Nagamani Nagegowda, Vijayalakshmamma Bandisiddegowda, Sunita Veerappagowda, Shakuntala Shetty, they all won the assembly elections based on their husbands' sympathy votes.

Just to give you the glimpse of the situation in other states, here is the quick list (thanks to rediff, got some more names here).
  1. Conard Sangma and James Sangma, two sons of former speaker P. A. Sangma, Meghalaya assembly.
  2. Navin, 26, Bihar MLA, an engineer who opted for politics last year following the sudden death of his father, Navin Kishore Prasad Sinha, also a BJP legislator. There are dozens of other MLAs who won based on sympathy votes[source], I don't have the complete list. Check out THIS link what their new, unusual, interests are.
  3. Rabri Devi, do you think she's there because of her great skills as a political operator?
  4. The CM of Orissa Naveen Patnaik, who never knew Oriya before becoming CM, is the son of former Orissa CM Biju Patnaik.
  5. Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra, nephew of Sharad Pawar.
  6. Ajit Singh, son of Chaudhury Charan Singh, Akhilesh Singh Yadav, son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, in Uttar Pradesh.
  7. "Don't forget the Abdullahs – who have been around power in J&K for three generations."
  8. The BJP's K C Pant is the son of the first chief minister of UP, Govind Ballabh Pant.
  9. Former 'CEO of Andhra Pradesh', Chandra Babu Naidu is the son-in-law of the charismatic NT Ramarao.
  10. MK Stalin, son of M. Karunanidhi, Karunanidhi's daughter is also an MP. In a way, Jayalalithaa is also a political heir of M G Ramachandran.
  11. "The first CM of Madhya Bharat (now Madhya Pradesh) was Ravi Shankar Shukla -- his two sons, V C Shukla, who fought his first election for Parliament in 1957, the same year as Mr Vajpayee, and is still around; so is S C Shukla, who has been the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh three times."
And the list goes on... At this point of time, we may think that we are actually getting younger generation into the politics, but if we are getting the young blood from political dynasties in our county, I do not think thats the good omen for the future democracy. I feel that, in such case, the politics in India will again come back to the squire one, where all the dirty politics is being played. I do agree with (some of) you that, some of them from the political dynasty could become charismatic leaders as their fathers/mothers. But, mind you, that is still, just a hope. I sincerely hope that they will be capable of changing the lives around.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.