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SPECIAL: how not to select vinod rais successor p.

34

April 16-30, 2013 | Vol. 04 Issue 06 | ` 30


R N I No. U PE N G/ 2010/ 33794 | PRN: UP/GBD-150/2012-14
ww w.gove rna nce no w. co m

murdochs
in the
making
p.16

A blueprint to
evaluate digital
governance
p.62

Rajnaths team of
unknowns adds
numbers, not
value
p.05

Working of
information
commission: An
insiders account
p.20

contents

Founders Team

Gautam Adhikari
Markand Adhikari
Anurag Batra
Editor
B V Rao
bvrao@governancenow.com

34 How not to pick Vinod


Rais successor

Managing Editor
Ajay Singh
ajay@governancenow.com
Deputy Editors
Prasanna Mohanty, Ashish Mehta
Contributing Editors
Rohit Bansal, Kajal Basu, Bhavdeep Kang,
Alam Srinivas, Dr R Swaminathan, Imran
Qureshi, Kumar Deep Banerjee
Senior Editors
Akash Deep Ashok, Shantanu Datta
Special Correspondents
Brajesh Kumar, Trithesh Nandan
Principal Correspondents
Geetanjali Minhas, Jasleen Kaur,
Pratap Vikram Singh, Pankaj Kumar

32 India does not have


robust oil and gas
infrastructure

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16 INDIAS MURDOCH WILL LOOK LIKE THEM!


The recent embrace of the Ambani brothers has raised


the spectre of a media empire that will eclipse everything
else. A peek into the not-so-distant future

05 Rajnaths team of unknowns adds numbers, not value


New office-bearers in Team BJP seem to have been


selected not for their intrinsic worth but for their
potential to keep camp fights under wraps

64 Unless we use data,


there is no open
government

20 RTI? You are in queue!


A former information commissioner looks back in


horror on how casual information commissioners
are, and says selection of officials in all quasi-judicial bodies must be open to public scrutiny

38 Budgeting for (and by) dummies


Is Amit Mitra the worst finance minister in West


Bengals troubled economic history?

46 Know thy neighbour


A tongue-in-cheek primer o Sri Lankan history

74 Battle for my
surname

52 Gandhi returns to Dandi, for good


A comprehensive plan for ecological development


of that tiny but world-famous Gujarat village gets
underway

62 A blueprint to evaluate digital governance


Interactivity, intuitiveness, information flow and


ease of transaction should be the parameters for
evaluating e-governance projects

Cover Imaging: Ashish Asthana


www.GovernanceNow.com

LETTERS

Is ICDS a centre for huddling kids or for their growth?


I must congratulate Governance Now for
bringing out the Other India development
stories [concluding with the cover story of
the April 1-15 issue]. The other India is the
Real India and these stories really capture
the impact of our development programmes
right on our people who are supposed to
get the benefits. Another Other India story,
ICDS: No Childs Play by Puja Bhattacharjee [March 16-31 issue], on how the ICDS
[integrated child development services] in
Salboni in West Midnapur district of West
Bengal is a sad tale of how our child development programmes are managed by our
state-level leaders, bureaucrats and groundlevel functionaries.
The ICDS programme is almost three
decades old and the problems faced by
anganwadis in Salboni like dirty space
for kids to play, inappropriate nutritional
food, untrained anganwadi worker, lack of
parents interest in dropping their kids in
the age group of 3-6 for early childhood
care and education are almost same
across the country.
But Pujas coverage has not included how
the kids nutritional gains have taken place
despite the supplementary foods provided.
How do you measure nutritional gains?
Weight gain is the best indicator. Three
decades ago UNICEF in India provided
portable weighing scales so that the child

Appointment at NHRC
This refers to media reports indicating that the
union government was moving ahead with its
majority say in appointing former national investigation agency (NIA) chief Sharad Chandra
Sinha as a member of the national human
rights commission (NHRC) despite stiff resistance by the leaders of opposition in the Lok
Sabha and Rajya Sabha who also happen to
be members of the high-profile body selecting
NHRC members. It seems to be a repeat of
an earlier episode in which the union government had to face a showdown on its majority
dictate on appointing controversial PJ Thomas
as chief vigilance commissioner which was
subsequently quashed by the supreme court.
If appointments to such bodies requiring endorsement by a selection committee also comprising of the leaders of opposition are to be
done through majority say of the union gov-

GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

weight gain can be seen not just by the


anganwadi worker but also by the parents
who come to drop the kids in the anganwadi centre. If the child has gained weight
then the parents feel great. This is how the
anganwadi worker should get the parents
involved. Parental involvement is most cru-

cial for the childs early stage development.


Puja could have interviewed some parents
to understand how the parents view the
early childhood care of their child.

ernment, it is senseless to have the formality


of the leaders of opposition in such selection
bodies. There should be all sincere efforts to
make all such appointments with consent of
the leaders of opposition rather than crushing
their say through a majority vote in the selection committees.
The NHRC Act should also be amended with a
provision enabling a retired judge of supreme
court to be made the chairperson of NHRC
rather than only a retired chief justice of India,
for a wide-ranging choice. The important post
remained vacant for long because one of the
two available retired chief justices of India, RC
Lahoti, declined the post, while the other, YK
Sabharwal, was not considered fit for the post
by the union government because of adverse
reports against him. Even the appointment of
the current incumbent, KG Balakrishnan, is unethical because it was he himself who in his

Another important issue of these ICDS


centres across the country is the retention
of the kid from 3-6 age group in the anganwadi and then enrolling the 6+ child in the
nearest primary school so that both early
childhood education/learning helps a great
deal for that child in the primary school.
If there are 50 kids in Salboni anganwadi
centres we want to know how many have
been enrolled in the primary school nearby.
We have seen that kids who are enrolled
from the anganwadis in the primary school
do well in their primary schools also because of their early childhood learning in
the anganwadi centres.
The only visible things in the aangwanwadis are the lack of buildings, as noted
by Puja, and bad sanitation facilities. In
many anganwadis the workers lock up the
toilets because they feel that kids make
them dirty! This is precisely the reason why
sanitation habits are to be taught to the
kids in the early stage how to keep the
toilets clean, how to wash the hands with
soap etc and how to keep away loose motion affecting the kids. I hope more Other
India stories bring out exciting news in the
days to come.
Manu N Kulkarni
Bangalore

capacity as chief justice of India ordered


a time-bound posting for which he could
be the only available choice!
Madhu Agrawal
Delhi

Write to Governance Now


We invite your suggestions, reactions to
the stories and analyses and, of course,
your own take on all matters related to
governance. You can email or send snail
mail. All letters must accompany your
postal address.
feedback@governancenow.com
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Film City, Sector 16A, Noida 201301

opening
account

Rajnaths team of unknowns


adds numbers, not value

New office-bearers in Team BJP seem to have been selected not for their
intrinsic worth but for their potential to keep camp fights under wraps
Ajay Singh

hristophe Jaffrelots scholarly work on the rise of


Hindu nationalism deals extensively with the role
Kushabhau Thakre played in building up the organization from scratch, for the BJP as well as its
predecessor, Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS), in Madhya Pradesh.
Thakre thus was a figure more revered than Atal Bihari
Vajpayee and LK Advani for BJP
workers in the state.
In Advanis team, he served as
general secretary (organisation)
and was elevated to the post of
BJP president in 1999. As an RSS
pracharak loaned to the BJS,
Thakre emerged as the fulcrum
around which the BJPs organisational structure used to revolve.
But Advanis team had four other
dynamic general secretaries
KN Govindacharya, M Venkaiah
Naidu, Pramod Mahajan and
Sushma Swarajand the roles
allocated to them were unambiguously defined.
If Mahajan was a fundraiser
and strategist, Govindacharya
was the interface with the media
to put across the BJPs socialist and amiable face in the idioms of Hindutva. Swaraj represented the face of the womannext-door with a unique gift of the gab, while Venkaiah Naidu was allowed to experiment in a domain till then known as
infertile ground for Hindutva: south India.
This was by far the most cohesive and winning team of
general secretaries cohered by Advani with the full support
of the RSS. The team delivered results not only in 1996 (albeit
for only 13 days), but also in 1998 and 1999.
Nearly 15 years later, BJP president Rajnath Singh has

doubled the strength of general secretaries in his team. Ram


Lal is the general secretary (organisation), a post held by
Thakre in Advanis time. Unlike Thakre, Ram Lal is known
for all the wrong reasons among the BJP cadre, particularly
those from western UP. Leave aside Ram Lal, have you heard
of Thawarchand Gehlot or Tapir Gao? The new incumbents
like Varun Gandhi and Amit Shah are classic cases of infamy
getting legitimised in public life. Rajiv Pratap Rudy is hardly
a force in his own home state, Bihar, where he lost successive
elections, while Ananth Kumar represents a faction from the
Karnataka BJP.
Rajnath Singh seems to have cobbled together a team with
members selected primarily to appease factional groups
within the Sangh parivar. Their roles remain undefined and
they repose loyalty to their chieftains in the faction-ridden
saffron fold. There is no denyArun kumar
ing the fact that unlike Vajpayee
and Advani, Rajnath Singh has
neither stature nor charisma to
make office-bearers fall in line.
At the moment there is hardly
a defined political goal before
the party other than to keep
afloat and retain its base. This
is precisely what explains the
induction of Uma Bharti and
Prabhat Jha as vice-presidents
in the BJPs national team.
Members of Singhs team seem
to have been chosen not for
their intrinsic worth but for
their potential to keep factional
feuds under wraps.
Of course, there were indications that Rajnath Singhs task
of choosing the team was made all the more difficult by ambitious satraps within the parivar. The RSS has lost its moral
authority and is divided in various camps to pursue their
different political goals. For instance, Suresh Soni, the RSS
joint general secretary, has managed to induct his own set of
protgs in the team.
But, by and large, a team largely comprising acolytes and
social climbers can hardly be called a winning team. n
ajay@governancenow.com

people politics policy performance


Back to School

Jasleen Kaur

good thing about the right


to education (RTE) act is that
poor parents too can send
their children to much-soughtafter upscale schools. But the
downside is that good intentions apart, it
usually leaves both sides unhappy: children from poor families face cultural discrimination and schools complain of economic burden with the 25-percent quota.
Thankfully, six-year-old Gulshan and his
Vidya School in Gurgaon have not faced
this downside. The school, exclusively for
children from economically weaker section (EWS) families, offers quality education in English medium and charges a token fee of `200 per month.
The son of a daily-wager electrician who
earns around `5,000 a month, Gulshan
would have been forced to enroll in a
government-run school. But teachers
dont pay much attention to children in
government schools. In our colony, many
children have dropped out, says his
mother, Rita. I wanted my son to study
in a private school (through 25% EWS
quota under RTE) but I was told that children face a lot of discrimination. Here (in
Vidya School) every child has a similar
background and they also get quality education. She is especially happy to see her
son learn English.
The school, spread over 5 acres with
over 70,000 square feet of covered area,
has 530 children from nursery to class X.
The schools origins date back to 1985
when its founder, Rashmi Misra, opened
a small learning centre at her home on
the IIT-Delhi campus (where her husband, Ashok Misra, was a professor) to
educate five young girls whose parents
couldnt afford schooling. Later, others
joined and helped her expand the centre,
then registered as an NGO.
In early 2000, it started operating as
an afternoon literacy programme. From
2002 to 2009, Misra operated the literacy
programme from the premises of three
schools Happy School, Sriram School
and Pallavan School in Gurgaon and
taught children for three to four hours
every day.
After the construction of the school
building in DLF Phase-3 in Gurgaon
in 2009, a formal school, following the

GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

A school in a
class of its own

Vidya School in Gurgaon provides quality education


to children from poor families. The fee is token, the
gesture is not
central board of secondary education
(CBSE) curriculum, was started in 2010.
While the school is yet to get the boards
recognition more than 11,000 children
from the poor communities of Delhi and
Gurgaon have been educated through
various stages of Vidya.
Initially, Vidya provided free education but later it started charging a token
amount. We felt that people do not regard something that comes free of cost.
But those who cannot afford, we do not
charge them, says Meenakshi Roy, principal of Vidya.
The school has a capacity of teaching
1,000 children. Roy explains: It is not
aided by the government and is totally
fund-driven. Thus, it is a huge challenge

The school is not aided by


the government and is totally
fund driven. Thus it is a huge
challenge to keep it going.
We admit students as we
receive funds.
Meenakshi Roy, principal of Vidya School

to keep it going. We admit students as we


receive funds.
The school has been specially supported
by a US-based couple, Natalie and William Comfort. Other sponsors include GE,
KPMG and the Bajaj group.
The school is built on land taken on
lease and runs on an annual budget of
`1.5 crore. Its expenditure per child is
`49,000, which includes salaries of teachers and the staff and food, with a major
portion going toward paying the lease.
The school also provides fruits in breakfast and nutritious midday meals to students. Moreover, books, stationery and
uniforms are provided at subsidised rates.
Children are admitted after a rigorous
periodic survey and selection process. According to Roy, the admission criteria are
that the familys monthly income should
not be more than `10,000 and it should
not have a house of its own. Children
come to the school from areas of Chakkarpur, Sikanderpur, MG Road, Golf Course
road and sector 56 of Gurgaon.
Today, the school has two sections of the
nursery and class I and one section each
of other classes up to class X. It has a girl
-boy ratio of 60:40.
Six classrooms have digital boards, and
students there are taught using an audiovideo learning method. Two of the boards
are used in primary classes and the other
four used to teach science subjects in senior classes.
The visual method of learning is very
important for children because they have
limited exposure of the world, Raji Nambissan, the school headmistress, says.
They cannot perceive or imagine many
of the things mentioned in the classroom.
The school has computer and science

photos: arun kumar

Children at Vidya school learn through innovative methods and yet do not get disciminated against, as many students admitted on the
EWS quota feel in high-profile institutions.

laboratories, a mathematics lab, sports


training and assisted homework facilities.
Children get one period in the school
to finish their homework with assistance
from teachers. Most children studying
here are first-generation learners and we
cannot depend on parents (to help them
in studies), Nambissan says. These children are willing to learn and we do not
want them to miss this opportunity.
Many children studying here, in fact,
help their parents in their work after
school hours and thus do not get time to
study at home. Also, most of them typically live in one-room quarters and face
difficulty in studying at home.
Raji, who used to teach at Scottish High
International School in Gurgaon, joined
Vidya in April 2010 and teaches Chemistry and Biology in classes IX and X. She
says Vidya Schools concept is different
from other institutions: Many organisation run literacy programmes for children
coming from EWS families. But those programmes do not lead them anywhere.
This school gives them the right kind of
education Vidya educates them in a
way that they see change happening.
Last year, the first batch of students from
Vidya got admission in a government
school. Till now these children appeared
for the class X board examination through
the National Institute of Open Schooling.
Elite schools were reluctant to admit
children from EWS because of cultural differences. Besides, education is a business
for them. But there is nothing like that in
Vidya. The government should support institutions like these, says Raji. n
jasleen@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com

Mind
On The
Margin

Nurturing the
entrepreneurial spirit
Innovators need hand-holding through the whole
cycle, from idea to market

Anil Gupta

hen economic indicators are


not very promising, one thing
which can bring cheers to
everybodys life is an entrepreneurial activity in social, cultural, educational and
technological fields. These mavericks will
bring about a new hope and generate
a new space for creativity to manifest,
connections to be forged and empathy to
pervade across sectors, spaces and social
segments.
If this is the question I have to ask myself, then I expect a political consensus
to emerge around certain key strategies.
And that is possible only through bipartisan approach, taking nation-building
as a common goal. Political parties may
not agree on a common agenda for most
things but there could be areas on which
consensus can be built. Innovation-based
entrepreneurship development can be
one such area.

What do we need to do to promote


entrepreneurship?

[A] Five steps involving a very difficult


and risky journey of an innovator/entrepreneur are: (1) idea to proof-of-concept,
(2) proof-of-concept to prototype, (3)
prototype to product, (4) product to utility, and (5) proof of market, and development of supply chain, certification, testing, branding, etc. More than 90 percent
ideas are aborted before the final stage
for want of support. The country badly
needs a nurturant ecosystem for each
of these stages of innovations. I am not
sure if the `200 crore innovation fund
announced by finance minister P Chidambaram in the budget will be used for
such risky steps in value chain or only
for scaling up the solutions which have
survived in the market. But regardless of
this, parliament should seriously discuss
the health of an ecosystem for these

GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

stages. If we dont sustain the spirit of


creative people during these stages, the
long-term growth will not get a boost.
[B] We should realise that not all innovations need to be diffused through market
channels. Some need social channels. Different ventures need different scaling-up
strategies. Social diffusion of an eye-testing or haemoglobin or iron-testing facility
for villages may not diffuse only through
market channels. One of the innovators
honoured with the Anjani Mashelkar
award for the innovation for the elderly

Budgeting for innovation

Five steps in the risky journey of


an innovator are: (1) idea to proofof-concept, (2) proof-of-concept to
prototype, (3) prototype to product,
(4) product to utility, and (5) proof
of market, and development of
supply chain, certification, testing,
branding, etc. More than 90 percent
ideas are aborted before the final
stage for want of support. I am not
sure if the `200 crore innovation
fund announced by finance minister
P Chidambaram will be used for
such risky steps in value chain or
only for scaling up the solutions
which have survived in the market.
has developed a `5,000 solution for testing iron deficiency among people in a few
seconds. Every primary health centre and
school should have this device.
Will the public procurement policy
ever encourage such innovations? Will
market ever take such facilities to the
poorest people? When have we spent
time to take an annual roll-call of all such
technologies and institutional models of
importance for common people and then
audit all polices from the perspective of
scaling these? Never. The national innovation council has not spent even ten

minutes on this issue so far. Hope things


will change some day.
[C] Should scale be made an enemy of
sustainability? Not every innovation
can and should diffuse widely. Entire
agro-biodiversity would have been lost
by now if such was the case. If Dhimaji
district of Assam has high iron content
in water which does not get completely
removed even with the best local technology, will we develop water filters for
possible diffusion only in one or a few
such districts? What is the incentive
given to private actors to invest in products which will have limited diffusion?
Should such needs be neglected? Will
this not lead to the birth of more ULFAs?
Incidentally, the leadership of that insurgent organisation mainly came up from
this region. We can neglect such localised
needs at our own peril. The project of
keeping the country together will not be
fulfilled if we continue to neglect such
needs. I can list a hundred other similar
localised problems which are not getting
attention of the formal R&D system and
we will not encourage local innovations
either in those areas.
[D] We need to de-emphasise the ex situ
model of incubating entrepreneurship
and encourage the in situ model that we
evolved at GIAN and National Innovation
Foundation. In most cases, budding entrepreneurs cannot leave their families
and location to stay in an incubator. Occasional meetings are fine but sustained
long-term stay in incubators is not possible for many entrepreneurs. We need
to nurture the start-ups where they are.
I hope that we will gather the courage
to converge and make budding innovators and entrepreneurs feel wanted and
nurtured in the country. If innovators
and entrepreneurs are not happy, future
is bleak. Let us turn the leaf for once and
show that India can develop an inclusive
and assimilative model of development. n
Gupta is a professor at IIM Ahmedabad.

people politics policy performance

Photo: Swapna Majumdar/WFS

At Knifepoint

Swapna Majumdar

onsider this chilling


statistic: In the last two
years, in various states
of India, more than
30,000 women were reported to have undergone hysterectomies.
In 2011, 16,000 women
opted for hysterectomies in Bihar;
doctors performed about 7,000 uterus
removal surgeries over a period of 30
months in Chhattisgarh, while a total of
11,000 such procedures were done over a
period of two years in Andhra Pradesh.
Not only is this sudden rise in hysterectomies deeply worrying, even more
serious is the fact that 80 percent of the
women who underwent them were between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Health
activists contend that rural women living
below the poverty line (BPL) are being
advised to go under the knife to avail of
their health insurance money provided
under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima
Yojna (RSBY), the union governments
premier insurance scheme that provides health coverage to underprivileged
families.
According to reports, in Bihars Samastipur district alone, 14,851 BPL women
were admitted to 16 private hospitals in
the past one year to avail the benefits
under the RSBY. In Chhattisgarh, private
nursing homes billed the state government `2 crore under the scheme for conducting hysterectomies of 1,800 women
over a period of eight months last year.
In Andhra Pradesh, under the Aarogyasri
scheme, the state health insurance plan,
a sum of `2.9 crore was paid for 656 surgeries carried out in 2009-10.
According to Sulakshana Nandi of the
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a collective of
over a thousand NGOs are working on
health rights. The RSBY and similar
health insurance schemes are incentivising unethical practices leading to the
large number of irrational and unnecessary surgeries, Nandi says.
Heres why health activists are concerned. Under the RSBY, cashless insurance of `30,000 is given yearly to a BPL
family and a doctor can charge a hefty
`12,500 for a hysterectomy. In Andhra
Pradesh, for instance, a hysterectomy

10 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Healthcare,
unhealthy
practices

With an eye on health insurance money,


unscrupulous doctors are forcing
hysterectomies on unsuspecting patients

can cost up to `60,000 an amount that


was reimbursed under the states Aarogyasri scheme.
Nandi, who has done four studies
assessing the implementation of the
RSBY in Chhattisgarh, points out that
private hospitals were cherry-picking
the patients they wanted to treat. Doctors chose patients who needed highend surgeries that are more expensive
and, therefore, more profitable. For
example, a hysterectomy is considered
a more profitable surgery compared

Dr SV Kameswari, who has been campaigning


against unnecessary hysterectomies in the
state, says that lack of awareness among
women and the power of medical practitioners to influence their decision led to the
spate of unnecessary hysterectomies.
to a caesarean section. It is ironic and
scary that a woman can, in some sense,
have easier access to hysterectomy than
simple treatment for her problems at
an early stage of any uterine infection
because of RSBY and other insurance

schemes, she contends.


In Andhra Pradesh, aarogyamitras, or
health helpers, are appointed by private
hospitals to scout around for patients
who can be enticed to get operated upon
in private hospitals, reveals N Purendra
Prasad of the department of sociology at
Hyderabad university. Prasad, along with
research scholar P Raghavendra, found
that a spurt in unnecessary surgeries
had been reported after Aarogyasri was
launched. For instance, in district Warangals 13 private and five government
hospitals, 38,090 cases, of which 3,346
operations related to hysterectomy, were
reported from August 1, 2008 to August
21, 2010. As there was scope for quick
money to be made in surgeries, private
hospitals used registered medical practitioners (RMPs) to refer poor women with
gynaecological problems as hysterectomy cases.
Unfortunately, it is the women who are
ultimately paying a very heavy price.
When Rajamma of Kannaram village in
Andhra Pradeshs Medak district went
to the doctor complaining of pain in her
lower abdomen, she was wheeled in for
a hysterectomy. All she was told was
that this would help relieve her pain.
Rajamma was just 20.
But it was not just Rajamma who went
under the knife. Almost all the women
in Kannaram village had undergone
hysterectomy for routine complaints
like abdominal pain or white discharge.
This was revealed by the Centre for
Action, Research and Peoples Development (CARPED), a Hyderabad-based
NGO. The 2009 survey found that most
of the women in the 125 households in
the village had undergone procedures to
remove their uterus. This was backed by
a study in the same year by the Andhra
Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society, a state
government organisation, which found
hysterectomy cases in women between
the ages 25 and 40 had increased by 20
percent since Aarogyasri was launched
in 2007. Of the 1,097 women surveyed
in five districts, 30 percent reported that
doctors had told them that they would
die if they did not get operated.
In Chhattisgarh, health activists say
that poor illiterate women complaining of back pain were warned that they
would contract cancer and die if their
uteri were not removed, even as those

suffering from excessive bleeding or


While governments of Chhattisgarh,
vaginal discharge too stood no chance of
Bihar and Andhra Pradesh have initiated
escaping the surgery. While the proceaction against erring hospitals, nursdure may have been necessary for some,
ing homes and doctors, health activists
in most cases it was not required.
argue that great damage has already
According to Dr SV Kameswari of Lifebeen done. They say that the number of
HRG, a Hyderabad-based NGO providunnecessary hysterectomies conducted
ing healthcare to rural women and
may have come down in Andhra after
campaigning against the unnecessary
the guidelines were revised in April 2010,
hysterectomies in the state, the reason
but it could not undo the harm done to
for the indiscriminate usage of surgical
the thousands of women who were entreatment in the state was a combinacouraged into removing their uteruses.
tion of the socio- economic and cultural
It cannot assuage the grief of women
background of the women. The lack of
like Rani whose chances of having a
awareness of the women and the power
second child have ended because of a
of the medical practitioners to influence
callous system. Much to the shock and
their decision led to the spate of unneceshorror of the 19-year-old who was adsary hysterectomies, she contends.
mitted to a private hospital for a severe
Dr Kameswari, who studied medistomachache, her uterus was removed
cal ethics of hysterectomies in rural
instead of being operated for apAndhra Pradesh, found several
pendicitis, as her family
aberrations. Instead of
had imagined.
following the normal
Health activists
According
protocols while exbelieve that unless
to Sulakshana
amining women
there is an effecwith complaints
tive, efficient
Nandi of the Jan Swasthya
of abdominal
and accountAbhiyan, a collective of over
pain, bleeding
able public
a thousand NGOs are working
or vaginal dishealth syscharge doctors
tem, unethion health rights. The RSBY and
performed or
cal pracsimilar health insurance schemes
advised hystices will
are incentivising unethical practices
terectomies,
continue.
she reveals.
The absence
leading to the large number of
Standard proof quality
irrational and unnecessary
tocol demands
healthcare
surgeries, Nandi says.
that women have
in rural areas
to be informed
forces women
about the after-efto approach good
fects of such a surgery.
doctors in towns.
Medical studies have
The doctors advice
established that those who
to remove their uteruses
have undergone hysterectomy face
makes them believe that it will
long-term health implications, includend their medical problems once and
ing a higher risk of heart disease and
for all. What makes the procedure more
osteoporosis. They are also more likely to
attractive is that being covered by the
become depressed.
RSBY or other government-sponsored
At least Dr Kameswaris study had a
insurance schemes, it is free. They are
positive outcome. We were called by
neither informed about its long-term
officials of the Aarogyasri scheme to
consequences, nor the alternative medidiscuss the data emerging from our
cal treatments available.
study. Other experts were also consulted.
Not only is a more robust monitoring of
Thereafter, revised guidelines were isthe insurance schemes needed, focused
sued banning private hospitals empanattention on improving basic health serelled under the scheme from conducting
vices could save women like Rani from
several surgical procedures including
losing a second chance at motherhood. n
hysterectomies, appendectomy and the
removal of the gall bladder, she states.
Womens Feature Service

www.GovernanceNow.com 11

people politics policy performance


Her World

t has been over two years that the


womens reservation bill, an initiative
of the UPA government to ensure gender equality, was passed in the Rajya
Sabha. It has not moved beyond that since.
How serious this government is towards
gender equality can be gauged from the
fact that after the recent reshuffle of the
cabinet, there are just 10 women in the
80-member council of ministers.
According to a report, Men and Women
2012, prepared by the union ministry of
statistics and programme implementation, women continue to lag behind their
male counterparts. The report indicates a
marginal participation of women in governance and economic sections. Key findings
of the report:

The unemployment rate for women


of all ages was 2.4% compared with 2.0%
for men in the rural areas in 2009-10. It
was 7.0% for women and 3.1% for men in
urban areas during the same period.
n In 2009-10, the average wage/salary received by regular wage/salaried employees
of age 15-59 years was `155.87 per day for
women compared to `249.15 per day for
men in rural areas. For urban areas, it was
`308.79 and `377.16 per day for women
and men respectively.
n In 2010, the number of accounts operated by women in all commercial banks
was `153.18 crore compared to `487.37
crore accounts operated by men. The deposit amount was Rs. 5,17,209.74 crore for
women and `18,38,826.25 crore for men.
n In 2011-12, the share of women swarojgaris in the total swarojgaris assisted
under the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgaar
Yojna (SGSY) stood at 69.4%. The share of
women employed through MNREGS stood
at 48.3% in 2011-12 (all districts with rural
areas).
n

Participation in decision-making

In 2012, there were two women judges


out of 26 judges in the supreme court
and there were only 54 women judges
out of 634 judges in different high courts.
In the age group of 15-19 years, 46% of
women are not involved in any kind of
decision-making.
n In the rural sector, 23.4% women are
not involved in any decision-making while,
in the urban sector, only 13.9% of urban
resident women are not involved in any
decision-making. As many as 32.7% illiterate women and 21.6% unemployed women are not involved in decision-making.
n

Participation in economy

For the country as a whole, only 59.6%


women have access to money.
n The workforce participation rate of
women in rural sector was 26.1% in 200910 while that for men was 54.7%. In urban
sector, it was 13.8% for women and 54.3%
for men. Among the states and union territories, workforce participation rate of
women in the rural sector was the highest
in Himachal Pradesh at 46.8% and in the
urban sector it was the highest in Mizoram
at 28.8%.
n In the rural sector, 55.7% women were
self-employed, 4.4% had regular wage/salaried employment and 39.9% were casual
labourers compared to the 53.5%, 8.5%
and 38.0% men in the same categories
respectively.
n A total of 20.4% women were employed in the organised sector in 2010
with 17.9% working in the public sector
n

12 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Health and well-being

In India,
s is
silent in
she
Gender equality is
still a far, far cry, says
a government report
and 24.5% in the private. The labour force
participation rate of women across all
age-groups was 20.8% in rural sector and
12.8% in urban sector compared to 54.8%
and 55.6% for men in the rural and urban
sectors respectively in 2009-10.

The female infant mortality rate (IMR)


was 49 (per thousand) compared with the
male IMR of 46 and the overall IMR of 47
in 2010.
n Life expectancy at birth (LEB) has
increased more among women compared
to men. It is observed that in 2002-06 LEB
for males was 62.6 years compared to 64.2
years for females.
n

Crimes against women

Cruelty by husband and relatives continues to occupy the highest share (43.4%)
among the crimes committed against
women in 2011 followed by molestation
(18.8%). 10.4% cases of cruelty by husband
and relatives underwent trial by the courts
of law in 2011 and conviction was done in
8.3% cases.
n 15.6% cases are that of kidnapping and
abduction, 10.6% of rape, 3.8% of dowry
deaths and 3.7% of sexual harassment.
n

In international arena

India ranked 134 in 2011 among 187 countries in terms of the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) and Gender Inequality
Index (GII). n
feedback@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 13

people politics policy performance


Her World

No poverty of
ideas here
Srishti Pandey

esperate times call for desperate measures, and it is in such crises that people with
the ability to lead from the front emerge. On April 3 and 4, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) awarded the woman exemplar award to three such women. In
its ninth edition, the award was instituted to encourage womens empowerment by
recognising their contribution as catalysts of development at the grassroots level.
While Mithu Jana received the award from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for her
work in the field of health, G Muniammal was recognised for efforts in setting up microenterprises in a remote Tamil Nadu village and Priya Chandrasekar for her contribution in educating students with special needs. Governance Now meets the trio.

Mithu Jana
From being a young bride to a young
widow, Mithu Jana has seen it all in
her 32 years so far. Fifteen when her
parents got her married to a 26-yearold factory worker in Medinipur, West
Bengal, Janas first daughter was born
three years later. She gave birth to a
second girl in 2002, the year her husband was diagnosed with HIV.
One of the countrys most backward
districts, Medinipur is characterised by
a large number of deaths due to AIDS.
Awareness, though, is abysmally low.
Jana was only learning to cope with
the reality, and the associated stigma,
when she and her younger daughter
were also diagnosed with the virus.
Life got a few notches worse when
her husband died a year later: shunned
by neighbours, Jana and her children
spent the next two years in the confines of their home.
But life changed after Jana met a
health worker from the Society of Positive Atmosphere and Related Support
to HIV/AIDS (SPARSHA), which works

14 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

on spreading AIDS awareness in West


Bengal, in 2005 and joined as a community worker. Since then, she has
conducted several workshops aimed
at freeing the society of stigma, providing anti-retroviral therapy, advocating
safe-sex practices and counseling the
HIV-infected.
The journey, though, was not easy:
The mere mention of sex is a taboo in
many areas. At times, I was issued life
threats and driven out. But persistence
is the key I figured that no one was
interested in going through technicalities mentioned on brochures. Instead, I
shared my own story to draw people to
our workshops.
Working with the World Bank and local artistes, Jana has covered over 190
districts.
Asked about the future, Jana, who
passed class 12 exams in 2011 and will
enroll for graduation in the coming session, laughs: I never think about death.
My daughters know how best to handle
themselves during adversities: after every fall, you have to get up, brush yourself and move on.

photos: Arun kumar

G Muniammal
Then 45, G Muniammal, an agricultural
labourer in Padavedu village in Thiruvanamalai district, Tamil Nadu, was the
only person of 2,000-odd villagers who
volunteered to join Srinivasan Services
Trust (SST), which approached the village in 2000, offering help to set up microenterprises for women.
I earned barely `10 per day and did
not have much to lose, she says. Had
the idea not worked out I would easily have landed another job as a daily
wage worker. But I had to try.
With banana plantations aplenty in
Padavedu, the trust suggested setting
up microenterprises to make commercial use of banana tree byproducts.
As part of the training, Muniammal
was sent to Bangalore to learn design
and create various handicraft made
from banana fibre products. Muniammal went against her familys wish
and returned a week later to get a further training at the trusts office in the
village.
A month later, Muniammal started
producing innovative fibre products

ranging from handbags to boxes and


baskets to table mats. But were there
any takers for her products in the village? Initially, we sold the products
to a retail store that dealt in organic
products in Bangalore. Later, as word
spread, some corporate houses started
buying these items.
As money started pouring in, more
women joined and formed self-help
groups. Muniammal and others began
imparting craft-making skills to these
women, with the end products now
sold in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and other cities.
From initial monthly earnings of `300
as a daily wage worker to now churning the same amount every day, Muniammal has been able to fulfill most of
her ambitions. Besides educating her
three children, she has also been able
to build a pucca house. Today, all the
women are financially independent
and most have own bank accounts,
she says, with justifiable pride.
As for the next step, Muniammal has
it all sorted out: the trust would try
contacting accessories and interiors designers to pitch in with newer designs.

Priya Chandrasekar
For Priya Chandrasekars parents, the premature birth of
twins 26 years ago and their
survival is nothing less than a
miracle. Doctors had asked them
to prepare for the worst something they havent forgotten till
date.
While her twin Preethi grew
up as a quick learner, learning came with difficulty, and at
a much slower pace, for Priya.
It is known as low intellectual
disability, explains Priya, who
is also physically challenged.
After she dropped out of school
in August 2003 on teachers
advice, her parents learnt about
AMBA Centres for Economic
Empowerment of the Intellectually Challenged (CEEIC). Priya
got enrolled in the centres first

batch and is today a trainer


there, having directly trained
over 250 students with intellectual disability and ensuring that
they become emotionally and
financially independent.
The confidence she exudes
and her ability to customise
training according to needs of
each encourage students to become self-reliant, says Sugandha, who runs the centre.
With over 31 centres across the
country, the organisation has
enabled its students to work on
various data-entry and administrative jobs that generate sustainable income. Statistics published
by various health organisations
and NGOs has shown that over
3.5 million people are born with
physical and intellectual disabilities and need special care, like I
was given, Priya says.

www.GovernanceNow.com 15

people politics policy performance


Media Moguls

Alam Srinivas

ast year, Rupert Murdoch, the


chairman and CEO of the $34-billion News Corporation and an undisputed global media czar, urged investors not to judge us the way you would
a conventional company. He added that
News Corps corporate culture was different as it knew that business models
that work today might become obsolete
tomorrow. Hence, we are always investing in the next generation especially
when our established models are doing
well.
Such statements could have easily been
echoed by either Mukesh Ambani or
his younger brother, Anil. Over the past
eight years, ever since they split in 2005
after a no-holds-barred public fight,

Indias
Murdoch
Will Look
Like Them!

The recent embrace of the Ambani brothers has


raised the spectre of a media empire that will eclipse
everything else. A peek into the not-so-distant future
the two siblings have slowly, although
separately, thought and acted like
Murdoch. They have done in India,
what the controversial media baron
has achieved in markets as diverse as
the US, UK, Asia, Australia and Latin
America. In some ways, the Ambanis
are better off than Murdoch.
After years of acrimony, now that
the Ambanis have taken the first baby
steps to partner with each other, they
can emerge as the unchallenged media
czars in India. If Mukesh and Anil get
their act together, as they are more likely to do in telecom and media, they can
overwhelm a Bennett, Coleman & Company, which is present across platforms
(print, TV, digital). They can mercilessly
overpower the dominance of a Zee
Group, which is integrated vertically in
TV (as a broadcaster and distributor).
Recently, the two hitherto-estranged
brothers inked a deal that allowed

16 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Mukesh to use 1,20,000 km of the optic


fibre network, owned by Anil, to launch
the formers 4G/broadband services.
They indicated that this was the beginning of more such agreements, whereby
both could use their combined telecom
infrastructure (telecom towers and additional fibre pipes) to deliver news and
entertainment content. Analysts shouted
with glee that this was a win-win
partnership.
But, if the brothers also agree to share
content and other distribution platforms
(digital and direct-to-home) in the near
future, their Indian business model will
be akin to Murdochs international one.
In fact, given the lack of regulations and
restrictions on cross-media ownership
in India, contrary to the situation in the
US and Europe, the Ambanis blueprint
will be more expansive and dominant.
Together, they can do what Murdoch has
only dreamt about, tried, and failed.

Ambanis & Murdoch: Shared vision in


content

Browse through the 2012 annual report


of News Corp and you will get a sense of
Murdochs vision and global presence.
He is one of the largest generators and
acquirers of content, be it news, sports
and entertainment. He owns TV and cable channels (the famed Fox bouquet of
news, business and entertainment channels in the US, and the Star network in
India); produces, co-produces and buys
movies and TV serials; and has telecast rights to sporting events (National
Football League and Major League Basketball). This content is beamed across
countries and geographies such as India,
Greater China, South East Asia, Middle
East, Africa, the UK, Europe and North
America.
His reach in print media is unprecedented. He owns the Wall Street Journal,
Barrons and the New York Post, apart
from dozens of other publications in
the US. His print properties in the UK
include The Times, The Sunday Times,
and The Sun. Of course, in Australia, his native country Murdoch is
now a US citizen he manages 140
national, metropolitan, suburban,
regional and Sunday titles. And
one cannot forget his control over
HarperCollins, the publishing house.
Indirectly, both the Ambani brothers have access to news content.
Through a trust, Mukesh has given
a huge personal loan to Raghav Bahl,
who is the promoter of Network18
Group that owns TV news channels
(CNN IBN and CNBC TV 18) and websites
(moneycontrol.com and firstpost.com).
The money that Bahl owes can be converted into equity at a later date, which
will give the Mukesh-controlled trust
a stake in Bahls privately-held firm
which, in turn, owns Network18.
One has heard rumours that the elder
brother has benami stakes in at least
two Hindi news channels. Through
his financial services arm, Reliance
Capital, Anil has a stake in Bloomberg
India (business news channel) and a
minor one in TV Today (Aaj Tak and
Headlines Today). In the past, he has
had influential holdings in TV Today
and Network18. So, there is no reason

to disbelieve that Anil can get into the


news segment quite quickly through the
several mutual funds launched by Reliance Capital.
The Ambani siblings also have several
fingers in the movie and entertainment
pie. Anil has official tie-ups with several
Hollywoods famous director/producers,
including Steven Spielberg, to produce
movies and the US-based CBS Group to
air TV channels in India. Mukesh has
sold regional channels, owned by the
Andhra Pradesh-based Eenadu Group
to Network18, where he has an indirect control. Through benami deals, the
elder brother also owns other Hindi
entertainment channels. His wife, Nita,

Concludes
someone who
is close to the Ambani
family: In the early 2000s,
Mukesh visualised the synergies
between telecom and media. But he
lost the telecom firm to Anil in 2005.
If the two Ambani brothers can now
combine Mukeshs vision and
Anils media assets (content
and distribution), they can
easily become Indias, or
even Asias, Murdoch.

Tata Sky, beams news and non-news


programmes into the viewers homes.
In the US, it shares and leases cable
and terrestrial networks to achieve the
same objective. Content is also delivered
through third party-owned digital platforms like Amazon.com.
The Ambanis have a similar distribution model. Anil owns a direct-to-home
(DTH) network to beam its and others
content. In mid-2010, Anils Reliance
Communications announced an allstock deal to buy a controlling stake in
Digicable, one of the largest cable distribution companies. Reports indicate
that Mukesh has an undeclared holding in another cable distribution firm.
Through Big Cinemas, Anil is one of the
largest distributors and exhibitors of
movies in the organised segment.

Ambanis & Murdoch: Crucial


differences

While both the Ambani brothers and


Murdoch make their news and entertainment content available in digital

manages Mumbai Indians, a leading


cricket franchise in the Indian Premier
League (IPL).

Ambanis & Murdoch: Ownership over


distribution

Having content to sell is one part of the


game. The other is to control distribution to deliver them into the customers
living rooms and bedrooms. In this regard, News Corp, through holdings Britains BskyB, Italys Sky Italia and Indias

www.GovernanceNow.com 17

people politics policy performance


Media Moguls

One more deal in the


offing?
The Ambani brothers are likely to
sign another deal for infrastructure in telecom business soon.
Anil Ambani-owned Reliance
Communications (RCOM) and
Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance
Jio Infocomm (RJI) are negotiating
an agreement, under which the
latter will lease RCOM's towers
for its 4G services, the Hindustan
Times reported. The two firms declined to comment on the matter.
"Unlike OFC network, there will
not be any upfront payment in the
tower deal. RCOM will get only
monthly rental that will depend
on the number of towers. RCOM
has about 50,000 towers. Initially, RJI may lease only 60% of the
towers," a source familiar with
the developments was quoted as
saying.
format, the former are one step ahead
of Murdoch. Anils group includes a
gaming website, social network one and
a digital marketing website. Murdochs
experiment in this arena through his
purchase of myspace.com didnt succeed, and his internet operations today
amount to high-profile websites of his
newspapers in the US and UK. But the
US media tycoon can always acquire
new sites.
Another difference between the two
is that Anils media bouquet includes
FM radio stations. The website of Reliance Broadcast Network claims that
92.7 Big FM is present across 45 cities,
1,200 towns and 52,000+ villages with a
weekly reach of over 40 million Indians.
In 2008, the group announced plans
to launch similar radio channels in
Singapore, the US, UK and Middle East.
Although Murdoch lacks this content
avenue, he owns dozens of local (mostly
city-based) TV stations in the US.
However, the crucial and the most significant difference between the Ambanis and Murdoch is the formers entry
into telecom services. Between Mukesh

18 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

and Anil, they will offer 2G, 3G, 4G/


broadband and, as mobile becomes an
important platform to download news
and non-news content, they will surpass Murdochs vision in terms of distribution and delivery. Explains a source
in Mukeshs camp, After we expand in
4G, we will be in an ideal position to offer value-added services as Indians are
likely to watch music, movies, games
and news on their smartphones.
Telecom may turn out to be a gamechanger, and enable the Ambanis to
be several steps ahead of Murdoch
and other Indian competitors. Already,
Anils Reliance Communications has
over 160 million mobile subscribers.
Locally, the competition can come from
telecom majors (Airtel), who can tie up
with content providers. But the restrictions on sharing of 3G network has curtailed Airtels ambitions to offer value
content, and given a fillip to Reliances
4G, which aims to do the same.

Ambani & Murdoch: Regulatory failure


versus regulatory hijack

In the US, strict laws on cross-media


ownership have stalled or delayed
several moves made by Murdoch. For
example, one of those rules stipulates
that in the same localised market, TV
channels in the top four viewership
slots as per Nielsen ratings cannot own
a newspaper among the top 20. In 1993,
after he threatened to close down his
New York-based tabloid, New York Post,
he got a permanent waiver to own both
the tabloid and the local TV station,
WNYW.
Today, he is fighting a similar battle
as he wishes to buy the prominent
newspaper, Los Angeles Times,
although he owns two Los Angeles-based TV stations, KTTV and
KCOP, of which the latter shuttles
between No. 4 and 5 among local stations. It is because of such
compulsions, among others, that
Murdoch decided to separate
publishing businesses from TV
ones. According to an analyst
quoted in the New York Times,
If their TV stations are going to
be spun off from the larger conglomerate, then they wont directly
own newspapers and stations in those

particular markets anymore.


Similarly, after the controversial
phone-hacking incident in the UK, when
Murdochs tabloid, News of the World,
was alleged to have hacked mobiles
and bribed officials to get exclusives,
News Corps plans have suffered a huge
setback. One of them was the companys
inability to acquire a majority stake in
BskyB. Murdoch has had to constantly
change, and dilute, his business strategies in other nations such as China and
India because of the fear among policymakers about his overarching powers.
Media theorists dub the above cases
as regulatory failure. It is a scenario
where the regulators are unable to cope
with the ever- and fast-changing media
models, and are forced to take action
after, or when, the media owners have
initiated actions. This, as is the case
with Murdoch, could result in refusal to
mergers and acquisitions, denial to purchase of higher stakes in cross-media
entities, and/or directly and indirectly
force existing media conglomerates to
break up.
As opposed to regulatory failure,
what we have witnessed in India is
regulatory hijack. The latter happens when the regulators are weak
and dont have legal teeth to enforce
their decisions. The process is aided
by pliable policymakers, who are only
too willing to bend over backwards to

As
opposed to
regulatory failure, what
we have witnessed in India
is regulatory hijack. The latter
happens when the regulators are weak
and dont have legal teeth to enforce their
decisions. The process is aided by pliable
policymakers, who are only too willing to
bend over backwards to accommodate
corporate interests. And the judicial
bodies are unable to understand
the implications of the technical
issues unless it is too late or
irrelevant.

Bigger than Murdoch empire?


Mukeshs media pie

Through a trust, Mukesh Ambani


has given a huge personal loan to
Raghav Bahl, who is the promoter
of Network18 Group that owns TV
news channels (CNN IBN and CNBC
TV 18) and websites (moneycontrol.
com and firstpost.com).
There are rumours that he has benami stakes in at least two Hindi
news channels.
He has sold regional channels,
owned by the Andhra Pradeshbased Eenadu Group, to Network18, where he has an indirect
control. Through benami deals, he

Rupert Murdoch

also owns other Hindi entertainment channels.


His wife, Nita, manages Mumbai Indians, a leading cricket franchise in
the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Anils media stakes

Through his financial services arm,


Reliance Capital, Anil Ambani has a
stake in Bloomberg India (business
news channel) and a minor one in
TV Today (Aaj Tak and Headlines
Today).
In the past, he has had influential holdings in TV Today and
Network18.
Anil has official tie-ups with several
famous director/producers of Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg,

If they join hands

to produce movies and the USbased CBS Group to air TV channels


in India.

If Mukesh and Anil get their act together, as they are more likely to do
in telecom and media, they can overwhelm a Bennett, Coleman & Company, which is present across platforms
(print, TV, digital). They can mercilessly overpower the dominance of a
Zee Group, which is integrated vertically in TV (as a broadcaster and distributor).
If they agree to share content and other distribution platforms (digital
and direct-to-home), their Indian business model will be akin to Murdochs
international one. In fact, given the lack of regulations and restrictions on
cross-media ownership in India, contrary to the situation in the US and
Europe, the Ambanis blueprint will be more expansive and dominant. Together, they can do what Rupert Murdoch has only dreamt about, tried, and
failed.

accommodate corporate interests. And


the judicial bodies are unable to understand the implications of the technical
issues unless it is too late or irrelevant.
This happened in telecom; in 2002,
before the split, the Ambanis entered
the sector through the back door. Once
their CDMA operations were legitimised
in 2003, they changed tracks. Post-split,
in 2007, Anil convinced the policymakers
to allow him entry into GSM. Although
the norms in 2G said that licensors could
not sell their stakes for a specific period, no such rules were imposed in 4G/
broadband. So, the day a little-known
entity, Infotel, got a pan-India 4G licence
through e-auction, it sold a majority stake
to Mukesh, who found his way back into
his dream sector, telecom.
In the case of Anil, neither the regulators nor the relevant ministries attempted to stall his ownership over content and
delivery platforms. Well, the same is true
for his competitors in telecom and TV, but
they may not have the requisite mindset
to virtually capture a sector, as the Ambanis did with petrochemicals, refining and
polyester fibre in the 1980s and 1990s.
Big is beautiful in the Ambani rulebook,
and if it is at the expense of others, so
much the better.
Concludes someone who is close to
the Ambani family: In the early 2000s,
Mukesh visualised the synergies between
telecom and media. But he lost the telecom firm to Anil in 2005. If the two Ambani brothers can now combine Mukeshs
vision and Anils media assets (content
and distribution), they can easily become
Indias, or even Asias, Murdoch. n
Srinivas is a veteran business journalist with
several books to his credit.

people politics policy performance


Right to Redressal

Shailesh Gandhi

i th most of our judicial and quasijudicial bodies suffering from


enormous delays, the system is in a
way surviving on its own. Though
there are some good orders and
judgments, our lives are finite and
if things are not done in reasonable
time they become meaningless for
most people.
So, in delivering information to
an applicant under the RTI Act,
the challenge is to define a timeframe be it 50 days, 90 days, two
months, six months or a year, which
isnt the case at present.
Despite enormous amounts of
money spent on them, various commissions in our quasi-judicial systems like women, minority, child
rights or information commissions
have become unaccountable. We
hear about them only when something drastic happens.
As these commissions are checks
and balances of a democracy, all
information on their activities must
be put up on their websites in a
transparent manner, as they are
supposed to check and monitor government structures throughout. But
that is not happening.
For example, despite a sizeable
staff of 80, the office of the lokayukta in Maharashtra has not investigated any complaints. We have
never heard of what they are doing
either they merely forward the
complaints they receive to the ministries concerned.

20 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

RTI? You are


in queue!

A former information commissioner looks back in


horror on how casual information commissioners
are, and says selection of officials in all quasijudicial bodies must be open to public scrutiny

Ashish asthana

there is no harm in even a political appointment if the due process is followed.


The selection panel, in fact, should
recommend twice the required number
(of candidates) to be selected to make the
final call.
Whereas all such selection processes
in our country can get shortchanged, a
televised public interview of a candidate
will act as a big check. Though purely
as a matter of formality, the department
of personnel and training (DoPT) has
started advertising the requirement of
information commissioners (ICs). Ideally
the same process must be followed in the
judiciary, as judicial appointments can
also be arbitrary.

Shortcomings in system of
appointments

Transparency in selection

While the supreme court has also called


for transparency in the selection of
information commissioners, what is a
transparent selection process for appointments to such bodies? The RTI law
stipulates a committee consisting of the
prime minister, the leader of opposition
and a minister for selection of the central
information commissioner. The same
process is meant for the states, too in
this case the chief minister, the leader of
opposition and a minister.
But in reality this political team does
not have the time to go through the selection process, which can lead to political
appointments.

Additionally, we have to ensure that


those selected are competent for the
office people who may be otherwise
good but have no passion for transparency will be complete misfits in the RTI
regime. We have had people from the
intelligence bureaus and police as information commissioners but their mindset
is bound to be different.
A search committee comprising vicechancellors and eminent retired people
could shortlist three times the number
required and hold public interviews of
the shortlisted candidates on national
television. Citizens can then form an
opinion based on these interviews and
should then be able to send their views
to the search committee. In democracy,

A system for delegation of appointments


is also missing today. The appointments
have become a game in which eminent
positions are sought after retirement.
Like the era of kings, most commissioners, including ICs, are selected for patronage; they are rewarded for the work
they have put in.
A broad look at the various commissions shows that a majority of commissioners are retired bureaucrats or judges,
whereas for the sake of accountability
right people must be selected for each
post. Even an undersecretary is appointed after a process more diligent than
the one in place for appointing heads
of these bodies. Therefore, a lot of them
usually have little interest in their work.
We have to see whether these people
are competent for their jobs. While I
have seen that most ICs dont even understand the RTI Act, the same applies to
a host of other commissioners. Because
the RTI Act has been taken up by citizens
very enthusiastically, ICs are criticised
much more than other commissioners.

Too many people, too little work done

The RTI law provides for 11 commissioners (per commission) but in most cases
we dont require so many officials. In
my experience, we dont get more than 2
lakh appeals and complaints across the
country. Going by a figure of 5,000 cases
per commissioner per year, we can say
that we need 40 ICs countrywide, and the
number could stretch up to, say, 80 or

www.GovernanceNow.com 21

people politics policy performance


Right to Redressal

100 and cases could be easily cleared off.


Instead, even with 140 to 160 commissioners at present, a huge number of cases are piling up across the country. Even
a small state like Arunachal Pradesh,
which gets about 100-300 complaints annually, had six to eight ICs at one point.
The apex court said the information
commissions must decide in benches
of two commissioners, one of whom
should be a retired judge. Despite that a
single commissioner hears complaints at
present.
ICs are among the highest paid public
servants and they are required to do
minimum work. But even that is not
happening. In reality, most commissions
dont put in a bare minimum of 40 hours
per week. Even a clerk is expected to
work 40 hours a week.
In a five-day week, at least five hours
a day or 25 hours per week should be
devoted to hearings. (But) in cases where
some commissioners are putting in a
40-hour week, the time is not necessarily
devoted to work. Instead, many spend
the time (dealing with) stock market
investments or fixing somebodys job
appointment.
Further, despite putting in five years
in their job, many ICs cannot figure out
what the job requires.
With the exception of the current CIC
of Maharashtra, Ratnakar Gaikwad, who
holds 20-25 hearings a day disposing of
cases at a fast pace; others attribute deficiencies to the lack of enough commissioners, power or resources. With a waiting period of six to 10 months (to release
information), the RTI Act has started
becoming weaker.
Each commissioner must guarantee at
least 5,000 decisions in a year, declare
work done in the previous six months
to a year and make a workflow forecast
for the next one or two years. Based on
that they can calculate the requirement
of commissioners, and the government
should announce the requirement of
commissioners.
To introduce efficiency, systems must
be put in place to forecast and publicly
declare in a transparent manner work
done in previous months and years and
in months to come. There must be a
norm for disposal of applications, specifying the number of cases to be disposed

22 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Points to ponder
Ensure that those selected are
competent for the office people
who may be otherwise good but
have no passion for transparency
will be misfits in RTI regime
A search committee comprising
vice-chancellors and eminent retired people could shortlist three
times the number of officials required and hold public interviews
of shortlisted candidates on national TV
Citizens can then form an opinion based on these interviews
and then send their views to the
search committee
Even with as many as 140 to 160
commissioners across India, a
huge number of cases are piling
up
ICs are among the highest paid
public servants and they are required to do a minimum work
but even that is not happening
most commissions dont even put
in a bare minimum of 40 hours per
week
With a waiting period of six to 10
months to release information,
the RTI Act has started becoming
weaker
Each commissioner must guarantee at least 5,000 decisions in
a year, declare work done in the
previous six months to a year and
make a workflow forecast for the
next one or two years

of. Incidentally, I have dealt with 5,900


cases in a year (but) most commissioners
who do 1,500-3,000 cases a year feel the
figure is more than enough.
We need to perform or resign. While
it is a normal attitude to pass the buck
on to the government, it cannot go on
intervening in everything. When I was
in the central information commission,
I proposed a transfer of resources to
deliver and said that through a citizens

charter we must make a commitment


to the citizens that any matter referred
there would be resolved within 90 or 120
days. People must be told whether information will be given or not and if not,
why. There was huge opposition and they
said, We dont want to decide anything
like this.
Rather than spending huge amounts of
money on so-called senior citizen clubs,
which is unacceptable, the intent to take
work more seriously will be stronger if
the age of commissioners is reduced to
below 60. For each one of us who sits in
as IC, our salaries are being paid for by
the taxpayer; money cannot be wasted
like this. You need to deliver, and none of
us are delivering.

Other bodies

Take the case of consumer forums,


headed by retired high court judges.
They were launched with great promise
in 1986 and as per law, a case has to be
decided within a maximum of three to
six months. But in practice it may take
up to eight or 10 years before a case is
finally decided and in 80 percent or more
cases you cannot go through it without a
lawyer.
At least this problem has not come up
so far in information commissions.
Further, bringing in more laws to add
to the existing set of good laws, setting
up additional bodies and then forgetting
about them is of no use. Seven states in
the country already have police complaint authorities but we have never
heard of any work done by them. With
some exceptions, grievance cells in most
parts of the country are dysfunctional.
If they were working you can imagine
what would happen to the governance
structure of our country.
Are we asking for any kind of responsibility? My submission is that we, the citizens and the media, must start demanding
accountability from bodies like (information) commissions and get them to work
reasonably. With citizens raising their
voice ensuring that these organisations
work well and the media highlighting that
agenda, the government will act. n
Gandhi, a former information commissioner with the central information commission,
spoke to Geetanjali Minhas.

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www.GovernanceNow.com 23

I N T E R V I E W

Dhir Jhingran, national commission for protection of child rights

Some elements in NCPCR


are opposed to the RTE Act

Arun kumar

fter working in the ministry of human resource and


development (HRD) for nine
years and more than 20
years of work in the education sector,
Dhir Jhingran was appointed as the national coordinator of right to education
(RTE) Act at the national commission
for protection of child rights (NCPCR).
An IAS of 1986-batch Assam cadre,
Jhingran resigned from the post within
just six months of appointment. Significantly, his last day in office, March 31,
was the Supreme Courts deadline for
implementation of the Act.
Also significant is the fact that Jhingran is the second national coordinator of the RTE division to leave work
midway through his term.
Exactly a year before, Kiran Bhatty,
the consultant who established the division in 2010, put in her papers along
with five members on March 31, 2012.
Though Bhatty refused to get into details, she said it was important to
have specific roles and duties for a
department to work efficiently.
In an interview with Jasleen
Kaur, Jhingran now explains the
reason behind his premature resignation from the RTE division of
NCPCR, and the problems with the
enforcement of RTE Act.
Excerpts from the interview:

What forced you to quit?

I dont think there is enough commitment on part of NCPCR as an


organisation to be an effective
agency to monitor RTE. Its not
about the chairperson she is
very committed but as an
organisation, it is not committed to RTE.
I think the problem lies
somewhere in

the fact that NCPCR is strongly controlled by the women and child development (WCD) ministry. (In fact) it
is seen as a WCD subordinate office,
whereas the RTE division is funded
by the HRD ministry. Though NCPCR is mandated to be an autonomous
body, that mandate is not backed up
by funds or strong commitment of the
organisation. While Shantha Sinha
and Dipa Dixit (member) had worked
really hard to set up RTE division and
start institutions like state representatives and social audit of RTE.
Some members are (also) very critical of the RTE and raise issues about

The situation
worsened after the new
member-secretary, Ashish
Srivastav, joined. I feel he is not
convinced that NCPCR should be
working for RTE. We had a meeting with
the MHRD and we came to know that he
is also talking to the ministry whether
there is a need for the NCPCR
to monitor the
implementation of
the act.

earlier problems in the division. I


somehow feel they (these members)
do not want the RTE to be effective.
These include But the situation really w members
and the member-secretary Ashish
Srivastav, who joined o months back.
They want to undo the good work
done by chairperson and Dipa Dixit.
It is important that attempts of these
persons are thwarted so that NCPCR can play an effective role in RTE
monitoring.

What really went wrong?

We took several new initiatives in


the six months I spent there. But the
last two months were only about taking unnecessary permissions, clearances, funds and so forth from the
commission.
There have been cases where it was
very difficult to get permission even
after several rounds of discussions
and file movements. So it was not
really a great environment to
work. Having worked in the government for 26 years I am least
interested in doing these clerical
things.

What are the problems you faced


while working in the division?

I am a trained official and I understand rules of the government. So

What needs to be done:


Jhingran-speak
1. Provide funding that is not tied to
any ministry. For example, if we are
monitoring MHRD, I should not get
funds from MHRD; I should get it
from elsewhere like the planning
commission.
2. The RTE division, specifically, should
be headed by someone from the
government. Most people working
here are consultants; I was also
employed as a consultant. But it
cannot work (that way).
3. The MHRD has to be very specific
about what has happened, what
needs to be done and (should)
regularly issue clear instructions to
the states so that the NCPCR can
monitor those deadlines.
www.GovernanceNow.com 25

RTE: where
problems lie
Responsible for monitoring RTE
act, National Commission for
Protection of Child Rights has
analysed data of 320 districts to
evaluate standing of different on
implementation
RTE came into force on April 1,
2010 and gave 3 years to schools
to comply with its norms: of sufficient teachers, proper classrooms, toilets and supply of drinking water
NCPCR discussing issues with
states depending on their needs
for instance issues of large-scale
migration in Odisha
Jharkhand has problems in RTE implementation on all fronts: teacher
appointment, delay in supply of
textbooks, zero special training,
and no continuous comprehension
evaluation
Uttar Pradesh has problems of
proxy teachers, teachers absence
from duty, poor quality of midday
meal
No state has done special training
for out-of-school children to admit
them in classrooms appropriate to
their age
Continuous comprehensive evaluation is in total chaos everywhere
No state has focused on marginalised group like migrated children
On other infrastructure issue like
classrooms, toilets, drinking water, states are on different level of
completion; will take them a year
or two to complete
Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
and Orissa have huge backlogs in
teachers appointment, which they
have committed to do in a year
Teachers being trained through
open distance learning mode,
either by IGNOU or state open
schools, due to absence of adequate training institutions
Teacher absenteeism is a big issue in many states, including
Jharkhand and UP

(As told by Dhir Jhingran)

when I am finding problems, it means


there are huge issues involved. There
is a problem of intent in not allowing
things to work. I came here to work
but its sad to be leaving so early.
One can fight on principles or policies but not on such basic issues. Its
a very harassing way of working. I
would definitely blame the membersecretary, apart from the contradictions within the commission. I think
the member-secretary has failed to
provide the support that was required
(of him). I understand there are problems between the WCD minister and
the chairperson; (that) they somehow
do not see eye to eye.
I have worked here very independently in the six months and the chairperson, in fact, insulated me from a lot
of interference that may have come
from the WCD ministry. She played a
very positive role but how much can
she alone do? Its not worth (the effort)
if the organisation is not committed to
it. The NCPCR should see it as a great
opportunity for its role in RTE but you
need a strong organisation to take up
things.

Do you think forming an independent


body to monitor RTE could help?

NCPCR and state commissions are supposed to be autonomous bodies but the
problem is, we are not serious about
our institutions. Whats the logic of creating an alternative body when you
have got these institutions which are
statutory provided for. They are under
the acts of parliament.
But we create institutions and do not
invest in them and weaken them for
purpose. In many states, the SCPCRs
(state commission for protection of
child rights) are given such a low status and salary that they cannot actually be effective in monitoring. So the answer is not the new institution but to
recognise that such institutions should
work autonomously in real sense.
One of the things that can be done is
to provide funding that is not tied to
any ministry. For example, if we are
monitoring MHRD, I should not get
funds from MHRD; I should get it from
elsewhere like the planning commission or somewhere. Right now,
MHRD approves the work plan and we

are supposed to monitor that, which


is a little complex situation. The other
thing, specifically for the RTE division,
is that I feel it should be headed by
someone from the government.
Most people working here are consultants; I was also employed as a consultant. But it cannot work (that way). Its
a structural arrangement that is bound
to fail. Someone from the government
should head it. We are all within NCPCR but to be at the mercy of a person
in the administration, who one fine
day decides that nothing should be approved, is ridiculous.
As an institution, NCPCR has never
taken full responsibility of RTE; some
members keep opposing it. These are
all dynamics about who is aligned with
WCD ministry and who is against the
chairperson, or for her. But that should
not affect the functioning of the division which has to monitor RTE. I could
not travel much in the last two months
because it was all about signing files
and notes, which was not my job.

Last year, when the RTE Act


completed two years, there was no
one heading the division. And now,
when it is completing the third year,
there would be no one heading the
division

Its a bad situation. Its unfortunate


that I have to leave so soon. But one
good thing is that the member who is
now put in charge of the RTE is very
serious about the work. Hopefully
she would take more responsibility of
what the national coordinator was doing till they get someone. And the commission should give complete support
for RTE, and not any individual.

Should the HRD ministry play a more


serious role in implementing and
monitoring the RTE Act?
The HRD ministry does monitoring of
its own also. There are lots of reports
that MHRD collects from the state
government. But, yes, they have to
be very specific about what has happened, what needs to be done and
(should) regularly issue clear instructions to the states so that the NCPCR
can monitor those deadlines. n
jasleen@governancenow.com

people politics policy performance


Penny Wise?

RTE division in `51-lakh soup

Audit report reveals NCPCR incurred expenditure of `51.12 lakh without


sticking to primary guidelines of general financial rules

Jasleen Kaur

It was a pilot project and


the commission fulfilled
requirements before appointing
the NGOs. All the NGOs
appointed are really good in
their work.

here were serious anomalies


in the transactions of the national commission for protection of child rights (NCPCR)
in the financial year 2011-12,
the office of the director general of audit
has found.
According to the audit report (Governance Now has a copy of it), there were
irregularities in the appointment of state
representatives (SR) and social audit
groups (SAG) by the right to education
(RTE) division of commission to conduct
social audit of implementation of the RTE
Act.
The division started the social audit to
get education officers at block and district
levels take up responsibility, and fix their
accountability, for functioning of schools.

What audit report


alleges
NCPCR engaged 12 district coordinators, 58 block monitors and
253 panchayat facilitators in eight
states and incurred an expenditure of `51.12 lakh during 201011 and 2011-12 without following
primary guidelines of the general
financial rules.
Guidelines or criteria of selection
of NGOs or outsourced agencies,
district coordinators, block monitors, panchayats facilitators and
state representatives not found on
record.
No term of reference for procedure of submission of proposal

Shanta Sinha, chairperson, NCPCR

Unveiled in 10 states, the division started


the pilot project by tying up with various
civil society groups and asking people to
give feedback on functioning of schools

and engaging, or outsourcing qualified or desired agencies.


Commission incurred expenditure
of `51.12 lakh during audit but
eligibility, pre-qualification criteria, experience and suitability for
providing the services by agencies
or NGOs concerned not found on
records.
No CV and experience of agencies
or NGOs found on record to justify
suitability for the assigned work.
Procedure followed by NCPCR in
bid evaluation and selection procedure could not be ascertained.
Guidelines related to engagement
of outsourced agencies/NGOs did
not incorporate requisite terms
and conditions and procedures to
be followed.

and implementation of the RTE Act.


In all, 250 panchayats were to be covered in the first year for comprehensive
and concurrent social auditing. In addition, they were to be assisted by a district
resource person and state representative.
The division is yet to release the report. n
jasleen@governancenow.com

Conducted in February, audit


sought explanation on the circumstances in which state representatives and social audit groups were
engaged.
Letter (dated March 12, 2013) from
NCPCR to the national coordinator of the RTE division points out
release of funds to state representative and state audit group of the
division. It says national coordinator of RTE division was repeatedly
requested to send all files regarding release of these funds but all
verbal requests failed to elicit a
response.
Report states the matter is being
examined and appropriate decision will be taken after examination of all records and files.

www.GovernanceNow.com 27

people politics policy performance


Planning Against Crime

No safety in job
numbers
The real reason behind the rise in crimes
like the Delhi gangrape is the rise in
unemployment, which will take gargantuan
proportions by 2018. Here is what our
planners should be doing very quickly

levels
Short-term measures: Launch of large
Employment Generation Projects

The truth is that a very large proportion of the problem of the rising crime
in India can be traced directly to lack
of directional inputs from the prime
ministers office and a non-serious planning commission. The primary job of the
latter is to detect trends very early and
initiate timely and measured policy or
project based responses. It is therefore
worrying that it has not initiated a single,
sustainable, large employment generating scheme since 2004.
Lack of strategic thinking within the
planning commission and the government shows up in the schemes that
have been promoted. They started the
MNREGS to create rural employment but
it did not create any real sustainable ca-

Ashish Puntambekar

ur anger and agony over the


Delhi gangrape will not prevent such events in future.
For this we need to properly
identify the reasons for a
rise in crimes and implement strategies
in the short, medium and long terms at
various levels to make women feel safe
in India. Before we begin, it is important
to understand the size of the problem.

Central problem and its magnitude

The 2011 census data and employment


statistics appear to indicate that overall
crime in India is likely to rise by almost
five times by 2018. Population data in
the accompanying table indicates that
young people in excess of 20 crore will
join Indias working age group by 2018.
This is in addition to the 11.2 crore already unemployed according to the 2011
census. This is equivalent to two-thirds
of the population of Europe entering the
working age group in an environment
where no new jobs are being created.
Today maybe just 1015 % of those 20
crore unemployed youngsters have hit

28 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

the street and we already have so much


crime. Imagine what will happen when
the balance 85%-plus arrive. This is not
to say that a majority of them are potential criminals, but the authentic numbers
in the table and empirical correlations
linking rising crime, especially theft, to
unemployment from around the world,
indeed make for a planners nightmare.
To rising unemployment, if we add
a skewed sex ratio, the forecast gets
ominous. India might well be on its way
to becoming the most dangerous place
on earth for women. We cannot blame
police for this, they and the judiciary
are dealing with mere symptoms of bad
governance.

Need for a systemic response at various

pacity within the economy. The Aadhaarbased initiatives too do not and cannot
create any genuine productive capacity
or employment.
Given this, the justice JS Verma committees report looks rather narrow and
relatively unimportant in its scope.
A more pressing need is to know why
the government has not initiated a single
genuine employment generation project
in eight years when it is aware of the
unemployment projections.
Census data and education statistics
indicate that in excess of 60% of students
drop out of school after class 5 because
there is a shortage of 5,00,000 secondary schools across India. This indicates
that approximately 60% of the 20 crore

maybe just 10 % 15 % of those 200 Million unemployed young people have reached the street and
we already have so much crime. Imagine what will happen when the balance 85 % + arrive. This is
not to say that a majority of unemployed young people are potential criminals, but the authentic
numbers in the table below and empirical correlations linking rising crime, especially theft to unemployment from around the world, indeed make for a planners nightmare.
the working age group resulting in low
employment and a galloping crime rate,
it is the crippling shortages and teacher
quality issues we have in our secondary
school system.
The governments response in the
form of the RTE Act has not added any
sustainable productive capacity within
the economy. It is destroying even the
private school system by making existing
private schools financially unviable. The
planning commission and the HRD ministry have seriously damaged the school
system due to a lack of understanding of
fundamentals.
The current literacy-centric system
within the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has
lowered the status of the teacher and
therefore the least qualified people
have landed the most important jobs in
the country training our children. No
young people who will arrive in the job
The truth is that a very large
amount
of computerisation
canIndia
replacemight
market
by 2018
can only be employed
in add a skewed sex ratio, the forecast
If to
rising
un-employment,
we
gets
ominous
proportion
of
the
problem
the teacher who provides us with our
agriculture and construction. Capacity
well
be on its way to becoming the most dangerous place on earth
for women. We cannot blame
values. Only a good teacher and enlightcreation projects in these sectors (for exof
the
rising
crime
in
India
theample,
police
fordams
this,
they andareas)
the Judiciary are just dealing with symptoms
of bad
governance.
ened parents
can inculcate
the concept of
check
in drought-hit
can be traced directly to lack
manwoman equality in a childs mind.
therefore need to be cleared on a fastIndia led the world for thousands of
track basis to generate jobs fast.
of directional inputs from
years because it had a teacher-centric
The problem is getting bigger. Every
system. So, if we provide excellent incenthe prime ministers office
single day that the government hesitives for teachers, universal literacy will
tates to clear projects, an astounding
and a non-serious planning
follow by itself.
3,65,000 people are being rendered jobTherefore, if the government is sincere
less. The asking rate is getting worse.
commission. The primary
about making India safe for women, it
There is therefore a clear need to create
job of the latter is to detect
should initiate a large project to build
long-term employment for at least 10
more secondary schools and provide
crore people in a sustainable manner.
trends very early and initiate
good incentives for teachers. Building
Healthcare alone can employ over three
timely and measured policy
more secondary schools will repair our
crore, but the planning commission in a
rapidly disintegrating moral fabric and
decision which reflects a serious lack of
or project based responses.
dramatically bring down crime against
imagination has now clearly stated that
women. Necessary financing can be put
it wants to reduce government involvein place in three months while adding 20
ment in the sector.
lakh new jobs.
Some may argue that FDI in retail is
The other alternative to initiating large
aimed at creating jobs. That is simply
The data clearly indicates the true reasocial infrastructure projects by the govnot enough as by the governments own
sons for the rise in unemployment and
ernment and the
admission, this move will add just one
crime:
planning commission is to increase the
crore new jobs. Project initiation and
1. Shortage of over five lakh secondary
size of the land-based internal security
clearance therefore needs to be put on a
schools: Most children are dropping out
forces three to five times so that more
fast track.
of school after class 5, not because they
than 31.2 crore jobless people can be
want to but because there are no schools
effectively controlled. As this is clearly
to go to.
Medium- to long-term measures: Focus
unviable, India needs to enter an era of
2. Very poor teacher quality: Only 46%
on building new secondary education
megaprojects very quickly. n
of teachers in India have studied beyond
capacity
class 12. In
The fundamental reason for the disinteBihar only 21% of teachers have studgration of value systems in Indian society
Puntambekar, a corporate planner with a
ied beyond class 10.
and crime against women is a rapidly
Fortune 500 company, is also project deThus, if any single factor were resigner of the Indian Education Megaproject.
failing education system and especially
sponsible for low skill levels within
Views expressed are personal.
the collapse of secondary education.

www.GovernanceNow.com 29

people politics policy performance


Readers Write In

(C)laws of the land


For the sake of humanity, there is a need to
review the criminal tag to suicide attempt
Mukesh Rawat

Man was born free, yet everywhere he is


in chains
Rousseau

ndia chose to be a welfare state 66


years ago with promises of removing tears from every eye. In this
view, the fifth and sixth decades of
our independence have been legendary when it comes to realising how
those promises could never be realised.
In the 15 years of these two decades so
far, every year an average 1.2 lakh Indians committed suicide.
More than one lakh persons (1,34,599)
in the country lost their lives by committing suicide during 2010. This indicates
an increase of 5.9% over the previous
year (1,27,151). The number of suicides
in the country during the decade (2000
10) has recorded an increase of 23.9%
The all-India rate of suicide (number
of suicides per one lakh population)
was 11.4 as compared to 10.9 in 2009,
says the national crime record bureaus
(NCRB) report on Accidental Deaths and
Suicides in India 2011.
These figures, apart from raising many
serious questions about our policies and
the nature and notion of our welfare
state, also point a finger at inefficiency
and indifference of the society in addressing the issue.
Here I will focus solely on the issue of
the plight of the suicide attempt survivors under the law and not suicide per
se. Section 309 of the Indian penal code
(IPC) reads: Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards
the commission of such offence shall be
punished with simple imprisonment for
a term which may extend to one year or

30 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

fine, or with both.


In a society like ours, which sees an act
as an end in itself without venturing into
the wisdom of the contributory reasons
for that act, a suicide attempt survivor is
seen with an unsympathetic eye. Attempt
to suicide is definitely an act of shame
for humanity and its principles. It is an
act that demands mourning (both for
the individual and the phenomenon) but
should it necessarily be a crime? Yes, we
must strive hard in unison to outwit suicide but we should not tag its attempt
as a legal offence. Because, by doing so,
those who fortunately escape from the
jaws of death will be tagged as criminals,
with their names registered in the criminal records forever a burden they will
have to bear for the rest of their lives.
By criminalising it, will that person not
live under a heavier burden than ever
before? Will this tag (and the shadow it
casts) not instigate him to do the same
again, and thus reduce his chances of
recovering life again? Is this what the
union and the law of the land aspire
for? The answer definitely has to be a big
No. The union and the law want them to
live as dignified citizens and not as criminals. All mistakes need not necessarily
be crimes at times you need to handle
them with emotions and sympathy and
not legislation.
A supreme court bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra in
2011 noted that the time has come when
it (section 309 of IPC) should be deleted
by parliament as it has become anachronistic we therefore recommend to
parliament to consider the feasibility of
deleting section 309 from the IPC.
In September 2011, when asked their
opinion, 25 states gave their consent to
the home ministry to remove that section. The law ministry then said that
it would be removed within one year.
However, it has been 16 months since

and the draconian section continues to


haunt the society.
The 210th report of the law commission
says: It needs mention here that only a
handful of countries in the world, like
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and India have persisted with this
undesirable law it is felt that attempt
to suicide may be regarded more as a
manifestation of a diseased condition
of mind deserving treatment and care
rather than an offence to be visited with
punishment.
The Delhi high court in State vs Sanjay
Kumar Bhatia, a case under section 309
of IPC, observed: Instead of the society
hanging its head in shame that there
should be such social strains that a young
man (the hope of tomorrow) should be
driven to suicide compounds its inadequacy by treating the boy as a criminal.
It is ironic that section 309 still continues
to be on our penal code. The result is that
a young boy driven to such frustration
so as to seek ones own life would have
escaped human punishment if he had
succeeded but is to be hounded by the
police, because the attempt has failed.
It would be helpful to listen to somebody who has undergone this trauma.
The way society treats you after your
failed suicide attempt has a great role in
determining the future course of your
journey. Even though my family members never mentioned it to me, neighbours always gave me a nasty glare
whenever I crossed them, says Nikhil
Gupta (name changed), a second year
student of Delhi University. Behind my
back they would say, Look, he tried to
commit suicidewhat a disgrace he is to
his family!
Now, when I look back on my life, it
is not the attempt that scares me, what
scares is the treatment I was subjected
to after the failed attempt. It does a lot of
psychological hampering and you start
cursing yourself all again. You sometime
even think of a second attempt.
In Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra case, the Bombay high court
observed: If the purpose of the punishment for attempted suicide is to prevent
the prospective suicides by deterrence,
the same is not achieved by punishing
those who have made the attempts, as
no deterrence is going to hold back those

Arun kumar

way the victim himself was thinking at


who want to die for a social or political
that very instant. Otherwise, our quest
cause or to leave the world either befor the solution will result in a series of
cause of the loss of interest in life or for
hysteria wherein we will be focusing
self-deliverance.
solely on the ethos of morality and
It is important that we understand
legality and not p racticality.
that suicide is not a choice
Section 309 may be conbut a compulsion. It is
stitutionally sound, as
not something that
Section
declared in the Gian
one does with a
Kaur case, but the
great pomp and
309 of IPC (which
larger questions
joy. It is always
criminalises suicide
that demands
an involuntary
bid) may be constitutionally
answering is: is
and reflexive
sound, as declared in the Gian
it humane too?
action wherein
Also, we need
the individual
Kaur case, but a larger questions
to understand
has the least
demands an answer: is it humane
that what is
and often no
too? For, what is constitutionally
constitutioncontrol over
correct may not necessarily
ally correct may
his mind. He is
not necessarily
totally governed
be morally and ethically
be morally and
by the environcorrect as well.
ethically correct as
ment around and
well. The law comthe never-ending
mission points out,
psychological webs. Let
The supreme court in the
us not analyse things from
case of Gian Kaur focused on
a second persons viewpoint
the constitutionality of section 309. It
because then we cant really attach
did not go into the wisdom of retaining
ourselves to the agony that the victim
or continuing the same in the statute.
suffers from. We need to approach it the

If we carefully observe why people


commit suicide it does appear that most
of them are driven out of frustration
over their mad, sad and bad state of life
which consequently perpetuates a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness;
a downtrodden mind and the everengulfing and expectant society casting
a lingering glare, often resembling that
of a scavenger. At times these reasons,
in summation, are ponderous enough
for a mortals mind to digest them all. It
may just swallow them and not chew;
and when it does swallow, they choke
him down to oblivion, thus devouring his
physical frame.
Even though the person concerned is
to be blamed, he is not to be prosecuted.
The environment around and the norms
and perceptions of society do play a major role in it they catalyse the act.
Lets hope that we will be able to repeal
this section and combat this menace with
a more mature, flexible, tolerant, and
productive approach. n
Rawat is a Political Science (Hons) student in
Delhi College of Arts and Commerce; University of Delhi. mukeshrawat705@gmail.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 31

Arun kumar

I N T E R V I E W

Blake C Clayton
New York-based energy expert

India doesnt
have robust
oil and gas
infrastructure

lake C Clayton, an energy expert with the New York-based


think tank Council on Foreign
Relations (CFR), says that the
challenge before India is not providing cheap energy to the wealthiest but
to those living in rural areas. Clayton,
who has a doctorate from Oxford University, says that if India is to become
self-sufficient in the energy sector, it
has to embrace new technologies.
In New Delhi to deliver a lecture,
Clayton spoke with Trithesh Nandan.
Edited excerpts from the interview:

What are your predictions for global


energy trends?

There are interesting trends. In many


ways, there will be more growth in
energy and power demands around

the world, especially in the developing world. India and China are at the
heart of that story. The energy company BP came out with statistical projections a few months back, which show
that India and China alone will contribute as much as 50 percent of the
power demand growth between now
and 2030. So, it is a very exciting time
for India simply because the decisions
made here by consumers, by businesses and the power sector will have a
tremendous impact on energy trends.

India faces a shortage of energy. It is


even hurting economic growth. What
would be your prescription for India?

There are a few lessons for India. The


demand for energy or growth of energy is a good thing. When the economy

and the population are growing, demands for energy grow. My hope is
that the kind of robust energy growth
that was seen in India in the last one
decade will continue to grow. It does
pose challenges, though.

Will you elaborate?

It poses challenges for people of India;


especially for the poor (and the) middle class (in terms of affordable energy). It is a challenge for policymakers how to develop the right kind
of regulations that will allow energy
economy to grow in a responsible, affordable and secure way. Energy efficiency and finding ways to embrace
modern technologies are the key areas. They are developed outside India:
bring them to the country and deploy

it on a large scale. The other important


component is trade. India like other
countries is dependent on imported
or exported goods. And when it comes
to energy, finding ways like bringing
natural gas (to the country) will be an
important part.
But I also think that too much reliance on imported energy can be a bad
thing. One way of achieving energy security for the countries is to find what
they can produce domestically. So, the
challenge for India from the policy
perspective is how to create the level
of competition. When it comes to exploring and producing energy sources
like coal, natural gas and oil, enable
the market to help and provide.

But India doesnt have enough


oil reserves. How can it take up
exploration in a major way?

I think it is likely that India has much


greater natural gas resources than it
currently realises. However, there are
infrastructure issues in exploiting the
countrys energy resources.
New technologies should have been
developed and deployed on a large
scale. Hydraulic fracking* combined
with horizontal drilling have enabled
countries like the US, Canada, the UK,
Russia, Argentina and others to find
a vast quantity of oil and natural gas
from shale reserves that they did not
know existed before and to extract
profitably. When it comes to India, my
sense is that much of shale reserves
are relatively unexplored. That means
on a practical level in years and decades to come, there is a good reason to explore. The quantity of shale
resources may be estimated at much
higher than expected today. Thats the
trend happening in the UK, China and
other countries. Once companies go
outside and actually kick the tyres, explore well, they find it.
There are much more oil and gas in
different parts of the world than we
had realised. And, India is no exception to that trend.
The US and Canada have a vast oil
and gas infrastructure. It is more limited over here. Also, there are issues
regarding the pipeline infrastructure
and rail and road network connectivity with the resources. The other
thing is that in the US, there are many
small-scale companies involved in oil
exploration, while in India only big
companies dominate this sector. The

Chinese are inviting big oil and gas


companies so that they (China) can
learn technologies from them. If oil
and gas production is not regulated
carefully, it will be dirty.

Given the great energy boom in

When it comes to
India, my sense is that
much of shale reserves are
relatively unexplored. That
means on a practical level
in years and decades to
come, there is a good
reason to explore.

the US in the last couple of years


after the new findings, do you see
cooperation between Washington
and New Delhi evolving in this area?

The cooperation is already under way.


Washington and New Delhi signed
an agreement in 2009 that called for
greater technological cooperation in
the area of shale exploration and production, not to mention other critical
areas like development of renewable
energy and energy efficiency. So, the
North American gas boom is a good
thing for India. In the US and Canada,
in shale production, there are supply
side gains. That is a good thing for importing countries in other parts of the
world. Since 2006, 3 million barrels a
day of oil imported by the US is being
circumscribed because the US is able
to provide for its own needs. India and
other countries are major importers of
oil. That means more energy leftover
for these countries, which means lower prices worldwide. Also, in future
the equation will change as there will
be more energy cooperation.

Do you think the discovery of shale


resources will take geopolitical focus
away from West Asia?
When it comes to geopolitics, the relationship between the US and other
countries in the Middle East, many
analysts ask what is now in store for

the US. The US is much less reliant


on Middle Eastern oil imports than
it used to be. It is also much less reliant on oil from the other parts of the
world. Policymakers, whether in Moscow, New Delhi, Brussels or Washington, do tend to care about who they
trade energy with. It is a global market and people are free to buy from
and sell to whoever they want. The
fact that the US is becoming more energy self-sufficient means that its traditional relationship with the Middle
East at least on energy perspective
is changing and it is changing very
dramatically.
Will this lead the US to reshape its
role in the Middle East? No, I dont
think it will happen. I think there are
many interests that will take Washington to that part of the world whether
it is nuclear proliferation, support for
Israel and other allies or for humanitarian objectives. There are many
ways that the US would like to pitch in
the region.

How should India revamp its energy


governance?

Officials here at the highest level are


interested in that issue. What change
should India make in order to provide
more secure energy future? There are
a couple of lessons. Finding ways to
get energy to those who dont have it
or have very little of it; that is the key.
It is not just a question of energy efficiency for major cities or cheaper
energy for the wealthiest people but
for those people who are living in rural areas and providing energy to help
them. Embracing technologies and
best practices from all over the world
also matters.
I think leading energy companies
are bringing them to India. It also
matters to increase global competition
when it comes to production of vital
energy resources: oil and natural gas.
More bidding of these resources will
tend to produce more efficiency and
production gains are possible. n
*Fracking: Fracking refers to the
procedure of creating fractures in rocks
and rock formations by injecting fluid
into cracks to force them further open.
The larger fissures allow more oil and gas
to flow out of the formation and into the
wellbore, from where it can be extracted.
trithesh@governancenow.com

people politics policy performance


Auditing Appointment

How not to
select Vinod
Rais successor

Trithesh Nandan

s he approaches his superannuation in May, comptroller


and auditor general (CAG)
Vinod Rai knows it well that
he has been the chief tormenter of the UPA government. I can assure you that the government, if they did
make a mistake appointing me as CAG,
will make the right choice next time, he
told a seminar organised by the Moneylife
Foundation in Mumbai in February.
We can be rest assured that the government is currently busy making the right
choice. The question is how it is going to
select the next auditor in chief. And the
answer is, nobody has a clue. The names
of the recent occupants of this all-important post were announced one fine day,
prompting many to allege arbitrariness.
In 1996, when the then CAG CG Somiah
was retiring, there was no announcement
the speaker of the lower house, chairman
of his replacement. The CAG office at
of the public accounts committee and
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg in Delhi was
possibly the chief justice of India, it sugin the dark for a few days as to who would
gested, thus calling for a collegium to apbe their next boss. A week after Somiah
point the next CAG.
demitted office, the Narasimha Rao govThere is a danger of some pliable perernment approved VK Shunglus appointson becoming the CAG to dilute the conment. The orders came in the afternoon
stitutional authority. So it is necessary
and by evening he was administered the
that the PM and the president should be
oath of office by the president. Seventeen
coaxed to bring in a transparent selecyears have passed since Somiah has retion process, says S Krishnan, president
tired and we have had three CAGs, but
of FRO-IAAS and former member-finance,
the same secrecy has been maintained in
government of India.
the selection even though Dr BR AmbedHe says that the formation of such a fokar described CAG as the most important
rum was necessary to remind the governfunctionary under the constitution.
ment of its duty as even after 65 years of
To rectify this, several retired officers
Independence no norms have been laid
of the Indian Audit & Accounts Service
down for the selection of CAG.
(IAAS) recently came together under the
The Forum has been active over the last
aegis of the Forum of Retired Officers of
few years, as an informal body, defendIAAS (FRO-IAAS), and sent a memoraning CAG in the wake of reports that had
dum to the president and the prime minexposed numerous corruption scandals,
ister on March 20 calling for transparcausing embarrassment to the UPA govency and procedural propriety in the
ernment. In January, when 50 reselection of the next CAG.
tired officers were discussing the
A selection committee be
CAG report on the coal block alconstituted for the selection
y
c
location at the Institute of Pubof CAG which should consist
a
cr nce
lic Auditors of India, the idea
of the prime minister, the fiu
rea erna
of forming a formal body was
nance minister, the leader of
u
B ov
mooted. And one of the main
opposition in the Lok Sabha,
G

To ensure that the next CAG also keeps a


watchful eye on public coffers, we need
transparency in selection and a set of
eligibility criteria. Both have been missing
for a while

&

34 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

points discussed was the appointment of


Rais successor.

No response yet

The FRO-IAAS says that nobody from the


government has responded to its memorandum. Only a phone call came from
BJP parliamentary party chairman LK
Advanis office, says Krishnan.
Their suggestion of a collegium is not
new. Last year, Advani in a letter to the
PM had raised the issue of introducing a
broad-based collegium system to appoint
CAG. Gurudas Dasgupta, the CPI MP, also
wrote to the PM in November 2012 suggesting a three-member collegium, comprising PM, the leader of the opposition in
the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India. However, the Forum says Manmohan
Singh replied to him saying there was no
urgent need to consider changes in the
process of appointment of CAG.
Moreover, a similar system, of a highlevel broad-based committee, is followed
to select candidates for the statutory posts
like the chief vigilance commissioner
(CVC) and the chairman of the national
human rights commission (NHRC).
The Forum questions the PMs response.
The FRO-IAAS members have already met
the public accounts committee chairman,

Murli Manohar Joshi, in this regard and submitted the memorandum. They have also written to
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and leader of
opposition Sushma Swaraj.
At this juncture, when the CAG office has come
under serious attack, we want a person of impeccable integrity and professional competence (in
the office). There is serious danger that a person
(holding the post) can toe the government line,
says BP Mathur, a former deputy CAG and a
member of FRO-IAAS.

Selection criteria

The 1971 Audit Act sets the parameters for CAG


appointment, talking about a person possessing
sound knowledge of auditing and accounting, but
it does not specify the background, competence,
qualification to the post.
Even as many countries have moved towards
ratification of their respective chief auditors appointment by parliament, India still chooses to
go a hush-hush in the appointment of CAG. It is
totally arbitrary and directly selected by the PM.
Nobody knows how it is selected. Technically, the
FM is to moot a proposal but for the last three
or four appointments, there was arbitrary selection, says Mathur.
The constitutional office should attract the best
talent available, says Kamal Kant Jaswal, director of the NGO, Common Cause, and former secretary to the government of India.

Cadre questions
Vinod Rai

CAGs since independence


1948-54
V Narhari Rao, IAAS

1984-90
TN Chaturvedi, IAS

1954-60
AK Chanda, IAAS

1990-96
CG Somiah, IAS

1960-66
AK Roy, IAAS

1996-02
VK Shunglu, IAS

1966- 72
S Ranganathan, ICS

2002-08
VN Kaul, IAS

1972-78
A Baksi, IAAS

2008-13
Vinod Rai, IAS

1978-84
Gian Prakash, IAS

Since 1978, only retiring IAS secretaries or those


who are on the verge of retiring have become
CAG. The CAG office now has five deputies, all
of them in the secretary level, who are from the
IAAS cadre; but they are not promoted to the top
post of the organisation.
Earlier as the deputy CAGs were not in the secretary level, they did not fit into the governments
unwritten convention of CAG coming from the
secretaries. Now that the deputy CAGs are also
equivalent to a secretary, why should not they be
tried for the post? says R Parmeshwar, a former
deputy CAG. He says the current practice makes
CAG the only department where the cadre (IAAS)
cannot aim for the top post.
The Forum also maintains that an IAS officer
corners the post without any training or formal
experience of dealing with high standards of auditing government transactions, whereas a deputy CAG with the wealth of experience is denied
the top post. It is an unfortunate fact that the
IAS has cornered this post for itself over several
decades, like it has cornered all other non-cadre
posts for IAS. That should be corrected, says Amitabh Mukhopadhyay, a former director general

www.GovernanceNow.com 35

What they say


I think the
high offices
should not
be a political
gift from the
power... One
of the review
commissions
examined
lateral entry
and promotional avenue
for deputy CAGs. That is a
policy issue. That must also
be considered. Selection
must be made on a persons
integrity, competence and
independent thinking.
MN Venkatachaliah
Former chief justice of India

in the CAG office.


However, former CEC SY Quraishi
says that the system of CAG coming
from bureaucracy has worked very
well. Why do you want to tinker the
system, he asks, even as he favours
more transparency in the selection of
top constitutional posts including CAG.
Former deputy CAG Mathur counters Quraishis logic. He says that the
fundamental reforms in the office
have not taken place in CAG for a long
time and an IAAS officer is needed for
that. Since 1978 when an IAS officer
was appointed to the post, there has
not been internal churning in terms
of reforms. People like Vinod Rai and
TN Chaturvedi have put in great efforts in exposing the government and
taken a lot of interest in the work, but
on the internal front there is not much
to cheer (in terms of reforms) as it is
a technical department, says Mathur.
The first three IAAS officers who
held the post of CAG were heavily involved in improving the office of CAG.
The first CAG of the independent India, Narhari Rao oversaw reforms and

36 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

For all
constitutional
posts, there is a
suggestion that if
the appointment
is done through a
collegium, it carries
more credibility.
Sometimes a
constitutional
authority is targeted wrongly
for being an appointee of
the government of the day.
However, that person has no
role in his own appointment,
and allegations of being
partial compromises his
independence.

At this juncture,
when the CAG office
has come under
serious attacks, we
want a person of
impeccable integrity
and professional
competence. There
is a deep danger that
a person can toe
governments line... Unless you go
for a transparent process, how will
you have the public confidence in
the post? Everybody has a stake in
the institution.
BP Mathur
Former deputy CAG and member of
FRO-IAAS

SY Quraishi
Former chief election commissioner

Conflict of interest
Gian Prakash, the first IAS officer to
hold the CAG office, was previously defence secretary. During his tenure, the
defence audits were compromised to
a certain extent. The defence audit officer of the CAG office had a tough time
dealing with Prakash. (But) comments
on defence audits kept reducing during
his tenure, says a retired officer privy to
the matter speaking on the condition of
anonymity.
VK Shunglu was industry secretary when
he was appointed as CAG and his successor VN Kaul was holding the post of the
secretary in the ministry of petroleum.
Questions were raised at that time on
their appointments because of conflict of
interests, says the retired officer, adding however that there was no clear-cut
proof of conflict of interest in these two
cases.

integration of finances of the princely


states that merged into India. Ashok
Chanda helped induct financial advisers in different departments and during AK Roys time, there was improvement in the tax collection.
However, the same zeal of improving the CAG is not seen in the last three
decades, says Krishnan. The Forum
memorandum said, A more credible
explanation is that there is a tacit preference for the IAS. For more than 30
years now, the Indian Audit Department has been continuously under
CAGs coming from the IAS. From the
point of view of the IAAS this looks like
a systematic exclusion of their service
and now virtual absorption of the post
of CAG in the IAS cadre. Whether that
feeling is right or wrong, it exists; and
it has had a demoralising effect on the
IAAS.

Demand for transparency: a short


history

The FRO-IAAS move is not the first to


seek transparency in CAG appointment. Before Somiah retired in 1996,

If you
appoint an
officer who
was a defence,
petroleum
or telecom
secretary and
make him
CAG, he will
have to review
his own actions. How would
you ensure objectivity when
executive decisions taken
during his own term are to
be considered by him?
Kamal Kant Jaswal
President, Common Cause, and
former secretary, government
of India

The Public Interest


Foundation has already
moved a proposal that
there should be a collegium
which should prepare a
panel of candidates for
formal consideration for the
appointment of the CAG.
Nripendra Misra
Former chairman, TRAI

There should be a
transparent policy for
selecting CAG. In this kind
of appointment, the leader
of opposition should be
included to make the matter
more transparent.

How can
the PM say that
the existing
arrangement
for the
appointment of
CAG is working
smoothly?
What is the
arrangement?
In my opinion, there is
no arrangement. There
should be a selection
process so that the best
gets selected.
S Krishnan
Former member-finance
and president of FRO-IAAS

DP Tripathi, spokesperson, NCP

the Common Cause under the direction of


late HD Shourie filed a writ petition in the
supreme court for transparency in CAG
appointment. Unfortunately the court in
a cryptic judgment said it had heard the
counsel and the petition was dismissed,
says Jaswal.
The then PAC chairman, Ram Naik, in
1996 took up the matter before the president and the PM. He suggested, In the
context of Indian conditions, I feel that
recommendation for the appointment of
CAG to the president of India is made by
the prime minister acting with the agreement of the leader of the opposition in
Lok Sabha. While making the recommendations, guidelines and criteria for appointment of CAG may also be laid down
so that a healthy precedent is set for future appointment to this office.
In 2000, the Vajpayee government set
up the national commission to review
the working of the constitution under
chairmanship of former chief Justice MN
Venkatachaliah. In one of its papers, the
panel laid down certain procedure of appointment to the CAG. The commission
favoured the appointment of CAG on

recommendation of a high-level independent committee, which should include the


Lok Sabha speaker and the leader of the
opposition, besides the PM. When contacted, justice Venkatachaliah said, The
CAG is a constitutional post and a very important institution. There must be some
objectivity to it, assessment of eligibility
and integrity to the post. His commission
apparently wanted only a person with extensive experience of government finances, public audit and accounts system to be
eligible to hold the office.
In 2008, another civil society organisation, Public Cause Research Foundation
(PCRF) led by Arvind Kejriwal, filed a petition in the apex court when VN Kaul
was retiring as CAG, and Vinod Rai about
to be appointed. The Common Cause provided assistance to the PCRF in the matter. But the bench of chief justice KG
Balakrishnan and justice P Sathasivam
which heard the petition said, We will
not give any direction for the laying down
of guidelines for the appointment of CAG.
You have to find the guidelines in the constitution. The petition was dismissed like
the earlier one in 1996.

The Common Cause has not given up.


On September 4, 2012, it wrote to the
PAC. There is no response from the PAC
office, Jaswal adds. But they are in no
mood to leave the field as FRO-IAAS and
Public Interest Foundation are also creating pressure on this issue.
We succeeded in challenging the appointment of PJ Thomas as the central vigilance commissioner in 2011, for which
he had to resign, says Jaswal. While setting aside the impugned appointment as
a nullity, the supreme court enunciated
a new jurisprudence of institutional integrity and held that, at the helm of the
countrys highest integrity institution, the
appointment of a person against whom a
charge of corruption was pending, undermined the effectiveness and integrity of
the institution, he says.
The Common Cause and FRO-IAAS will
extrapolate from that judgment if the government doesnt learn a lesson from the
Thomas affair and opts for anybody less
than the best candidate in the appointment of CAG. n
trithesh@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 37

people politics policy performance


Money Matters

Kajal Basu

t hasnt been a good year rather,


two years for West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra. It was
only in August 30 last year that he
was assigned by Mamata Banerjee to head a group of ministers tasked
with putting Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd
back on its feet, but all his brainstorming
couldnt haul the long-troubled PSU out
of intensive care. An unflappable institution, the State Bank of India, did, after
installing its nominee on the HPL board
and, together with the Punjab National
Bank, superinfusing it with `116 crore.
And saving Mitras rep as a finance whiz.
But the West Bengal government still
means to dump its 40 percent stake in
HPL: Banerjees signature non-developmental extravagances have forced it into
unexpected caution; and driven Mitra to
defend her impetuosity with a folderol
FY13 budget designed to maybe shock
and hopefully awe the rural electorate
whose block vote during the coming
panchayat elections is paramount to the
Trinamool.
The problem for Mitra is that he made
a bad job of it, possibly because he was
caught between a rock (Banerjee) and
a hard place (zero finmin rollercoaster
experience). Although this former Ficci
secretary-general embraced Banerjees
hammy socialism seemingly without a
moment spent in resetting his ideological
GPS, it still fazed people that he began his
March 21 budget speech with an insupportable calculation using a version of
the Keynes multiplier formula whose
variables only he seems to know.
Mitra declared that the `22,000 crore
of interest and debt principal repaid to
the centre (FY11), on which Banerjee had
demanded a three-year running moratorium, if available for government
expenditure for developmental purpose
could have created as much as Rs. 88,000
crores of gross state domestic product
(GSDP) as per the Keynesian multiplier.

38 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Budgeting for (and


by) dummies
Is Amit Mitra the worst finance minister in West Bengals
troubled economic history?
The truth is, whatever version Mitra
employed Keynes own Great Depression 1936 General Theory model, Paul
Samuelsons influential 1939 reworking,
any post-2009 Great Recession model
not one increases `22,000 crore fourfold
to add to the existing GSDP; and with no
help from a complementary tax cut multiplier (because Mitra has not only not

cut taxes, he has actually increased VAT


across the board). The gently argumentative CPM leader of the opposition, Surjya
Kanta Mishra, chose to not put it on record but Mitras Keynesian Kalkulation
is bunk.
The applauding ghost of Keynes notwithstanding, in 2012-13, West Bengals
loan repayment will rocket to `25,195

expectedly, shredded the 57-page budget


document and his 45-minute speech,
which was partly ad lib and had respectful obiter dicta to Rabindranath Tagore,
Mirza Ghalib and Swami Vivekananda,
none of who knew anything about economics. And to Keynes, Paul Samuelson
and Milton Friedman, who did.
He was proud to say that undaunted
by debt repayment of `25,000 crore, the
state government had paid out `42,000
crore in salaries and pensions. It did
but by monthly market borrowings of
`1,000-1,500 crore and blowing through
half its borrowing limit of `22,821 crore
by September 2012.
Meanwhile, the allocations to various
departments seem like a bipolar optimists take on revenue collection: `90
crore to the tourism department, a 104
percent hike; `1,938.08 crore to the departments of irrigation & waterways and
water resources investigation
and development; `1,049 crore
Mitras numbers-challenged but
to the health & family welfare
confidently-articulated budget, Mamata department; `2,713.05 crore to
the school education department;
Banerjees shob cholbe (everything
`444.24 crore to the technical edgoes) impulse, and a cabinet packed
ucation and training department;
with partymen scared to offer a word
`1,015.32 crore to the department
of women & child development
of corrective criticism or opinion could
and social welfare; `800.09 crore
add up to Mitra needing to do some
to the public health engineering
extraordinarily creative accounting in
department; `375 crore to the
the next budget. Bengal is in for grief if
transport department...
he does, and grief if he doesnt.
Its fairly cut and dry but even
cabinet colleagues are undecided
on the quality of number-crunching. The cabinets contradictions came to
how Mitra will handle it with a straight
light when the Economic Review (ER),
face.
collated under the aegis of industries and
A longstanding advocate of ruthless
parliamentary affairs minister Partha
anti-deficit measures, Mitra seems to lack
Chatterjee, openly contested Mitras stats:
a nummermeisters basal understandMitra had claimed that since May 2011,
ing: that finance ministers are for run257 units had invested `1,12,769.36 crore
ning a state, and chief ministers are for
in the state; according to the ER, investshowboating. Its no secret that Bengals
ment realisation in FY13 was `312.24
engine is running on fumes. But Mitra
crore, a microscopic speck 360 times
chose grandstanding over reflection
smaller than Mitras figure. Chatterjee
when he increased the plan outlay by
finally apologised and upheld Mitras
14.12 percent to `26,674 crore, promisnumbers after Mamata Banerjee blew a
ing to make it doable with a 22.8 percent
fuse and blamed the massive disparity
hike in own tax revenue never mind
on lack of interdepartmental coordinathat the numbers dont mesh.
tion. But Writers scuttlebutt has it that
Then, again, he aimed his budget
given Chatterjees animus against Mitra,
speech at rurals who his boss wants in
who is frustratingly non-confrontational,
the Trinamools electoral corral, not at
this was a disaster waiting to happen.
his political and intellectual peers who,
a quarter of the FY13 deficit despite
the state governments ongoing splurge
funded mostly by market borrowings.
Some economists and senior finance
bureaucrats are quietly convinced
that Mitra has shown himself to be the
least capable, most counterfactual and,
potentially, the most ruinous finance
minister in the states history. He is not
even a good accountant, said a Writers
Buildings Big Babu. Or he would at least
know how to fudge the figures without
leaving a trail a first-year commerce student can follow.
An economist said, He has three more
budgets to prepare. Three. And he has
already lost the plot at number two.
We all know the magnitude of upward
revision that the 2013-14 deficit will call
for since it will be way greater than his
absurd projection and substantially more
than FY13s. What none of us knows is

crore; and in 2013-14 to `28,318.68 crore,


with debt bloating to `2.47 lakh crore
up `49,000 crore from the `1.98 lakh
crore debt that Banerjee inherited in
FY11 from the previous Red government,
and up `38,620 crore from the FY12 debt
of `2,08,380 crore.
And these are just projections part
maths, part wishful thinking meant
to be revised and revision came swift
and fast: The states net revenue deficit
went berserk, surging from `6,976.01
crore in Mitras FY12 budget estimate to
`13,308.10 crore in this years revised
estimate. (Not in recent memory have revisions in national or state budgets any
state crossed 20 percent, leave aside
almost doubling.) Stranger still, Mitra
couldnt explain how he calculated an
FY14 revenue deficit of `3,488.49 crore

www.GovernanceNow.com 39

people politics policy performance


Money Matters

In the run-up to critical elections, numerical gaffes the size of billboards are
an oppositions windfall. Surjya Kanta
Mishra, whom Mitra had derided after
his budget speech as a mere (medical) doctor who wouldnt understand
Keynesian economics, gleefully nagged
away when Chatterjee informed him that
in the 10 months of March 1-December
31, 2012, private investment proposals have amounted to `8,507.72 crore,
of which `2,108.14 crore have already

crore. West Bengal hadnt received so


many proposals since 1992: If actualised,
they would have given employment to
about 43,500 people. As Banerjees mamati-manush vision unfolded, however,
102 of the 135 IEMs were ditched; 33
IEMs were quietly absorbed.
That year, according to the union commerce ministrys department of industrial policy and promotions 2012 report
on Indias industrial health, West Bengal
ended up with new investment of a pidarun kumar

West Bengal finance minister being heckled by SFI supporters outside the Planning Commission
office during his visit to Delhi with Mamata Banerjee and other ministers of her cabinet on April 9.
been realised. In that case, Mishra told
Chatterjee, investment proposals over
the remaining 12 months of Trinamool
rule (of 22 months, to date) must amount
to `104,261.64 crore a preposterously
large monthly average of `8,688.47 crore.
Chatterjee wouldnt take the bait, but
Mishra had made his point: the budget
stats were fried.
This fiasco originated in Mamata Banerjees triumphal delirium in mid- to
end-2011, when she promised the stuff
of dreams to industry and mati-manush
alike, and tycoons from all over India
entered into industrial entrepreneur
memorandums (IEM) with the Trinamool
government of a staggering `3.03 lakh

40 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

dling `325 crore or 7 percent of the


proposals. It is likely that the stats in the
ER ran close to the truth: `312.24 crore
is a mere 4 percent less than `325 crore,
and mirrors the investment paralysis on
the ground, with industrial investment
limited to captive PSUs strong-armed
into expanding capacity.
But, said a state finance bigwig, Look
at it another way. If, in 2011, `3.03 lakh
crore of proposals came to a realised
`325 crore of investment, it would be
ungenerous of us to deny that `104 lakh
crore of proposals in FY12 could, theoretically, lead to `312 crore being realised.
Its a 33 percent increase in success rate
over 2011.

Not that, he added, I would advise


building a castle based on this conjecture. Conjecture? To be honest, yes.
How could anybody dig out the precise
figures? The minister [Partha Chatterjee]
has made the directorate of industries
[which collated the ER stats] off-bounds
for everybody.
Chatterjee wasnt the only Trinamool
senior who took issue with Mitras submissions of horizon-to-horizon success.
State agricultural minister Arup Roy told
the assembly on March 19 that the government intended to issue fresh tenders,
because, Mitras claims notwithstanding,
work was still far from over on establishing 95 krishak bazaars in 95 districts
(with a sanctioned amount of `536.60
crore): In fact, tenders for 45 krishak
bazaars had found no takers. Mitra had
also announced that construction of five
new ITIs was finished: state technical education minister Ujwal Biswas countered
crossly that while work on 13 ITIs was
ongoing, not one had been completed between June 1, 2011 and January 21, 2013.
Aside from the ignorance of the rural
voter, during his budget speech, Mitra
banked upon that age-old weapon of
mass distraction inessential scholarliness: he referred to the Keynesian multiplier effect to explain why his increase
of VAT by 1 percent wouldnt hurt the
manush of the mati, and to Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman to explain
everything else. The name-dropping blitz
saw the opposition benches glazing over,
until Surjya Kanta Mishra snapped out of
catatonia and spent a few excitable minutes in a bhadralok intellectual gabfest
with Mitra after which Mitra, by then
singed by Mamata Banerjee and Partha
Chatterjees glowering disapproval from
the row behind, told Mishra that he was
out of his depth.
Blessed by St Keynes or no, Mitras
house of stats will stand or implode
depending on how long he is willing to
dissimulate in the service of the Mamata
Doctrine of Infallibility. A sign of his
tensile strength lies in a small statistical
twist. Last budget, he estimated own tax
revenue (OTR) collection at `31,222.25
crore; this budget, his revised estimates
came to `32,405.21 crore 30 percent
more than in 2011-12. But Mitra chose
caution over exhilaration and limited

the OTR estimate for next year at a sober


22.8 percent over this years.
Of course, no one knows better that a
chunk of FY13 revenue came from the
state governments reimposition of octroi, a one-time hike in electricity duty,
an increase in coal cess, serial fuel price
hikes (which provided the state government a tidy bit of tax), an alcohol price
increase (coupled with the governments
sly, unpublicised decision to allow some
liquor off-shops to operate as on-shops
and to expand bar timings, bringing
a windfall in one-time fees and more
tax), and stamp and registration fee on
real estate. These seven factors together
brought in `4,769 crore, or nearly a seventh of revenue collected.
Another reality-check indicator is
that while the state ranked fourth in
revenue growth between 2006-07 and
2011-12, it has simultaneously topped
the revenue deficit graph since 2007.
The 13th finance commissions report
on projected OTR of the states during
2010-15 cautions that West Bengal will
slide to a ranking of 7 in a list topped
by Maharashtra, whose collection rate
the 13th FC projects as more than 2.5
times that of West Bengals. In 2011-12,
West Bengals GDP per capita was below
the national average, ranking it 14 in the
states list.
For all Mitras ambition to cut the FY14
revenue deficit by about `10,000 crore
compared to this year, there are global
institutions that see no marked upswing
in Kolkatas and, by extension, West
Bengals future. The November 2009
PricewaterhouseCoopers UKs Economic
Outlook report concluded that in the
global city GDP rankings 2025, Mumbai
would shoot up from 29th to 11th, Delhi
from 37th to 19th and Kolkata from
61st to 37th. Also, Kolkata, projected to
become the worlds eighth-largest megalopolis in 2025, doesnt even make it to
the GDP Top 30, where both Mumbai and
Delhi find respectable rankings.
This stoic realism which isnt necessarily cause for gloom has been lacking
in both of Mitras budgets, which is perplexing because nothing in his exalted
CV suggests anything other than the
priceless dispassion of the macroeconomist. While he admitted that industrys
contribution to the GSDP had slipped to

18.8 percent in FY12 from 19.1 percent


in FY11, he couldnt bring himself to concede that West Bengal might need a firm
corrective hand. For instance, given industrys enduring investment wariness,
it seems hardly notable that industrial
manufacturing dropped one step from 56
percent to 55.3 percent but the disquiet
lies in the detail: two-third of Bengals
GSDP is now a spreading monopoly
of the largely unpoliced, unlegislated

a krishi utpadan kendra (agriculture production centre) in each of Bengals 341


blocks. The main objective of the kendra:
to house the single-window system for
farmers proposed in September 2012
(and scheduled for kickoff in October
2012). Banerjee means the windows to
be interfaces between farmers and the
seven departments that handle, with no
particular coordination, the giant postOperation Barga agricultural mess. With
her usual disregard for structural coordination, Banerjee wants hundreds, maybe
Some economists and senior finance
thousands, of officials from
bureaucrats are quietly convinced that
the marketing, horticulture,
Mitra has shown himself to be the
food processing, water resources, fisheries, animal releast capable, most counterfactual and,
source development and irpotentially, the most ruinous finance
rigation departments, banks
minister in the states history. He is not
and insurance companies
even a good accountant, said a Writers
providing rapid-fire information to farmers on central
Buildings Big Babu. Or he would at least
and state schemes, credit,
know how to fudge the figures without
crop insurance, animal and
leaving a trail a first-year commerce
plant diseases, fertiliser, soil
student can follow.
health, agriculture infrastructure and marketing.
No ones told Didi why this
services sector, whose collateral victim
scheme is almost six months behind
is not industry but agriculture, Banerschedule that its a bureaucratic nightjees pet mati-manush. At 16.9 percent,
mare and cash-suck, and could potenBengal agricultures contribution to the
tially crash the system in the frenzied
GSDP FY13 is half its FY12 contribution
run-up to the 2016 assembly elections.
of 38.3 percent. Add to this the fact that
But an ide fixe is at work here: with one
the state, along with the Andaman &
eye on the panchayat polls and another
Nicobar Islands and Sikkim, attracted a
on cornering every last rural vote, Banerpathetic 1 percent of FDI between 2000
jee has been setting the stage for months
and 2012 - and its suddenly evident that
now, over-empowering block developthe increasing fragility of agriculture, in
ment officers by diktat, transferring the
the only state in the country that actuobstinately scrupulous ones on punishally empowered marginal farmers and
ment postings 19 BDOs as recently as
sharecroppers through a radical land
March 21, for raising procedural issues
redistribution programme, means big
relating to agricultural scheme beneficiatrouble. Nor does Bengal have a safety
ries cleared by her ministers.
net for the tens of thousands certain
Mitras numbers-challenged but conficrumble before an expansionist services
dently-articulated budget, Mamata Basector: The states negligible per capita
nerjees shob cholbe (everything goes)
social sector expenditure from 2007-08
impulse, and a cabinet packed with parto 2012-13 ranks it at third among the
tymen scared to offer a word of correcBottom 5 states; the SSE component of its
tive criticism or opinion could add up to
GSDP slumped from 7.1 percent (FY12 reMitra needing to do some extraordinarily
vised estimates) 6.6 percent (FY13 budget
creative accounting in the next budget.
estimates).
Bengal is in for grief if he does, and grief
All this is evidence of the hollowness
if he doesnt. n
of what Banerjee considers among her
most progressive ideas: the setting up of
Basu is a senior journalist based in Kolkata

www.GovernanceNow.com 41

Puja Bhattacharjee

kiosk set up on one side of


a busy road in south Delhis
Govindpuri was alive with
activity at 10 am on the morning of April 3. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
volunteers donning the now-famous I
Want Jan Lokpal and I Want Swaraj
caps were busy distributing leaflets to
passersby, urging them to support AAP in
their pro-common man and anti-corruption endeavours. Busy dashing towards
public transports, most people, though,
barely paid attention to contents of the
leaflets they grabbed before hastening
away.
This was the 12th day of the fast of
activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal
against inflated water and power bills
issued in Delhi.
To know how these signatures are taken, Governance Now accompanied some
AAP volunteers to Sangam Vihar, where
they collected signatures of people paying inflated bills. According to AAP, these
signatures will be forwarded to Delhi
chief minister Sheila Dikshit to register
the collective public grievance.

42 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

A day with aam aadmi


Governance Now follows Kejriwals volunteers as
they move through lanes in a New Delhi locality,
collecting signatures for their campaign against
inflated power and water bills

Who are these volunteers?


Vishwaratna Sinha, the district coordinator from Durg, said a team of AAP volunteers has come to Delhi for an indefinite
period to support Kejriwal. A businessman by profession, Sinha said he felt
inspired by Anna Hazares movement. I
was always associated with movements
against injustice and inequality. I had
campaigned with people in my district
for six months when private schools
there had hiked fees by 110 percent, he
said. When the anti-corruption movement began in 2011, I knew I had to
participate. So here I am, supporting
Kejriwal.

Sinha said there are over 3,000 AAP


members in three blocks of Durg district
alone, most of them salaried professionals. According to an AAP functionary, committees are being formed in all
states, while district-level committees are
active in almost all states.
So, being office-goers, how do they
manage work for a movement that has
now turned political? We wrap up the
days work by 5 pm and make it to the
partys office, Sinha replied.
Meherban Singh, the district secretary
of Durg, said he has been an RTI activist
for the last four years and runs a weekly
newspaper, Chhattisgarh Times. I
handed over my business to my brother

people politics policy performance

photos: Arun kumar

Grassroots Campaign

What do these
people do?

Water supply is extremely


irregular, though we pay
`400 in tariff each month.
For the rest of the month
we have to store water in
tanks. Storing water for
such long periods breeds
mosquitoes. (As a result) we
are fined when the municipal
corporation staff comes for
inspection.
Shahnaz

I am getting inflated
electricity bills for the last
10 months. But since my
daughter is in class X I pay
the bill so that she can carry
on with her studies.
Ramdass, 65, formerly a day
labourer

I have not perceived


any drastic change in my
electricity bills. I am not
aware what the bills should
be like (since) I am at work
all day. But people in my
colony regularly complain
about water and electricity.
I wholeheartedly support
Kejriwal and his movement.
Rajkumar Jha, priest

I have never seen these


people (volunteers) before
and do not know who
they are. I signed because
everyone else in the
neighbourhood did. I will
wait and watch.
Preeti Jha, uncertain whether to
boycott paying the bills

At Sangam Vihar, a motley


crowd of local and outstation
volunteers set out through
the maze of narrow lanes with
a loudspeaker playing a recorded voice, asking people
not to pay inflated bills and
requesting them to support
Arvind Kejriwals anti-corruption movement.
I always wanted to be a
part of change. So when I saw
AAP posters requesting volunteers, I immediately signed
up, said Jeetu Singh, a BTech
student and a local resident.
I have to manage my studies by night. My parents are
sympathetic to my ideals but
repeatedly plead with me to
take care of my studies.
Singh believes the country will move in the right
direction only if politics is
cleansed.
According to AAP, some of
the volunteers from other
states have left and will return two or three months before the assembly elections,
likely to be held in October.

so that I can participate in anti-corruption activities, he said.


Both Sinha and Singh believe
Delhi is a model for other states,
and if it ushers in drastic changes
in governance the rest of the country will follow suit.
Besides Chhattisgarh, sources in
AAP said more than 500 volunteers from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya
Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and
Haryana had come to Delhi to participate in Kejriwals 14-day fast,
with many of them staying back to
work for the party as the Delhi assembly elections draw closer. n
puja@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 43

people politics policy performance


Diplomacy and Governance

Building it brick by BRICS


The BRICS Summit 2013 and the roadmap ahead

Deepshikha Kumari

he end of the cold war led


Francis Fukuyama to write
an essay The End of History? signalling the end of
a bipolar world and a move
towards the dominance of
western liberal democracy as the final
form of human government. While the
collapse of the Soviet Union also implied,
for some, the beginning of a unipolar
world, the reality in this day and age,
however is vastly different. Indeed, the
world has changed dramatically since
the end of the cold war moving towards
a multi-polar world with increased social, political and importantly financial
interdependence between nation-states.
Indeed, the construct of BRICS [Brazil,
Russia, India, China, South Africa] as an
entity in 2009 reflects that reality. It is an
expression of the shift that had already
begun to take place with the advent of
the financial meltdown in 2007 and the
rise of the BRICS nations, their fast-growing economies and increasing influence
in regional and global affairs. As of today,
BRICS alone represents:
25 percent of the worlds economy/
GDP;
17 percent of global trade;
50 percent of global economic growth;
$200 billion trade value amongst them.
Moreover, the BRICS nations alone
represents close to 3 billion people, thus
accounting for almost 43% of the world
population, which itself is testimony to
the significant role that this social and
political entity can play in global affairs.

44 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

So far, four BRICS summits have been


held: the first in Yekaterinburg, Russia,
on June 16, 2009; second in Brasilia on
April 15, 2010, the third in Sanya (China)
on April 14, 2011 and the fourth in New
Delhi on March 29, 2012. The most recent
was the fifth BRICS summit hosted by
South Africa during March 26-27, 2013,
completing the first cycle of BRICS summits. Moreover, the BRICS leaders have
also met on the sidelines of other multilateral meetings.
This recent summit held in Durban and
the released summit declaration BRICS
and Africa: Partnership for Development,
Integration and Industrialisation itself
exemplified the efforts to engage South

Prime minister Manmohan Singh with Chinese


president Xi Jinping, Brazilian president Dilma
Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin and
South Arican president Jacob Zuma, during the
fifth BRICS Summit at Durban on March 27.
Africa within the BRICS framework as
fully as possible. While much was expected from the summit in the context
of the earlier efforts and discussion for
creating a BRICS Development Bank with
a common currency pool to assist with
development and other loans as an alternative to the IMF and other international
financial institutions. However, there
remained a lack of consensus on such a
BRICS Bank as the member-states are yet

While the creation of the


BRICS Bank will remain a
challenge, concrete steps need
to be taken towards outlining
voting rights, contribution of
member-countries and selection
of heads on a rotational basis.
Overall, the primary goal of
creating this bank should be to
complement and not be seen
as a replacement of the current
financial institutions, as it is in
very early stages. Moreover, this
will garner support from the US
and European nations and at the
same time is likely to be more
transparent and democratic.

to clearly formulate a workable plan and


consensus on the headquarters of the
bank, the membership fees, voting rights,
and the nature of the projects to be financed, that is, whether the funds will
remain exclusively for BRICS projects or
would extend to third-party projects as
well.
Other than this, the summit did make
progress on the concept of long-term economic cooperation and areas of common
infrastructure projects. Another important achievement by the five countries
has been the establishment of the BRICS
Business Council that will bring together
the leading business structures of the
five members.
Given this, it might be apt to say that a
huge responsibility rests on the shoulders of the BRICS nations and their
leadership. From being termed developing economies to acquiring the status
of emerging markets, these nations
represent the future and will indeed
play an important role in spearheading the direction that the world moves
in and more importantly the degree of
success it can achieve in facing several
challenges in spheres of global (political

and economic) stability, finance, security,


energy, economic trade, health, science
and technology as well as global conflict
resolutions. Here are a few suggestions
for policy makers to set the agenda for
the second cycle of summits that will
take place in the future:
n While the creation of the BRICS Bank
will remain a challenge, concrete
steps need to be taken towards outlining voting rights, contribution of
member-countries and selection of
heads on a rotational basis. Overall,
the primary goal of creating this bank
should be to complement and not be
seen as a replacement of the current financial institutions, as it is in
very early stages. Moreover, this will
garner support from the US and European nations and at the same time
is likely to be more transparent and
democratic.
n The issue of nuclear security will be
crucial as nuclear energy will remain
an important component of the energy-mix in the BRICS nations and given
their enhanced bilateral nuclear trade
for peaceful purposes and the domestic challenges in this context. This
needs to be addressed with greater
caution and effort.
n The non-proliferation of nuclear
weapons and pressing for a move
towards complete disarmament by
nuclear-weapons states should be
reaffirmed.
n Reaffirming commitment and making
a concrete plan to achieving the millennium development goals, domestically, so as to set the stage for BRICS to
address global issues.
n Increased engagement and cooperation with and possible inclusion of
non-BRICS developing countries to
enhance social, political and economic
clout. Especially involving the CIVETS,
a term coined to describe the six favoured emerging markets of Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey
and South Africa.
n Continued international negotiations
and steps to enhance the legitimacy of
international organisations and financial institutions with China and Russia
playing the lead role as permanent
members of the UNSC.
n The BRICS nations will specifically

What future
summits can do
Setting up a BRICS Bank will be
challenging, but take concrete
steps towards outlining voting
rights, contribution of member-countries and selection of
heads on a rotational basis.
Nuclear security will be crucial
as n-energy will be important
for the BRICS nations.
Reaffirm the non-proliferation of
nuclear weapons and press for
a move towards complete disarmament by nuclear-weapons
states.
Reaffirm commitment and make
a concrete plan to achieve the
UNs millennium development
goals.
Increase engagement and cooperation with and possible inclusion of non-BRICS developing
countries to enhance social, political and economic clout.
Continue international negotiations and steps to enhance the
legitimacy of international organisations and financial institutions with China and Russia
playing the lead role as permanent members of the UNSC.
Address the challenges faced by
sub-Saharan Africa and engage
more inclusively with these nations and make a difference beyond borders.

need to address the challenges faced


by Sub-Saharan Africa and engage
more inclusively with these African
nations and therefore use its resources more efficiently where they are
needed most so as to be seen as an
organisation that seeks to make a difference beyond its borders. n
Deepshikha is a DPhil (PhD) International
Relations candidate at University of Oxford,
United Kingdom.

www.GovernanceNow.com 45

people politics policy performance


Primary Lessons

Know thy
neighbour
T R Jawahar

o, how will the youth of Tamil


Nadu spend the unexpected
holiday gifted to them by politics
thanks to the protests on the
Sri Lankan issue? Though cinema and
cricket are obvious choices, why dont
they also enlighten themselves on Ceylon? After all, some efforts to know thy
neighbour is certainly warranted, since
the student protest, though having its
locus here, has its focus there. Here are
some tid-bits gathered from secondary
sources; I request everyone to delve deep
on their own too.
Now, cut to pre-history, the period not
authenticated in writing. It is agreed (do
we have a choice?) that nature separated
Ceylon from south India some 7,000 (give
or take a 1,000) years ago. That makes
the original inhabitants of the island the
same stock as south Indians, commonly
referred to as Dravidian. The portion of
other ethnic groups from north India or
elsewhere is negligent if not nil. When
recorded history takes over around 400
BC, the kingdom of Anuradhapura was
thriving in central Ceylon. Ditto with
several kingdoms in the north, northwest
and east, which means all these must
have existed for long to reach that level
of civilisation.
Of the Dravidian tongues, Tamil was
predominant in all these places. There
is also enough archaeological evidence
littered across Lanka testifying to the

46 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

A primer on Sri
Lankan history and
the Tamil problem

sway of Shaivism since only Shiva


knows when. So it is a sound surmise
that Shaivism and Sangatamil were the
original religious and linguistic bedrock
of the entire Island. Ceylon was for long
a wholesome civilisation united under a
homogenous religion and lingo, derived
from the Tamil mainland. Period.
When Ashokas son landed in Apura
(Anuradhapura) around 250 BC, he converted the reigning king from Shaivism
to Buddhism, and that religion stayed
put there. The rest of Ceylon, however,
remained steadfast with Shaivism.
Geography also went in sync with the
religious divide: the central, south and
southwest were Buddhist while the

Of the Dravidian tongues, Tamil


was predominant in all these
places. There is also enough
archaeological evidence littered
across Lanka testifying to the
sway of Shaivism since only
Shiva knows when. So it is a
sound surmise that Shaivism
and Sangatamil were the original
religious and linguistic bedrock
of the entire Island. Ceylon was
for long a wholesome civilisation
united under a homogenous
religion and lingo, derived from
the Tamil mainland. Period.

north, northwest and east were Shaivite.


The decay of Apura and the takeover of
its areas by thick forests pushed the Buddhist kingdoms south, thus physically
alienating the two religious communities.
The advent of Sinhala language, which is
an amalgam of the Buddhist Pali, north
Indian Prakrit, some Tamil etc, cemented
the divide on linguistic lines too.
The point is, it was actually the Buddhist-Sinhala populace that broke away
from what was wholly a Hindu-Tamil
land and eventually became the oppressive majority of now. This travesty was
facilitated by several tragic developments, wrought by outsiders as well as
Tamils themselves, all through history
leading to the present plight of the Tamil
people. First, the Buddhists were good
at recording their history systematically
while the Hindus as usual lost out on this
count. For instance, the Mahavamsa,
a Pali chronicle and the cornerstone of
Buddhist chauvinism, depicts the history
of Ceylon, and Anuradhapura particularly, exclusively in the Buddhist-Sinhalese
context, ignoring or belittling the earlier
and contemporary Tamil history.
So, when modern historians spawned
by 18th century colonialism and drunk
on evidence-based intellectualism landed
in Lanka, they had documented proof
of Buddhist-Sinhalese history, but the
Tamils had little more than unverifiable
myths and tales on offer as their ancient
history. While this lapse has marginally
been addressed by modern SL Tamil
scholars, the Sinhalese had already succeeded with their claims as the premier
ethnic group with a greater antiquity.
Even the most ardent of Tamil champions have now taken the Sinhaleses
superior status as a given.

Ashish asthana

means. After about 150 years of this torment came the Protestant Dutch to scavenge on what was left. To quote a Western
historian: If the Portuguese sucked the
Tamils blood, the Dutch even ate their
flesh. And when, finally, the British took
over from the Dutch in the 18th century,
the Tamils were down to their raw bones.
The Sinhalese Buddhists, though losing
out politically to the Europeans, somehow
survived these cultural assaults, retaining
their cultivated edge over Tamil culture
which was actually the parent.

Brothers in alms, alas!

The Tamils did have


a good run from 6th
century AD to the 16th.
The three hundred and fifty
years of Chola rule (that replaced the Pallavas) from 9th century to the 12th particularly were ones of immense all round
glory. And this was followed by another
three centuries of the Jaffna kingdom
and during this entire stretch of history,
Shaivism and Tamil touched their zenith,
aided by interaction with Tamil Nadu.
Of course, Buddhist-Shaivism conflict
in TN also had its echoes there. But
the conquest of Ceylons Tamil regions
by the Portuguese in the 16th century
ended this high. A new creed, Catholic

Christianity, riding
on colonial greed, made
its fatal foray into this prosperous
and pious land. And with that started
the slow and painful annihilation of the
Sri Lankan Tamil race, its culture, its
religion and everything else that make a
people a nation.
The Portuguese zealots demolished
Shaivite temples, destroyed invaluable artefacts and literature, forcibly converted
scores of locals and obliterated whatever
cultural and religious evidence they could
lay their hands on, all in the name of some
true faith. They plundered the produce,
hijacked trade and politically subjugated
the Tamil populace through insidious

Heres a quote of 1796 vintage from a


British official that I lifted from a book
I have been reading: Two nations from
the very ancient period had divided between them the possessions of the land.
The Sinhalese inhabiting the southern
and western parts and the Tamils in the
northern and eastern districts. The two
nations differ entirely in their religion,
language and manners.
The British, relying on Sinhalese records, the only available ones, ignored
the greater antiquity of the Tamils, (Ravana was a Shaivite ruler of all of Ceylon!)
but they did discern two distinct cultural
and geographic entities.
Though the British were witness to this
fact during their rule, they acted against
this wisdom. First, in 1833, through
the Colebroke Cameron reforms, they
merged the entire traditional Tamil
homelands with the rest in the name of
administrative convenience, instead of
governing them as a distinct unit. This
deprived the Tamils of their historical
identity and permanently queered the
pitch for a separate State. For, this imposed template, of a superficially sovereign Sri Lanka as against an intrinsically
dual nation, is what is still being bandied about in all global fora. Many such
colonial nails followed, all sealing this
non-existent unity, ending with the final
fatal one in the 1940s: the Soulbury Commission, mandated to make recommendations for the inevitable independence
and transfer of power.
To cut a sordid story short, this commission ended up strengthening and
sanctioning the well-set stereotype of a
Sinhalese nation with a Tamil minority.
To be sure, there was lip service about
securing the interests and welfare of the

www.GovernanceNow.com 47

people politics policy performance


Primary Lessons

Tamil minority but this was wholly at the


mercy and discretion of the Sinhalese! So
when Ceylon got Independence in February 1948, it had a typical British Westminster constitution liberally littered
with federalism but absolutely no scope
of a separate homeland.
The political parleys and powerplays
indulged in by street-smart Sinhalese
politicos like Dissanayake, pre- and postindependence, ensured that even the
50:50 formula was a non-starter. In this,
the Sinhalese were ably aided by many
self-seeking Tamil leaders who abandoned their core cause for a few posts in
the new federal government. This, when
they had the numerical leverage to get a
better bargain for their battered brethren! The sellout of the original sons of
the soil was complete.
The ruling Sinhalese elite were quick to
consolidate their hold. Through a combination of constitutional violations and
calculated violence, they enhanced their
stranglehold over Tamils. For instance,
the Indian Tamils, who were not original
inhabitants but plantation settlers of the
19th century, were stripped of citizenship
and disenfranchised. The loss of this vote
bank reduced Tamil representation in
Parliament. Then came the Sinhala-only
policy that overnight pushed Tamils to
economic misery and political isolation.
Through all this, the colonisation of
Tamil lands by Sinhalese people was also
rampant: after all, demography dictates
democracy. There were many a pact, and
tall leaders like Selva, but nary any relief
for the Tamils. And after 25 years of sustained subjugation, came Sirimavo Bandaranaikes new constitution in 1972 that
put paid to all hopes of reconciliation or
redemption. Ceylon became Sri Lanka, a
name that had a distinct Sinhala ring to
Tamil ears. Buddhism was declared state
religion.
Many other monstrous provisions took
roots. So did the ideas of militancy in the
Tamil psyche, hitherto passive, as official
oppression touched a new high. And by
the late 70s, democratic resistance went
totally out of fashion as fiery youths took
over from feeble veterans. The bloody
die, cast then, lasts to this day.
Let me now take a tangent. Three-plus
centuries of colonial rule did yield a positive result. Incessant missionary mischief

48 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

and conversions kindled the Tamils


cultural pride and paranoia. Having lost
lands, lives and livelihoods to the white
men, the prospect of losing their longcherished Shaivite faith was a matter of
deep distress. The advent of Arumuga
Navalar and his likes in the 19th century
was a watershed. He used the missionaries very tools like schools, hospitals
and publications to revive and revitalise
Shaivism.
In fact, Tamil nationalism was born as
a Saivite response to the colonial rulers
and this character was evident even
in 1948. When the new flag was to be
hoisted on Independence Day, Tamils
insisted on having the image of Nandi on
it, but the Sinhalese got away with their
lonely lion. Post independence, owing
to various factors, Shaivism was gradually replaced by secular Tamil linguism
so much so that when in 1972 Buddhism was made state religion, there was
hardly any clamour for such status for
Shaivism from the Tamils! One wonders what is meant by SL Tamil culture
if Shaivism is taken out of the equation!

In fact, Tamil nationalism was


born as a Shaivite response
to the colonial rulers and this
character was evident even in
1948. When the new flag was
to be hoisted on Independence
Day, Tamils insisted on
having the image of Nandi
on it, but the Sinhalese got
away with their lonely lion.
Post independence, owing to
various factors, Shaivism was
gradually replaced by secular
Tamil linguism so much so
that when in 1972 Buddhism
was made state religion, there
was hardly any clamour for
such status for Shaivism

Anyway, a religious response to Buddhism, an oriental version of the classic


clash of civilizations, was ruled out.
The fate of SL Tamils is precariously
poised. All solutions seem sans sense as
sure dissolution stares at them this second. Their cause has suffered much due
to blood-letting and betrayals by their
own brethren. Their core Shaivite faith,
though still of the majority and a unifying foundation, has to give way to secular
or atheistic or other religious sponsors
who extract a cultural price. Leadership
is now extinct. Their genuine champions
are either dead or disparate. On the contrary, there are dubious ones, particularly in TN, who have literally and politically encashed the Tamil cause. Though
sympathy and support here is sometimes
natural, often it is a simulated show.
Students particularly have to be wary of
many mercenary agent provocateurs on
a campus recruitment spree now.
To the media here, SL has been a
jolly venue for junket journalism: Many
scribes have their bread buttered by both
warring sides of the battered island. For
the scattered Tamil diaspora, distanced
by time, diverted by modern offerings
and diluted by exposure to different
cultures, the issue is no longer a life or
death obsession but a matter of occasional guilt that can be addressed by a
few dollars more to whoever utters the
T word. The Tamils only source of succour, India, supervised their decimation
instead, for imagined geo-political gains,
not once but many times, in the very
company of the tormentors. To the global
community, SL Tamil issue is just a UN
resolution on a piece of paper, filed away
in the archives of formal, soul-less history. All these have left SL Tamils totally
at the mercy of a murderous State whose
gory, genocidal display of ahimsa will
certainly not make the Buddha smile !
Indeed, these unfortunate people,
cheated by history, geography and politics, and indeed by the whole of humanity, now have only one homogeneous
status:
Refugees. At their home, here and everywhere! n
Jawahar is editor of the News Today group of
publications and Talk Media group of publications. He is based in Chennai.

photos: brajesh kumar

Playing dig-dug on
same ditches

Since pucca work would not meet the 60:40


(labour:material) ratio, panchayats resort to digging
the same ditches year after year
Brajesh Kumar
Sirohi, Abu Road

overnment officials in Sirohi


districts Abu Road block may
not have heard of Keynesian theory about the government paying millions of
unemployed people to dig ditches and
then paying them again to fill up the
same ditches in order to keep recession

out but they are following it with minor


variations here. In Sirohi, the officials
pay crores to the unemployed to dig the
same ditches again and again, and year
after year.
In Chandela panchayat, for instance, an
irrigation ditch/pond has been dug four
times; another one in Amthala panchayat
thrice; while a third in Moongthala panchayat has been dug up twice so far. And
all this non-durable asset-building, yet
unproductive, work is being carried out
under the UPA governments much-touted Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme (MNREGS).
The ditch you see has been dug up four

times, incurring an expenditure of `40


lakh on it, admitted Lakma Ram, the
sarpanch of Chandela panchayat, pointing at a large pond that remains dry during most of the year.
The story is similar for every panchayat
in this block.
Each of the 25 panchayats has five
ditches on an average, and an annual
allocation of `10 lakh is made to dig (and
re-dig) each ditch, as they get covered
up every monsoon. With 125 ditches in
the entire panchayat, the administration spends a whopping `12.5 crore (125
ditches multiplied by `10 lakh) every
year.
And here we are talking about just one
of the five blocks in Sirohi district.
So, why this colossal waste of public
money on digging ditches, and not on
something that lasts and is real asset for
a panchayat?
The answer lies in
Reports
the rules of MNfrom
REGS, which say `60
The Other
out of every `100
India
spent on any project
Read more:
http://governanhas to go toward
cenow.com/medialabour wages.
accountability/
www.GovernanceNow.com 49

people politics policy performance


Grassroots Governance

Whats it all about?


This ditch in Karauli village was dug up only
last year and is being dug up again this year
at an approximate cost of `9 lakh.
The remaining `40, the rules say, is
meant to procure material.
Over to para 9, schedule-I of NREG Act2005, The cost of material component
of projects including the wages of the
skilled and semi-skilled workers taken up
under the scheme shall not exceed forty
percent. Hence, in the selection of works
60:40 wage-material ratio has to be maintained at gram panchayat level.
This was done primarily to keep contractors, and machines they would have
brought in, out of the labour-intensive
scheme.
This ratio rule, though, disqualifies any
pucca work for the panchayat.

Playing dig-dug on repeat mode

Though sarpanches know that digging


a ditch again and again in no way helps
panchayats create durable assets, which
incidentally is another important objective of the scheme, they expressed their
helplessness.
What do we do? asked Lakma Ram,
the sarpanch of Chandela panchayat,
throwing up his hands in frustration.
The administration does not allow us to
carry out pucca work, so we have to get
sanctions to dig the same ditch year after
year.
In Chandela panchayat, there are eight
ditches that are dug every year.
According to Lakma Ram, important
works, which would be durable asset
for the panchayat, cannot be taken up as
part of this because they would not meet
the mandatory 60:40 ratio. We are in
dire need of a minor irrigation canal in
the panchayat. But there is no way this
can be built under the prevailing 60:40
ratio. The material cost (to make the canal) will be much more than the labour
component, he said.
Several important works have not been
sanctioned similarly in Amthala panchayat. The reason remains the same: the
labour-ratio clause in MNREGS.
One village in Amthala needs walls
alongside the nallah abutting agricultural land, as the flooded drain wreaks
havoc on the fields each year during the
monsoon months. Another village in the
same panchayat needs to make concrete
a patch of kutcha road that turns muddy

50 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

The ACT: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act


(MGNREGA) was notified on 7 September 2005.
Its mandate is to provide 100 days of
guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household
whose adult members volunteer to
do unskilled manual work.
The labour-material ratio: According to para 9 of schedule-I of NREGA
2005, The cost of material component of projects including the wages
of the skilled and semi-skilled workers taken up under the scheme shall
not exceed forty percent. Hence, in
the selection of works 60:40 wagematerial ratio has to be maintained
at gram panchayat level.
The snag, however, is that though
the ratio rule, aimed at keeping the
contractor system and heavy machinery out of the scheme, is noble,
it is too restrictive and bars essential
works, contend panchayat officials.

during monsoon, thereby cutting off one


part of the village from another.
However, because of the ratio rule,
these works are not even included
during annual MNREGS plan that the
panchayat prepares. We do not include
such works in the annual plan because
we know the block development officer
(BDO) will not even consider it, said
Soma Ram, sarpanch of Amthala.
And since MNREGS is a demand-driven
scheme providing workers legal entitlement for a job (work cannot be denied
to anyone demanding it), the panchayats
take the easy way out by getting sanction
for the ditch that was dug only the year
before.
As sarpanch, I cannot deny work to
my people. And since they are solely dependent on MNREG work, I get the same
ditches sanctioned for work year after
year, said Soma Ram.
He said a ditch in Krauli village under
his panchayat was sanctioned in 2011 for
`9 lakh, and re-sanctioned last year for a
similar figure.

Wastage of money

How much labour will you


do? How many ditches will you
dig? How many ponds will you
reconstruct? How much forestation
will you do? There has to be a
limit. I do not believe that digging
a ditch and taking out soil can be
dubbed as employment. Putting
soil back into the ditch is also
employment but do we need such
labour?
Jairam Ramesh, rural development
minister, in interview to Yuvadesh, the
online magazine of Indian Youth Congress
in June 2012

This digging of ditches, sarpanches


pointed out, deprives panchayats of
valuable assets that the scheme could
have created. Incidentally, at the time of
its conceptualization MNREGS had also
envisioned creation of durable and longlasting assets in rural India.
Creation of durable assets and
strengthening the livelihood resource
base of the rural poor shall be an important objective of the Scheme, says schedule 1, section 4 (3) of the Act.
Along with sarpanches, the administration is also aware of the wastage
of money on digging ditches but seeks
refuge behind the law. Thats what the
law says and I have no authority to do
anything about it. I have to stick to the
mandatory 60:40 ratio, Abu Roads BDO,
Kundan Mal Dave, said when told about
complaints by the sarpanches.
The earth-digging phenomenon is not
typical to the Abu Road block. It has been
reported about from various parts of the
country and faced flak from various quarters. In fact, so widespread is the malaise
that even rural development minister
Jairam Ramesh has questioned its utility,
saying the scheme should look beyond
digging ditches and building roads.
How much labour will you do? How

As sarpanch, I cannot deny


work to my people. And since they
are solely dependent on MNREGS
work, I get the same ditches
sanctioned for work year after
year.
Soma Ram, sarpanch, Amthala village
The ditch you see has been dug up four times, incurring an expenditure of `40 lakh on it, says
Lakma Ram, the sarpanch of Chandela panchayat.

Thats what the law says and I


have no authority to do anything.
I have to stick to the mandatory
60:40 ratio.
Kundan Mal Dave, block development
officer, Abu Road
many ditches will you dig? How many
ponds will you reconstruct? How much
forestation will you do? There has to be
a limit, Ramesh said in an interview
to Yuvadesh, the online magazine of
Indian Youth Congress, the partys youth
wing, in June last year.
I do not believe that digging a ditch
and taking out soil can be dubbed as employment. Putting soil back into the ditch
is also employment but do we need such
labour? he had asked.
Rameshs disapproval notwithstanding,
the Mihir Shah committee, appointed

by the minister last year, stuck to the


same labour material ratio of 60:40. The
committee was formed to look at ways to
revise operational guidelines of MNREGS
so that several concerns, including the
criticism about creation of non-durable
assets, could be addressed.
The committee recommended: The
labour:material ratio specified for each
work must be strictly adhered to. It
must also be ensured that the overall
labour:material ratio in each gram panchayat is maintained at 60:40.

Logic behind the perceived illogic

In May 2010, the central employment


guarantee council, the monitoring
agency formed by the government, had
ruled out any changes while examining the contention from panchayats that
this 60:40 condition is too restrictive and
rules out certain essential works in specific areas.
The working group is of the view that
this ratio has been stipulated to check the
tendency to adopt works with a high material component. Such works invariably
brings in the contractor system. Hence,
the working group feels that the stipulated ratio should be adhered to except in
some specific circumstances (for instance,
for works in the hill states like Himachal
Pradesh), the recommendation of the

working group on planning and execution chaired by Rangu Rao had said.
Acknowledging the noble intent of not
letting in the contractor system and emphasis on kutcha work in a panchayat
behind the ratio rule, Lakma Ram, the
sarpanch of Chandela panchayat and
also president of the sarpanch association in the block, said all kutcha work
that the panchayats could have done was
done within the first six years of implementation of the Act. There is no such
work left now, he said.
We have done kutcha works prescribed under the Act such as water
conservation, water harvesting, droughtproofing, land development in these
years, Lakme Ram said. But since hardly any such work is left now, the ratio
rule needs a relook to allow us to build
useful asset for the panchayat.
Quite a compelling argument it is, and
one hopes when the rural development
minister Jairam Ramesh takes a relook at
the scheme two years from now, as he
promised in his interview to Yuvadesh,
he would take into account the arguments made by Lakma Ram and company from Abu Road. n
Brajesh was stationed in Sirohi for six
months, till March 31, as part of a Governance Now-ANSA-SAR project

www.GovernanceNow.com 51

people politics policy performance

photos: ashish mehta

Green Governance

Gandhi
returns to
Dandi, for
good
A comprehensive plan for ecological
development of that tiny but worldfamous Gujarat village gets underway
Ashish Mehta

andi saw Mahatma Gandhi arrive


one fine day in April 1930 and leave
ten days later. Dandi remained
where it was. Not that a few days of
stay by a Mahatma and the resulting worldwide fame would change the look and feel of
the place forever.
But the tiny south Gujarat village is set for
some change finally, thanks to Gandhi which
stands for a creatively named government
scheme: Green Action for National Dandi
Heritage Initiative (GANDHI). It is described
as a project for the overall development and
conservation of the environment of Dandi and
its surrounding villages based on Gandhian
teachings.
And Dandi needs GANDHI, the scheme, badly.

52 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Dayaljibhai Patel, a former village panchayat


chief who remains active in village administration despite his 81 years, says the village has a
peculiar geography. It used to be surrounded
by seawater from three sides. We used to go to
school (within the village) in boats. Given the
constraints, there is little scope for agriculture
or industry here, and most people who could go
abroad for livelihood did so. Today, the village
sports many bungalows that would put their
Ahmedabad counterparts to shame, with its
owners spending half the year abroad.
Fifty years ago, people came together and
contributed money to build a bandh (a retaining wall). The government also gave a grant of
`70,000, recalls Patel.
That saved the village from the incoming seawater. But the cooperative society formed later
to make the land fertile again did not deliver,
says Patel, blaming it on politics.
During my lifetime I have seen the sea receding by 1 to 1.5 km and in recent years, I have
seen it coming closer and closer, he says.
Blame it on climate change or the local topography, but Dandi needs to be saved. The centre

Photos: chinky shukla

Green Action for


National Dandi
Heritage Initiative
(GANDHI)
Aim: the overall development and conservation of
the environment of Dandi and its surrounding villages based on Gandhian
teachings.
An environment and forests ministry project implemented by Society for
Integrated Coastal Zone
Management (SICOM) in
collaboration with the Gujarat Ecology Commission
(GEC) and the panchayats
of the villages of the area.
Gujarat Vidyapith,
Ahmedabad-based university established by
Gandhiji, will assist in the
project.
Initial outlay for the project is `25 crore. It is funded by the World bank-assisted Integrated Coastal
Zone Management (ICZM)
project implemented by
SICOM.
Project components
(1) Conservation of the coast
and coastal resources
-- Mangrove afforestation
and bio-shield
-- Conservation of coastal
features and wetlands
(2) Adopting nature-based
development of resources
--Promoting non-conventional energy sources
-- Water conservation
-- Waste management
(3) Promoting integrated
village and community
development
-- Carbon-neutral villages
-- Livelihood
improvement
(4) Promoting eco-tourism
and environment-positive branding of Dandi
-- Village development
-- Promoting eco-tourism to promote Gandhian
values
www.GovernanceNow.com 53

(From left) As part of the initiative, Dandi and five neighbouring villages have got solar streetlights, including one in the Dandi memorial itself.
Focus is also on clean-up drives and construction of toilets.

there are 301 tribal families in the six


or participatory rural assessment. They
and the state must save Dandi. Dandi
villages, mostly daily wagers. The comdid a street-to-street survey of what
is not just ours, it belongs to the whole
mittee went to every tribal household to
people found wanting. For example, they
world. If you want to develop the village,
find out if they had a toilet in home or
found that the primary requirement of
you will have to give priority to stopping
not, and toilets were built for those who
the village is water, so existing ponds
salinity ingress, he adds.
didnt.
were deepened to store more water,
That happens to be one of the many
The initiative thus got underway. In
explains Sanjay Bariya, the project
objectives of the GANDHI project of
about two years since, the six villages
coordinator from GEC. For example,
the environment and forests ministry,
implemented by the Society for
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (SICOM) in collaboration with the Gujarat Ecology
Commission (GEC) and the
panchayats of the six villages
of the area: Dandi, Samapar,
Matawad, Aat, Onjal and Sultanpur of Navasari district.
Under this initiative, the
onus is on people themselves
to plan the works necessary.
So, as peoples representative,
the Dandi gram sabha passed
a resolution on November 22,
2010, to form a Gandhi Harit
Smarak Vikas Samiti, with
Two of the many green
Dayaljibhai Patel as president
warriors: (Above)
and Babubhai Sukhabhai Patel
Lomesh Brahmabhatt,
as secretary. This committee
manager (field), GEC,
receives funds as well as supand Sanjay Bariya,
port from the GEC which has
project coordinator.
stationed filed officers in the
Mangrove (locally known as cher) does not mean one particuvillage for the purpose. The
lar kind of tree, the term applies to about 110 species of trees.
committee enlisted each famWhat is common to them all is they grow to medium height
ily as a member, with a token
in saline coastal regions. Mangrove plantations are found to
membership fee of `11.
be among the most beneficial ecosystems. They form a saltAlong with this developtolerant forest ecosystem that provides a wide range of ecoment committee, there is also
logical and economic benefits. They are also instrumental in
a five-member investigation
supporting flora and fauna in coastal regions. Their intangicommittee which monitors the
ble benefits include coastal protection against wave and curwork and releases payments
rent abrasions, protection of the shore area against coastto contractors only after a
line erosion and salinity ingress, and shelter and habitat for
ground check.
wildlife. Tangible benefits include availability of firewood,
It is the committee that
charcoal, herbal medicine, honey and improved fishery.
plans activities through PRA,

What is mangrove?

54 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

people politics policy performance


Green Governance

This
should have
happened
right after
independence.
It has
happened
62 years
later. Gandhi followers from
Australia and Germany come
here walking and when they
see what they see, imagine
what would have been their
first impression of Dandi?
Dayaljibhai Patel, one of the leaders of Dandi

have been undergoing a sea change. According to Lomesh Brahmabhatt, manager


(field) with GEC, the achievements are
many:
n Mangrove plantation has been taken
up in a big way along the coastline (see
box for the benefits of mangroves).
n A shelter belt to shield the coastal
land from salty seawater has been
developed, by planting vegetation that
blocks salinity.
n The ponds one each in every village
are being renovated. Matawad has got a
120-metre pipeline from its pond too.
n Solar lights have reached most streets
24 in Dandi and 12 each in the other
villages. People have been trained in
the day-to-day usage and maintenance
of these lights.
n A total of 990 toilets have been built.
n The beach, a weekend attraction for
families from nearby cities like Navasari, has been cleaned up. A plan has
been drafted for solid waste management, and permission has been sought
for it from the Gujarat pollution control
board.
And all this is part of the preparatory
work. Once a masterplan is conceived
(see interview with AK Verma, membersecretary, GEC) much more is envisaged.
Moreover, the project is to complement

INTERVIEW

A K V e r m a , I F S , m e m b e r - s e c y , G u j E c o l o g y C o m m issi o n

Peoples response is very enthusiastic


The Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC)
has taken up mangrove plantations in a
big way, in Dandi and elsewhere. Why?
For coastal area conservation, mangrove
is a must. Fish production goes up. You
cant apply it everywhere. It needs certain conditions right, like there should
be only a certain degree of salinity.
We have organised several awareness
programmes, called mangrove yatras,
in coastal areas. With awareness drives,
we can show models to people, so that
people can replicate them. We also learn
from people during such programmes.
Traditional knowledge is also important.
Post-tsunami, the world has become
sensitive to mangroves. Since 2004,
mangroves have risen four times (across
Gujarat). But the growth is not uniform.
Only some pockets have done well.
Do mangroves help fight climate
change?
There is no cause-and-effect relationship between climate change and mangroves, no foolproof system, but the impact of climate change can be reduced.
These are the issues even the scientific
community does not know for sure, so
people may not know.
Mangroves are part of the new GANDHI
project too.
GANDHI is a different initiative. It needs
much more than mangroves. Gandhiji
believed in organic life. So, this initiative
has mangroves plus much more. Its aims
include an environmentally sustainable way of living; waste management,
the state governments efforts to develop
Dandi as a tourist attraction as well as
the central governments project of developing the village as part of the larger
project of maintaining and enriching the
Gandhi heritage sites.
Dayaljibhai Patel is all praise for the
GANDHI project. This should have happened right after independence. It has
happened 62 years later. Gandhi followers from Australia and Germany come
here walking and when they see what

non-conventional energy sources... All


these should go together with local peoples livelihood and lifestyle.
Is Gandhi too a part of the project?
That is why Gujarat Vidyapith (the
Ahmedabad-based university established by the Mahatma) is also involved.
They have expertise in the subject. Their
teams in Dandi go to people and tell
them about the Gandhian way of life. We
are looking to develop the tourism potential of the place too.
How is people participation so far?
Peoples response is very good. There is
a lot of enthusiasm. It is important that
the masterplan is okayed soon. Once
you launch a project, once you mobilise
people, you need to sustain peoples enthusiasm. Mangrove plantations, waste
management etc are such activities.
They aim for skill development.
they see, imagine what would have been
their first impression of Dandi?
His only grouse is that the project is not
progressing as fast as it should. Coordination is an issue possibly because
different parties rule the state and the
centre. We must become aggressive in
speeding up the work in a manner that
would make the country proud, he
says.n
ashishm@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 55

areer diplomat Dr Arvind Gupta


who is the director-general of
Delhi-based think tank, Institute
for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), is a man of ideas. He wants
to take the institute, which is in its 49th
year of existence, to new heights of excellence. Parachuted from the ministry of
external affairs (MEA) where he continues to serve as additional secretary to
head IDSA, he is trying to breathe new
energy into the institute at this critical
juncture when Indias visibility in the
world affairs grows. In an interaction
with Trithesh Nandan, he says that
there needs to be more interaction between the government and think tanks.
He also shared his insights on the latest University of Pennsylvania survey on
global think tanks.
As a diplomat who has served at Indian
missions abroad and handled a number
of assignments at the MEA in different
capacities, Gupta feels that policymakers
have to take the initiative in having regular interactions with the think tanks.

Arun kumar

Indias role in world affairs has been


projected as high-impact by global
strategic thinkers. Evident from some
of the global reports, the Indian think
tanks are not placed in the same
league. What ails our think thanks?

The new report by the University of


Pennsylvania, which got attention, has
problems with its methodology. As far
as the rankings are concerned, one
has to take them with a pinch of salt.
We have seen that some obscure think
tanks are ranked very high. As per the
University of Pennsylvanias 2012 Global Go to Think Tanks Report, the IDSAs
ranking is 11th in Top 45 Think Tanks
in China, India, Japan and RoK (South
Korea); 54th in Top 100 Non-US Think
Tanks worldwide and 105th in Top 150
US & Non-US Think Tanks. IDSA has also
been ranked as 16th in Best 40 Government Affiliated Think Tanks; 23rd in
Best 40 Policy Study/Report produced by
a Think Tank in 2011-12 and 29th in the
List of 35 Think Tanks with the Best Use
of Media (Print or Electronics).
To the second part of your question
as to what ails them; yes, in terms of
rigour, resource and outreach, more
work needs to be done. Also, the cumulative impact of the report on public
policy has to be seen. The Indian think
tanks still have some way to go before
they become as important as leading
think tanks of the world. I would like

INTERVIEW

D r A r vi n d G u p t a , D i r e c t o r G e n e r a l , I D S A

Govt engagement
with think tanks not
enough
to emphasise that we lack in inter-disciplinary approach. A think tank needs
four major things: ideas, human resources, funding, communication and
outreach.

A US intelligence report released on


December 10 said America will no
longer be the worlds sole superpower
by 2030. Asia will surpass the US. Do
you think that Indian think tanks are
ready to compete on the global stage?

On the global stage, India is the flavour


of the day. People see India as a rising
power and are keen to understand its
world view, strategies, approaches and
policies, etc. We have been asked questions like what Indias grand strategy is,
where India is headed and how serious
India is about itself. Think tanks can
be good interlocutors with the external
world. IDSA is regularly sought out by
foreign scholars for interaction, joint research and bilateral seminars.

The number of think tanks and


think tank culture is growing in India. The role that the think tanks play is
to critique government policy, look towards the future and generate alternative policy options. Indian think tanks
will have to come up with some kind of
assessment on how India sees the new
world order.

You sound optimistic about the


growing number of think tanks in the
country. But does the government take
such institutes seriously?

The government has not interacted with


the think tank community extensively
so far. But that mindset is changing. I
think they are beginning to engage with
us through participation in our seminars, roundtables and conferences.
They are beginning to give us studies
which are relevant to them. They also
read our policy analyses. But I would
not say that whatever we suggest is immediately taken up by the policymakers. We also have to make our research
policy relevant. I think it is an evolving
process. The need for having a think
tank was realised in the wake of 1962
and 1965 wars. Thats how the IDSA
came into existence. The government
has now taken a number of steps towards enhancing its engagement with
think tanks. Such engagement is never
enough. I would like to see deeper engagements because think tanks are factories of ideas.

There are two levels of engagement


bureaucratic and parliamentary. At the
bureaucratic level, it seems that the
process is on. What about the level of
discussion with the parliamentarians?
Does the interaction happen?

In India, this practice has not evolved to


the extent as in the United States where
engagement between think tanks and
the government is very robust. Occasionally, our scholars have been invited
by the parliamentary standing committees. Recently, one of our scholars wrote
a backgrounder on the nuclear liability bill and was invited by the standing committee. Many parliamentarians
know about the IDSA.

You mentioned that Indian think tanks


lack rigour and influence.
It is true that we have to continuously improve the quality of our reports
and study materials. If you see think
tank reports of some other countries,

Autonomy, independent
research and objectivity
these are like oxygen
for a good think tank to
function. Independent
research is necessary
for the credibility of a
think tank.
these are rigorous and based on a huge
amount of research. Their researchers
go all over the world to collect material
and interview people of highest esteem.
They also get access to government archives. Then they write their reports.
The fault necessarily is not of Indian
scholars. We cant provide such facilities to our scholars. So we are at a disadvantage. The funding and resources
are always a problem. This gets in our
way sometimes. But things are beginning to change. I would say rigour in research has to improve.

Think tanks largely thrive on generous


funding. But there is hardly any culture
of funding from the Indian corporate?

This is relatively an underdeveloped


area. Very few corporate have set up
serious think tanks in India barring exceptions. Funding is a big problem for
Indian think tanks. This gap is normally filled by some foreign foundations in
the form of projects or reports. There is
a debate whether you should have foreign funding or not. These are legitimate concerns that need to be debated.
As far as IDSA is concerned, we have
taken conscious decision not to take foreign funding or even corporate funding.
We get all our funding from the government. We have collaboration with our
counterpart research institutes.

As the IDSA is completely dependent


on government funding, do you get
the same degree of freedom to debate,
analyse, criticise and publish issues
of strategic importance in a frank and
forthright manner?
Autonomy, independent research and
objectivity are like oxygen for a good
think tank to function. Independent research is necessary for the credibility
of a think tank. Though the IDSA gets

funding from the government, it has


maintained the autonomy in terms of
independent research. We are free to
choose our own research agenda. Even
policymakers ask us to generate out-ofthe-box thinking.

Are colleges and universities sources


for think tanks?

You are right. Think tanks depend upon


students from the universities. The
quality of teaching and research that
the universities do is reflected in what
we do. If a researcher comes to a think
tank like ours, he or she has a huge platform to improve on research methodology. Here the exposure is fantastic. You
meet the worlds best researchers; policymakers have access to worlds best
research materials. The writings are
peer reviewed by worlds best academics. So, in few years, you gain hands-on
experience.

There is a perception that India should


think from a home-grown perspective
to solve its problems and not take cues
from research ideas emanating from
abroad. What do you think?

There is an ongoing debate in the strategic community on how we can develop


an Indian point of view on critical issues. In fact, people want to know the
Indian perspective and not how Indians
react to western views. How to do so
is a very big challenge. I think it must
start with the universities. We must
teach students our strategic culture and
thought.
Our research is heavily influenced by
western thoughts and English language.
In IDSA, we are adopting a new way to
relook at our past thinkers. Recently, we
organised a workshop on Arthashastra where several scholars came and
discussed how it is applicable to the
contemporary world. People talk about
western thinkers like Machiavelli, but
why dont people talk in the same way
about Kautilya? Framing a proper Indian perspective, understanding, and interpretation and redressing the knowledge gaps is one primary objective of
our projects. We always stumble against
the barrier of language. We dont know
our own languages. Few people know
Sanskrit, for example. They cannot access the classical texts in original. Universities are not picking up serious research topics. We are hoping that we
will be able to build a strategic vocabulary, which is Indian. n

photo: Puja Bhattacharjee

Puja Bhattacharjee

n a balmy late-March morning, tens of people stood in a


line outside a ration shop in
Benachapra village, under
Bakibandh gram panchayat in Salboni
block of West Medinipur, to collect their
quota of weekly ration. It would have
been a nice opportunity for the people to
catch up with each other while waiting
for their turn but for a miserable downer:
none of the villagers in that queue knew
what their weekly entitlement was.
So little wonder, then, none received it.
We are uneducated. We dont keep
track of these things, said the man at the
head of the queue. We get what we are
given; we believe in our ration dealer.
Sanjay Ray, the dealer, said families below the poverty line (BPL) get whatever
they are entitled, barring sugar. We are
not receiving any shipment of sugar for
the last four months, Ray said.

58 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Rice for a price,


sugar for big dad

In a quaint village in Bengals Medinipur district, the scene of


people lining up outside a ration shop tells a pan-India tale
of corruption and irregularities at all levels and proper
administration at none

Ray could well have found a longlost brother in Bhaktipada Mahato, the
dealer of the ration shop at Dhanyasol,
who said, The kerosene allotted does not
come on time. People have to come here
two or three times to buy their quota.
The food inspector of Salboni block, Tapan Kumar Senapati, acknowledged that
claims about kerosene and sugar shortage are genuine, but failed to explain the
shortages. Instead, he put the onus on
the state and district administration.
While a case could be made out for the
direct cash transfer, and its benefits in
reaching out at least the cash component

to families that actually need it since


subsidised ration is anyway not reaching
most, this is a problem of a bigger magnitude. It is one of corruption and irregularities at all levels, and proper administration at none.
In that sense, the snag does not end at the
boundaries of Benachapra, Salboni, Medinipur or Bengal it is a pan-India crisis.
According to rules, each adult member in a BPL family in Maoist-affected
Jangalmahal area is entitled to 2 kg of
subsidised rice per week, while those
below 18 are to get 1 kg. But the ration
shop in Bhadutala was found giving 1.5

Reports from The Other India

people politics policy performance


Grassroots Governance

Read more: http://governancenow.com/media-accountability/

kg rice to adult members and 500 grams


to children of BPL families.
Asked why the people were being
given 500 grams less than their entitlement, a ration shop employee said that
once you factor in loading expenses and
labour charges, there is very little profit
remaining.
And Bhadutala, by the way, is no
exception.

Explaining an art called cheating

While Governance Nows visit and


subsequent probing about PDS created
a stir of sorts, Ray, the ration dealer at
Benachapra, said MLAs routinely make
rounds of his shop alluding to his political connections.
This correspondent subsequently got
a call from a dealer, who said the visits
had ruffled some feathers, and that dealers and officers at the food distribution
officers were worried. Inviting this correspondent to give his side of the story,
the dealer, who spoke on conditions of
anonymity, alleged that the distributor
forces them to leave some ration behind.
The ration delivered to our shops is
less than the amount officially allotted.
But we cannot protest. If we do, we are
harassed in the name of inspections and
punishments, he claimed.
Besides, he added, I alone cannot protest when everybody else has given in.
Calling inspections further harassment, and in an effort to justify cheating
the uneducated and gullible villagers, the
dealer alleged: We have to bribe the officials. But we, the dealers, are helpless. We
are entitled to monetary compensation in
case food grains fall short, but are never
given the money. We have to hire labourers to operate and distribute the ration,
but we do not get any additional funds to
run the shop. Thats why we are forced to
give about 500 grams of ration less to the
people.
I pay my workers with the ration that
remains uncollected for the week, hence
the shortage.

Few checks, little balance

But rejecting all these allegations, food


inspector (Salboni block) Tapan Kumar
Senapati said ration is allotted on the
first working day of each month. The
distributors are monitored by inspector,
chief inspector at the district level and

Rate

Allocation

Frequency

APL (Families Above Poverty Line)


Rice

Rs 9/kg

Adult 500 gm, minor 250 gm

Once a month

Wheat

Rs 6.65/kg

Adult 600 gm, minor 300 gm

Once a week for 4 weeks

Kerosene

Rs 15.93/litre

Once a week for 4 weeks

(Price of kerosene includes commission, which varies according to distance from the storehouse in Medinipur.
Maximum price including commission cannot be more than `15.99 per litre)

BPL (Families Below Poverty Line): Jangalmahal areas


Rice

Rs 2/kg

Adult 2 kg, minor 1 kg

Once a week

Wheat

Rs 6.66/kg

Adult 750 gm, minor 375 gm

Once a week for 4 weeks

Sugar

Rs13.50/kg

Per week 250 gm per unit

Once a week for 4 weeks

Kerosene

Rs 15.93/litre

Per unit 200 ml

Once a week for 4 weeks

Rice

Rs 2/kg

Adult 1 kg, minor 500 gm

Once a week

Flour

Rs 6.66/kg

Adult 1.5 kg for 1st & 3rd


week. 750 gm for 2nd & 4th
week. Minors get half of
adult entitlement

Once a week for four weeks

Sugar

Rs13.50/kg

Per week 250 gm per unit

Once a week for 4 weeks

Kerosene

Rs 15.93/litre

Per unit 200 ml

Once a week for 4 weeks

Other areas

sub divisional controller, he said.


Stressing that surprise checks are conducted on dealers, Senapati said errant
ones are punished as per the rulebook.
The food office at the block level is authorised to give only APL (above poverty
line) ration cards. BPL ration cards are
given after a claimant is identified by the
block development office as belonging to
the BPL category, he said.
As a further level of check to ensure
ration is given properly to people, a shop
level monitoring committee is selected
from the gram panchayat, the food inspector said.
Bakibandh gram panchayat, for instance, has seven ration shops, each
monitored by a committee. A monitoring committee was formed this January
after we received orders from the block,
executive assistant of the panchayat, Sujata Biswas, said. The committee, she said,
comprises headmaster of a local school,
members of a local government club, retired government employees, a panchayat
member and a member of the opposition.

This committee is meant to oversee


whether foodgrain under PDS is distributed properly to both the dealer and to
the people. The food supply department
sends a list of ration allotted, and their
job is to tally that list, Biswas said.
The gram pradhan is supposed to
oversee the committees functioning and
report to the BDO, she added.
But asked whether the committee is
making any difference, Biswas replied:
The committee is not functioning,
And why is that? The members are
under a lot of political pressure. Since
the panchayats are still under the CPI(M),
the ruling party (Trinamool Congress)
does not allow the committee to function
properly, she alleged.
In the interim, she added, the BDO has
asked the food supply officer to oversee
the monitoring committee. n
Puja was stationed in Salboni for six months,
till March 31, as part of a Governance NowANSA SAR project.
puja@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 59

people politics policy performance


Rain Men

Answer
in the
rain
Its raining hope for the
water woes of coastal
Maharashtras Karjat tribal
region. Rainwater harvesting
is yielding a good crop of
benefits here
Geetanjali Minhas

nly a couple of years ago,


women from Khanand Pada, a
hamlet of barely 10-15 houses,
in Karjat taluka in western Maharashtras Raigad district had to walk
for miles to fetch drinkable water. But
not anymore, says 22-year-old Harish
Nirgude, a resident who not only learnt
the technique, as he saw a 10,000-litre
rainwater storage tank being set up in
his hamlet, but also helps others in the
vicinity set up such tanks.
The tank was constructed by Jalvardhini Pratishthan, a voluntary organisation
working to support and help rural and
tribal population on rainwater harvesting and management by providing technical assistance and resources.
Three kilometres away on Pinglus
crossroads, Kisan Sivram Bhoir, a mason,
is very satisfied with the rainwater storage tank he has just finished constructing. It is a boon for the villagers basic
water needs, he stresses.
To conserve and add more rainwater in
the tank, Bhoir has made a plastic slope
tied on bamboo sticks so that water falling on the adjacent roof also flows into
the tank. Constructing the tank was not
a hassle; Bhoir says the 1,200-litre tank
took him only one and half hours spread
over three days because concrete has

60 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

to dry up and settle down.


A kilometre further at Phanuswadi, a
10,000-litre water tank helps meet water
requirements of its 100 inhabitants during monsoon. When there is no water
from April to June, we write to the Karjat
panchayat samiti to send us water which
we store in this tank, says Janardhan
Sopan Bhagat, a resident.
As a precaution against waterborne diseases, Jalvardhini Pratishthan distributes

more than 1,000 chlorine bottles to tribal


families at the onset of the monsoon to
enable them to purify drinking water.
Alum is added to the rainwater tanks so
that impurities settle down.
At Gavandwadi, a tribal village of about
800 people lying at a distance of 28 km
from Karjat, work is on to connect three
rainwater tanks of 10,000 litre capacity each to a river barely 3.5 km away
through pipes. We have spotted a point

photos: geetanjali minhas

(Top left) Ulhas Paranjpe, a civil engineer and


the founder-trustee of Jalvardhini Pratishthan,
a voluntary organisation working to support
and help rural and tribal population on rainwater harvesting and management by providing
technical assistance and resources; and some
of his tanks in villages of Karjat
in the river where groundwater collects.
This is an excellent source of water for
potable water needs of these people,
says Hrishikesh Davalbhakt, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)
engineer who is assisting the Jalvardhini
Pratishthan team.
Funding and technological knowledge
for this project is being provided by a
group of IIT-Bombay students.
Founded in early 2003 to support the
rural and tribal population in rainwater
harvesting and management, Jalvardhini
Pratishthan has set up several low-cost
storage tanks in different districts of Maharashtra. After finding that some areas
face acute shortage of water during nonmonsoon months despite high rainfall,
experts from the organisation concluded
that rainwater is not canalised. As a result, it drains off and gets wasted.
Ulhas Paranjpe, a civil engineer and the
founder-trustee of Jalvardhini Pratishthan, says, We found that even if the
running gutters in the monsoon are
blocked by simple check dams, which
can be constructed even by gunny bags

Paranjpes USP lies in the


use of organic material like
coconut coir, flax (ambadi),
banana and jute fibre as crack
controlling (bonding) materials
in ferrocement tanks. Easy to
develop, construct and expand
quantity, these options are
affordable.
or loose stones, it helps water percolation
and raises the level of underground water-table. So, after much experimenting,
Paranjpe and his team started building
storage tanks in rural Maharashtra.
Jalvardhini experts identified the places
first and then tried to educate the locals
about the necessity of storage tanks.
Farmers gradually became aware of the
need for assured water the trust only
gives them the technological support;
they build their own storage tanks. The
projects cost between 75 paise per litre
and `3 per litre, Paranjpe says.
Only 18-20 percent of our water problems have been solved even 60 years
after independence and despite so much
urbanisation, he says. Eighty percent
people live in villages and need to have
a sustainable life. Tribal people depend
on assured water supply for their cattle,
food and sustainable life. While 82

percent land in Maharashtra is rain-fed,


barely 18 percent is irrigated land.
Despite having the required workforce
for agriculture activities, irregular pattern of rainfall compels them to grow
only one crop even kharif crops do not
give 100 percent yield.
Further, as land is arid, it cannot be
used for other purpose, Paranjpe says.
Just as we have provided water to
the cities, it is important to have water
management in villages. That will also
address the issue of their migration to
urban areas, which puts pressure on depleting groundwater resources.
However, Paranjpes USP lies in the use
of organic material like coconut coir, flax
(ambadi), banana and jute fibre as crack
controlling (bonding) materials in ferrocement tanks. Easy to develop, construct
and expand quantity, these options are
affordable.
Compare this with plastic Sintex tank
that costs `9 per litre. A 1,000-litre tank
will cost `9,000. Laying its foundation
will cost another `2,000 to `3,000. But a
similar tank made of organic material at
a total cost of `2,000 will last a lifetime.
Maximum expertise required for storing rainwater is a mason who is available at every pada or village and added
materials like stone, sand and empty
cement sacks are available in plenty and
free of cost at every taluka, says Vijay
Khare, Paranjpes associate who does the
groundwork for implementation.
As for maintenance, he says, Just as
we paint our houses every three or four
years, similarly every year before rains,
we empty out these water tanks, coat
them with white cement so that if there
are any cracks, they are filled up. And it
costs only `100 to `200.
According to Paranjpe, rainwater harvesting is the most reliable solution for
increasing the groundwater level and
achieve self-sufficiency in public distribution of water. In coastal areas, overextraction of groundwater leads to saline
water intrusion and helps avoid floods
and water stagnation. Canalising rainwater, instead of wasting it and letting it
go down the drain, will go a long way in
removing hardships of farmers and rural
people, he says. n
geetanjali@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 61

people politics policy performance

Ashish asthana

Digital Native

R Swaminathan

aijnath Yadav was filled with


hope when he heard about the
kisan call centre a few years ago.
The 40-something farmer had
spent his entire life tilling a small piece
of land in Sikandarpur Karan in Unnao,
Uttar Pradesh. Recently he had faced a
barrage of pests that would leave much of
his vegetable garden in a gooey mush. The
usually trustworthy local methods made
little impact. The advertisement for the
kisan call centre pasted on his village panchayats office promised a direct connection to an agricultural scientist. Used to the
ways of the mobile phone, Yadav thought
it would be easy. But it was a nightmare
for him. Faced with multiple automated
response options in the interactive voice
response system (IVRS), Yadav gave up. He
wasnt the only one. The call flow of the
IVRS was a tried-and-tested one and had
worked for a variety of other schemes.
Something just wasnt right this time.
Telecommunications Consultants of
India Limited (TCIL) got back to the drawing board. After extensive rounds of user
testing, called user acceptance test (UAT)
in the digital world, across the country
they figured out that there was nothing
wrong with the idea. The problem was
in the call flow of the IVRS, which the engineers had borrowed directly from the
successful projects that they had implemented in urban areas. TCIL soon rolled
out a new three-level knowledge management system (KMS), with level one
consisting of local language proficient
agriculture graduate, level two having
subject matter specialists on crops and
enterprises and level three having a management group to answer questions not
resolved at the earlier levels.
Today, Yadav is an active and regular
user of the KCC.
Hidden in this success story of the KCC
lies the fundamental blueprint of how a
good e-governance project needs to be
implemented and executed at the ground
level. The electronic in governance is
mostly seen as an additive; a sort of a
propellant thats going to speed up and
smoothen the engine of governance and

62 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

A blueprint to
evaluate digital
governance
Interactivity, intuitiveness, information flow and ease
of transaction should be the parameters for evaluating
e-governance projects

at the same time give better


mileage (read efficiency). But to
envisage e-governance as merely governance in an electronic
or digital format is fraught with
danger.
Governance in real world involves a face-to-face interaction,
informal negotiations, subjective judgements and innovative
solutions. There is another side
to this coin. The same flexibility also allows for arbitrage opportunities leading
to corruption and a higher cost of public
service. In short, a successful e-governance service has to provide for the informality of a face-to-face interaction, while
eliminating arbitrage opportunities.
Thats why electronic, or digital, cannot
just be an additive.
Marshall McLuhans much abused and
debated statement still holds a kernel of
truth. The medium is the message
sometimes in the real world and often
enough in the digital world. Its from
this over 60-year-old statement that the
parameters of how to define successful

e-governance initiatives emerge.


E-governance is based on two
fundamental pillars. The first is
free flow of relevant information. The second, and a related
pillar, is the capability to use
that information for a seamless transaction leading to the
delivery of a service. These two
pillars hold up the structure of
any successful digital private or
public enterprise; right from searching
for information on Google and picking up
the best deals on Amazon to the booking
of railway tickets on IRCTCs site. India
is moving, almost inexorably, towards
becoming an advanced digital society. As
the country transforms, digital governance will increasingly play a more critical role. In light of this looming reality, its
time we seriously consider the parameters of successful electronic governance.
Broadly, there are four such parameters.

Control

panel

Information Architecture

The first is information architecture (IA).


In the field of digital product design, the

Gov NEXT

A Click Into
Digital Governance
ashish asthana

connection between the person and machine interface has been disrupted.
UX is also critical in refining the digital
product on offer. Just as TCIL went back
to the drawing board, understood its target audience better and evolved a more
appropriate IA and UI, ultimately leading
to a better experience for the end user.
Think of the UX as the overall ambience
that one encounters at a mall.
The more intuitive and integrated the
ambience, the better is the experience of
the customer.

Technology

layering of information is an integral


part of design. When a person visits a
website, a mobile site or calls an IVR
system the manner in which information
is served determines the route (called
navigation in the digital world) the person takes. IA is a science that identifies
and understands the psychology of the
target audience and tailors the information around that psychology to derive
desired responses. Think of a website as
a mall where the displays are structured
and positioned across the vast expanse
in such a manner that the customer is attracted to the specific products.
It usually isnt an accident that customers end up making buying decisions that
are intuitive to their mind, but is actually
well-thought out by the mall management. A website is exactly like the
mall, where a well-thought out IA will
make the visitor complete his or her
decision loop.

User Interface

The second is user interface (UI). Its easy


to confuse UI with the aesthetic aspect
of design, but nothing could be further

from the truth. A UI is the real estate of a


digital property and constructing a UI is
an extremely scientific process and flows
from the IA. Yet again, think of UI as
the vast space of a mall. The manner in
which the mall is designed and demarcated ensures that every inch of the real
estate is visited by the customer, leading
to a buying decision. The entry and exit
points, position of the signboards and
benches, the design of the pathways and
even location of the toilets are designed
to elicit a certain behavioural response.
User Interface does the same for the
digital product through the position of
navigation buttons, fonts and its size, colour, space, bullets and images within the
digital real estate to derive the appropriate customer response.

User Experience

The third is user experience (UX). The


crux of a good UX is to ensure that the
human-machine interaction is as intuitive as possible. The moment a person
starts feeling lost in the digital landscape it means that the intuitive nature
of the interaction has been lost and the

The fourth is technology. IA, UI and UX


cannot exist in isolation. An appropriate
technology platform is a critical factor
to a persons overall interaction with a
digital product. In the case of e-governance, technology solutions have to be
open source, based on open standards,
non-proprietary, scalable and robust.
Appropriate data storage and retrieval
infrastructure is also critical in providing in-time service to the customers. Finally, only the right technology mix will
allow for e-governance solutions to be
made available across multiple digital
platforms and devices. Think of technology as the logistics and distribution
network of a mall, its heart. Without this
network, even the most well-designed
and structured mall will soon find its
shelves empty and customers unhappy.
Similarly, without the right technological
platform, a customer cannot be served in
a timely and efficient manner.
Sooner than later, India will have
to start evaluating its e-governance
projects. Currently the focus, and quite
rightly so, is on rolling out the infrastructure, hardware and the backbone for
large-scale e-governance. But in the near
future, the focus will shift to the outcomes of e-governance initiatives. These
four principles must, then, be used for
evaluating the quality and impact of each
e-governance project. n
Swaminathan is a National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) Fellow. He is also a Senior Fellow in Observer Research Foundation
(ORF). A dyed-in-wool digital native, he is
one of the few surviving members of the original tribe of internet crazies who used floppy
diskettes, DOS prompts and WordStar

www.GovernanceNow.com 63

ubhash Bhatnagar, a renowned authority on egovernance, has worked


with the World Bank in
Washington DC (2000 to
2006) as a consultant advisor on e-Government. At the Indian
Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
(IIM-A), where he is an honorary adjunct professor, Bhatnagar leads the
team which oversees the department
of electronics and information technology impact assessment programme for
e-governance projects. He is currently a member of the National Advisory
Council on e-government and an empowered committee on capacity building for the national e-governance plan
(NeGP). In conversation with Pratap
Vikram Singh and Shivangi Narayan, he highlights the problems in the
larger vision on electronic governance
in India.

Can you comment on the buzz that


has been created around Aadhaarenabled service delivery and direct
benefits transfer scheme?

Unique identification (UID) number is


an enabler. UID in itself is not e-governance. Unless there is comprehensive
coverage first, nothing can happen. In
India, so far we didnt have apps built
around UID and other e-governance
initiatives. We are still struggling to
get the UID programme going.
First UID needs to have reasonably
good coverage and then you can think
about integrating it with service delivery. It is premature to talk about what
benefits UID will deliver.

It is a very challenging and


ambitious task.

When it finally starts happening, its


smooth functioning will depend on
the working of handheld devices.
Transactions, using handheld devices, are going to happen at a fair price
shop, in colleges, schools. How will
that work, how will it be maintained?
We are not very sure.
We are very naive in terms of technology. I wish the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) had
actually gone ahead with enrolling
a complete district and then rolled
out services and see what the results
are. But UIDAI is doing it now. Why
couldnt you pilot it before? They

I N T E R V I E W

Subhash Bhatnagar, e-governance expert

Unless we use
data, there is no
open government
should have done this in the very
beginning.

Why are we so convoluted?

In UIDAI, getting a complete outsider (UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani) who really had no first-hand experience of how things work on the
ground is one reason. He did not have
the first-hand experience of working
on the ground. Selling services while
being in Infosys is one thing, while
implementing UID scheme is another.
Probably, he was not prepared to handle so many challenges.
Though projects are usually driven by a champion, there are projects
which are demand-driven and are implemented with the participation of
all stakeholders. Perhaps, there could
have been ground-level consultations
at the time of the formulation of the
programme. They would have consulted, but it was not adequate.

What are the issues with NeGP?

I would like to preface my comment,


saying that reasonable amount of
work has been done. A number of
states have their data centres, wide
area networks. In terms of conceptualising, DeitY has done a good job.
I think the problem has been largely
that DeitY needed to work through
a single point of contact in the state.
And that was state IT secretary. And
I think for a time when they were
building the infrastructure the model was fine. Infrastructure should be

the responsibility of the IT department. But when it comes to actually


developing applications using this infrastructure, then the IT secretary is
not the right person. His writ does not
work on other departments. Given the
competition in the higher bureaucracy, nobody is going to listen to the IT
secretary.
The implementation has been really
captive with IT department, and the
ownership was not taken by the line
departments.
There are a few states, which have
proactive IT secretaries. But those are
aberrations.
They tried to work through making
the prime minister as chairman of the
apex council (of NeGP). However, one
needs to realise that PM is chairman
of hundred committees. The bandwidth is not available at the PMO to
handle everything.
Another thing we did not realise is
that already reasonable amount of
computerisation has begun in many
states. States are at variable levels of
e-readiness and e-governance. Look
at PDS. Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand
and Gujarat are at different levels of
computerisation. To conceive a project for pan-India is a difficult task.
Had it been state e-governance plan,
instead of a national plan, it would
have worked better.

Can you comment on electronic


service delivery bill?

As nudging device for states lacking in


e-governance, it is a good tool. But can
somebody define what constitutes edelivery? Applying online, submitting
all documents online, paying online
or final electronic delivery? Unless we
are clear about what defines electronic delivery, the Act will not have teeth.
Fundamentally, the capability to
build these applications has to be
there.
On electronic service delivery bill,
the World Bank gave me the draft copy
seeking comments. So I gave my comments then. I stated clearly that you
have to define what constitutes delivery. I made several comments. Some
of comments were included by the
government.
But for me, if the states are not ready,
the legislation is just a nudging device.
If you have passed RTE Act, it does
not mean education disparity will just
vanish.

The theme of the 16th NCEG


conference was open government.
Why were you critical of it?

For Scandinavian countries, open


government means opening up data
to the public. The industrialised
countries had done what we are doing today about 20 years ago. The way
I got my driving licence in the US 20
years ago is the way I get it here now.
So my argument is when we talk about
integration, somewhere we have to be
patient about it.
If you have a new type of accounting
information, can department monitor
the data, let alone citizens (using this
information)?
Let us not get lost. We have another
objective implementation of e-governance for electronic delivery of services. This should have been done in
the past seven years (of NeGP).
To think that citizens will engage, advise and be involved in the policymaking is a far-fetched dream. First provide immediate relief to citizens in
terms of transacting business with the
government.
If NeGP could have facilitated implementation of e-district in five years
then 60 percent of the work would
have been completed. [e-District project aims at digitising back-end of the
district administration and putting key
government to citizen services online.]
This should have been the first work

You have also talked about the


impact of making information public?

To
me, open govt
is successful when we
see six articles in newspapers
using that data demanding
accountability, questioning why
the govt is not functioning well,
the slow speed of implementation,
govt spending. Unless we use
data, discuss it and bring in
accountability, there is no
point in adopting open
government.

to be implemented the back-end


computerisation.
They have put faucet but there is no
water. So is the case with common
services centres (CSCs).

There is no business process


reengineering?

That certainly is a week area. Putting


technology is easy. e-Government is
about transforming the way government works. That change has not happened. Even basic procedures have to
be looked and modified.
Why should the citizen even note
what has happened? He should get
his service. If citizen notices that there
is improvement in service, we will
achieve our objectives.

Unless data is used, people will not


keep it updated. They will not keep
quality data. So usage is the key. To
me, open government is successful
when we see six articles in newspaper
using that data demanding accountability, questioning why the government is not functioning well, the slow
speed of implementation, government
spending. Unless we use data, discuss
it and bring in accountability, there
is no point in adopting open government. Publishing a nice website is not
the end objective. The outcome for
open government has to be seen in the
context of public engagement.
While living in the US, I saw people
sending 150 emails to the city administration suggesting the height of the
road bumps. They discussed it, met
and influenced the process. That is to
me is real open government.
Here citizens are not ready for the
same. And it is fine. Lets not make that
objective. We can start that in a few areas, where the citizens are ready.

Is social media an answer?

When we talk about social media,


we talk about yuppie class in urban
areas. We should profit and exploit
from it as much as possible. We saw
Hazare led protest and Nirbhaya protest, it played an important role. However, it is not popular in rural areas. It
is not a panacea.
The fundamental problem is we do
not accept criticism. Can you improve
if you do not accept criticism. That
is the fundamental character of our
society.

You are also chairing a committee on


capacity building.

I am chairing a committee which is


preparing a roadmap for capacity
building for NeGP in future. We are
looking at state e-mission team (SeMT).
How effectively is it being utilised? We
keep talking about capacity building,
but when it comes to putting trained
manpower in the right position, it is
disappointing. I do not see problem
with training module and quality. But
the problem is that states do not send
the right people for training. They are
not deployed at the right position. n
pratap@governancenow.com

people politics policy performance

Ashish asthana

e-Gov Notes

Farmers set to sail on web, sell online

armers from 25,000 villages


across Maharashtra would
soon be able to sell their goods
online through computer kiosks
installed in panchayat offices in the
state. The computer infrastructure
has been created under e-panchayat a nationwide IT programme
by union ministry of panchayati
raj. In Maharashtra, the programme is being implemented as

Government launches
e-pass

apil Sibal, union


communications
minister, launched the
electronic payment and
application system for
scholarships (e-Pass) for
Himachal Pradesh and
Tripura on March 25, 2013
in Delhi. e-Pass, developed
by Hyderabad-based Centre
for Good Governance is an
application created to help
the students in all steps of
availing their scholarships.
It helps them right from
registration of application for
scholarship to the transfer
of money to their bank
accounts.

he department of science
and technology (DST) is
awaiting an approval on the expenditure finance committee
note on National
GIS from the finance ministry
for the National GIS platform.
The cabinet note
on the project
is expected in
three months
time. The ambitious project, to
be implemented over a period
of five years, will map resources

66 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Sanganakiya Grameen Maharashtra, a project of the state rural


development department. On the
webpage of each panchayat, information on the village, along with
available inventory of agricultural
produce, would be updated regularly. The information, collated with
a software, will help customers buy
from the farmers directly, eliminating middlemen.

Aadhaar cards to have


date of birth too
Aadhaar will now also have date
of birth (DoB) information on the
card for a wider coverage of services. Aadhaar was previously
not acceptable as identity proof
for many services, like banks and
mobile phone companies, because
it did not have DoB, though it did
mention age of the person. The
residents then needed to produce
other documentary proofs, such
as PAN card and electricity bills. It
defeated the very purpose of the
Aadhaar card which was to be a
single document for all purposes
of identification.

National GIS soon to get cabinet nod

Web portal for NIELIT


launched

(natural and brick-and-mortar,


both), support spatial planning
and assist in quick and reliable
monitoring of implementation
of various developmental works
undertaken by government agencies.
The project will
also enable putting
non-classified data
in public domain
and empowering
citizens by providing status and details of projects undertaken by
the government.

Post offices to aid of DBT


beneficiaries

n order to make the direct


benefits transfer (DBT) scheme
more accessible to people, the
government has announced that
applicants can now make
money transactions from post
offices as well. This comes into
effect after complaints were
received about the delay in
opening bank accounts, especially
zero-balance accounts. The
scheme will come into effect from
October 1, 2013.

2017: cyber security mkt


to be worth $870mn

lobal market for cyber security solutions may grow


to $ 870 million by 2017, says a
report by research firm IDC. Cyber criminals use thousands of
networked computers to `jam
a website by directing excessive traffic to it, causing it to
crash. Such attacks are termed
as Distributed Denial of Service
(DDoS). According to IDC, there
has been a sharp increase in
frequency, volume and orientation of such attacks on financal
websites .

The government recently


launched web portal
for national institute of
electronics and information
technology (NIELIT). The
web portal www.nielit.
in has been designed
according to the guidelines
for Indian government
websites and has several
new features to enhance
the Common Service
Centre scheme. It will
also provide placementrelated information for
NIELIT students and will
also provide them free
online employability test in
association with Wheelbox.

Delhi div of railways


back on Facebook

Having left Facebook due


to negative publicity, the
Delhi division of Indian
Railways is back on the
social networking site to
help provide information to
people. The page, restricted
to three stations in the
capital (Old Delhi, Hazrat
Nizamuddin and New
Delhi), will upload details
like arrival and departure
timings of trains, platform
numbers and daily
availability of seats.

Online FIR facility


against power thefts

The vigilance wing of the


Haryana Power Utilities
has started an online
system for submitting
complaints. The facility is
being called as Criminal
Investigation Management
System, through which
one can register a first
information report (FIR).
The government has
directed field officials to
file all FIRs for electricity
theft online within 24
hours of detection of theft.
All concerned field officials
have already been trained
to use the online system.

Gov NEXT

A Click Into
Digital Governance

Cloud computing will facilitate collaboration


in government
This new technology will not only save money on resources and infrastructure but also
facilitate higher-level integration of disparate systems

Sameer Batra

riving change in the government sector, compared to a


commercial enterprise, is far
more complex and challenging
as it often has wider consequences. Any
change in the technical standards will
act as a catalyst for broader transformations. This is perhaps an important reason for the comparatively low adoption
of cloud computing in the government
sector all over the world.
However, this scenario is changing
slowly but gradually, and cloud computing is increasingly coming up on the
radar of governments.
We find that quite a few government
agencies have taken the first step of hosting their projects at hosted data centres;
for example, NIC data centre, state data
centre or other private data centres. This
step taken by the government has gone
a long way in helping projects roll out
faster and extend them with an ability
to demand higher flexibility on network
bandwidth and space optimisation. The
use of IAAS (infrastructure as a service)
and PAAS (platform as a service) for deploying their applications in the private
data centres seems to be gaining interest
among several agencies.
Cloud computing provides governments
in emerging countries like India with
the ability to share computing resources,
cutting the cost of providing various
services to citizens, like enabling them
to pay their bills online. For example,

each district in India provides the same


set of services. Individually, the districts
are too small to benefit from the rollout
of new technology services but under
a cloud computing arrangement, many
agencies can share the same infrastructure at a lower cost.
If implemented properly, cloud computing eliminates the risk of becoming
locked into an IT system that is difficult
and costly to reshape when technological
change and new administrative requirements force systems to evolve in both
design and implementation.
Environments in cloud computing are
adaptable and shared. They have an elasticity that is built in their architecture.
And in todays hyper-complex, hyperspeed IT universe, they are typically payas-you-go. If you dont use it, you dont
pay for it.
Perhaps most interestingly, a cloud
computing architecture can be designed
to share a common operating environment across many mission processes,

Cloud computing eliminates


the risk of becoming locked
into an IT system that is
difficult and costly to reshape
when technological change
and new administrative
requirements force systems
to evolve in both design and
implementation.

allowing that environment to be built in


a way that is more secure, scalable and
robust than the hundreds or thousands
of one-off operating environments that
have been deployed in the past.
While cost reduction is a compelling
reason to consider moving to a cloud computing model, other benefits are also significant and must not be ignored. Cloud
computing has tremendous potential to
open the door to better decision-making
based on real-time data and lay a strong
foundation for greater focus on innovation at every level of the government.
The cloud computing approach to resource sharing saves money, and also facilitates higher-level integration of disparate systems, making it much simpler to
achieve complex mission requirements.
Harnessing the scale, flexibility and
computing power of cloud computing will enable government agencies to
rapidly access and analyse large volumes of data, and quickly implement
new analytics. Insights from this big
data will enable breakthrough abilities
in areas such as identifying waste, fraud
and abuse in government programmes,
conducting more comprehensive healthcare outcome research, running military
simulations, constructing global climate
models, or even predicting and managing real-time traffic patterns.
Cloud computing, over a period of time,
has evolved into a robust system with
significant benefits. An increasing integration of cloud computing into central,
state and local IT can help change the
way the government works by bringing
better collaboration and driving innovation. n
Batra is director, public sector, IBM India/
South Asia

www.GovernanceNow.com 67

people politics policy performance

Ashish asthana

Policing and Us

Big brother is reading


your tweets
Mumbai police wants to keep a tab on social media. Delhi
already does that. But will someone tell the poor citizen what
is happening with this information?

Shivangi Narayan

he line that divides


surveillance and intrusion is thin and
blurring by the day.
At least in the social
media sphere. Take,
for example, Mumbai
polices social media
lab launched on March 17 to, what they
call, monitor what is happening on social

68 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

media and be better prepared to meet


any untoweard turn of events in case
people want to use their democratic right
to gather in large numbers and protest
against something they feel is wrong.
The word monitor is again tricky,
because even after several reports of
how Mumbai police is going to monitor
peoples Facebook and Twitter activity,
additional commissioner of police (protection) Nawal Bajaj denied that that was
the motive of the lab.
Monitoring is a bad word; it means
that we are keeping an eye on what
people are saying. We are essentially
keeping a tab on the pulse of the public what they think, want and expect
from the police for managing situations better, Bajaj told Governance Now.
We are trying to tailor our responses
according to the expectations of the
people, he said.
A software, developed in-house, will
help keep a tab on what people are thinking and talking about in the city and the
subject attracting the most chatter on
social media, he explained.
Apart from that, Bajaj said, the lab will
also check tweets and Facebook posts
(and other online content) of important
political leaders, opinion leaders and
religious leaders. We will use (software)
packages that can collect information on
certain topics. We will also use various
other programmes, including search
engines, for (gathering) information, he
said.
He did not divulge more information
on the working of the lab citing security
reasons.
Bajaj said that incidents such as the

mass protests in New Delhi after the


December 16 gangrape caught the police
off guard. He said the administration
is now aiming to find out what people
were thinking about administration,
governance and policing, and what they
expected from the government. If I had
known about the numbers, I would have
deployed more policemen in the area to
better manage the protests, Bajaj said.
While there is logic for the administration to believe that the protests could
have been better managed, or responded to, if the police knew about the numbers beforehand, opening a social media
lab to go through Facebook, Twitter and
other online content without proper safeguards for data protection and privacy
may raise questions.
The issue of procedural safeguards is
an important one, said Chinmayi Arun,
assistant professor at the National Law
University, Delhi. She said if a lot of information is at the disposal of the Mumbai
police in the lab, it may be misused.
What happens if someone uses access to
this information for personal purposes
or nefarious purposes? Do we have any
safeguards in place against that? Arun
asked.
Mumbai police is yet to consult people
or inform them how the department
would go about working in a lab like
that. There is no information in the
public domain about safeguards taken
to protect information and privacy of
citizens in such a lab. An average Mumbaikar does not know what is happening
in the lab.
Of course what he does not know he
cannot complain against, but is this ignorance a matter of bliss?
And it is not just Mumbai police; a quick
check with its Delhi counterpart revealed
that it has been doing the same thing for
the last five years.
We have two cells the cyber cell,
which looks into the criminal issues
relating to IT Act, and the special branch
that looks into social media (and other
online content) and lets us know if there
is a need for deployment of extra force,
said Dharmendra Kumar, special commissioner of police (law and order).
Ironically, Kumar denied that the Delhi
gangrape protests were not properly
responded to due to lack of information
about the number of protesters. People

Gov NEXT

A Click Into
Digital Governance

Hackathon planning
Plan panel brings students together to develop apps

The issue of procedural


safeguards is an important
one. If a lot of information
is at the disposal of the
Mumbai police in the lab,
it may be misused. What
happens if someone uses
access to this information
for personal purposes or
nefarious purposes? Do
we have any safeguards
in place against that?
Chinmayi Arun, assistant
professor at the National
Law University, Delhi.

took less than an hour there to collect (assemble), which took us by surprise, he said. He maintained that
social media wasnt responsible for
the turnout of such a large number
of people.
Increased monitoring and surveillance in everyday life might now be
an accepted mode of living, but it is
surely going to make people more
careful about how they interact on
the internet, defeating the very purpose of the space.
This lack of transparency regarding the policies and safeguards that
govern the lab and how it functions
might inhibit people from using the
internet, especially social media, to
interact freely with each other. The
Occupy Wall Street movement illustrated how the state can inhibit freedom of expression and association
through surveillance. This is awful
for democracy said Arun. n
sivangi@governancenow.com

Pratap Vikram Singh

rowdsourcing seems to have


found takers in the government.
The planning commission organised an app programming and visualisation event, commonly known as hackathon, on April 6-7. Programmers from
over 10 premier institutes, including the
IITs and IISc, came together to develop
web and mobile applications which
could support the initiatives outlined in
the plan or educate about the focus area
of the plan.
Out of the total 217 submissions across
three categories app development,
short film and data visualisation the
government shortlisted and awarded 40
winners. This fisrt-ever hackathon for
any government department was facilitated by the office of Sam Pitroda, advisor to the prime minister on public information infrastructure and innovations.
A group of three students from NIET,
Greater Noida, was awarded for developing an app helpmycity (http://www.
helpmycity.in/) through which citizens
can register grievances related to several
issues and get it resolved by authorities,
and even civil society organisations. Issues that can be reported include safety,
transport, water, environment, infrastructure and education.
Complaint or comment posted on web
app can be liked and supported by other
citizens and thus it could become a mass
petition, compelling authorities to act.

Yeoman Group from IIT-Chennai was


awarded for developing a web/mobile
app for containing the spread of communicable diseases and preventing outbreaks. The app provides a data feeding
mechanism which can be used by NGOs
and health authorities to report about
diseases and the number and details of
people affected. The app also provides
for viewing the disease trend over a geospatial map.
The district health system must be
strengthened and links established with
non-governmental healthcare providers
to develop a reliable and accurate reporting network for infectious diseases
and risk factors of non-communicable
diseases. Without such information,
policy and programme planning will be
enfeebled and impact evaluation will be
difficult to undertake. Thus, there is a
need to build a vibrant health information system for monitoring and evaluation, the group said in its submission to
the plan panel.
Even those apps and illustrations,
which could not make it to the final
shortlist, were interesting. A group of
young researchers and students developed a web app for having national
electronic health record system, where
in medical history of citizens could be
linked to Aadhaar and saved centrally.
The national health database system
was the second attempt by the same
group. Initially, they almost developed
an android app for getting blood donation during emergency. An alert would
go to all mobile users having that app
within a radius of 5 km, informing
them about the urgency. They couldnt
complete as it is difficult to ascertain the
geo reference (exact location) of mobile
phone users.
The inaugural session also saw academicians and students from the institutes
putting questions to commission deputy
chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia
through video conferencing. n
pratap@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 69

people politics policy performance

R Swaminathan

Text and Context

The future of
governance is
electronic

-Governance is no longer a buzzword confined to hoary


circles of policy making and academia. In the last decade
or so it has not only entered the Indian public consciousness as a concrete lexicon, but has shown its potential through
real initiatives at the ground level like the land record digitisation projects in several states and the efficient passport seva
kendras (PSK). Today, the socio-economic potential of digital
governance in transforming India and provisioning better and
targeted services for the disempowered sections cannot be disputed. Yet for all its proliferation in various avatars, there is still
no professional course or curriculum for people to get trained
in e-governance in a formal manner.
Jaijit Bhattarcharyas book, e-Gov 2.0: Policies, Processes and
Technologies, is probably the first effort in India at congregating
all the strands that constitute e-governance, and putting them
together in one place. It is to Bhattacharyas credit that the book
does not for once feel like a mash-up of various ideas, technologies, processes and case studies. The book is thematically
organised and progresses in a linear and methodical manner,
not only displaying Bhattacharyas command over the broad
subject and diverse themes but also his conscious attempt to
simplify complex issues to the average reader. Practitioners and
long-time advocates of e-governance and those who are already
(IEEE), International Standards Organisation (ISO), Internationin the deep end of the digital technology pool, however, may
al Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Joint Technical Committee
find the workbook approach of Bhattacharya a tad tiresome.
(JTC) and Advanced Television Systems (Committee), and the
But those who are looking to understand and imbibe the phicritical role played by each one of them. He also goes into what
losophy, logic and practice of e-governance in a formal manner
might be considered peripheral areas by strict practitioners of
will find Bhattacharyas approach readily agreeable. The book
digital governance, like digital television formats, to explain the
thoughtfully provides a summary, key terms, case studies and
increasing interconnectedness of technologies and the manner
concept review questions at the end of each chapter.
in which they are converging into what a lot of futurists call
Unlike a standard textbook, however, Bhattacharya does not
singularity.
shy away from complicated and controversial issues of e-govDespite the nice, nutritious and healthy mix, I would have
ernance. His chapters dealing with public-private partnership
preferred if Bhattacharya had spiced up the concoction more by
(PPP) for e-Governance, policies and approaches for the adopadding his definitive positions on the issues. Bhattacharya has
tion of appropriate information communication technologies
been working in the field of digital technology for over 15 years
(ICT) and the presence of multiples standards in ICT are as lucid
and as an expert his positions would have added more value
as they are accurate in highlighting the various dimensions of
and weight to the book.
the debate bedevilling the digital governance policy circles. He
Bhattacharyas focus on change management is a breath of
has used several case studies and examples, like the Phillips patfresh air. Positioning change management, ahead of software,
ent case, the tussles between Cisco and Huawei Corporation and
hardware and departmental implementation challenges, is his
the implication of Microsofts dominance of the Indian wordway of saying that technology can only help
processing software market of how the issue
those who want to help themselves. In my
of Open Standards is not just, pun unintended,
experience of understanding and documentan open and shut case. He also brings into the
ing the impact of technology on daily life, the
mix a nuanced description of the experience
biggest challenge, especially at the level of
of e-governance in countries like China, Japan,
providing service-oriented governance, comes
Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as the
from bureaucrats and officials who are relucEuropean Union.
tant to use technology due to reasons ranging
The book also goes into the hot and dusty
from fear of losing their turf to a fear of the
engine room of digital governance, which is
technology itself.
rare for a book of this nature. More often than
e-Gov 2.0: Policies, Processes
Bhattacharya focuses on concrete models
not, books dealing with technology, especially
to overcome these challenges. By establishtechnology for society, do not delve into the or- and Technologies
Tata McGraw Hill, 604 pages, price ing change management as the indispensable
ganisations and bodies dealing with standards
not mentioned
bedrock of e-governance, Bhattacharyas suband policies. But Bhattacharya gives a wellsequent and detailed exposition of a concrete
articulated insight into organisations like the
e-governance framework through a Secured
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Book Review Jaijit Bhattacharyas


book e-Gov 2.0 breaks new ground
in bringing together different
pieces of digital governance
charting out the possible course of
a future India

70 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

Bhattacharya has expounded


the need for formalisation
and institutionalisation of
e-governance in India. In
his own subtle way, he has
brought out the need for
a dedicated and formally
trained cadre of people who
understand the nuances of
digital governance.

Government Information System Architecture,


telecentres and open source software, and
solutions like Secure Transactions Infrastructure, Integrated Government Financial System
(IGFS), Urban Development Management System and e-Agriculture acquire a rare credibility.
While the scope and scale of the potential
of e-governance is clearly established in the
book, its pressing need for a country like India,
where social and economic inequalities not
only accentuate existing social divisions but
also create new ones, leading to asymmetries
of power, could have been articulated better.
Personally, I would have preferred one more
chapter, preferably the last one, detailing the
transformative and empowering potential of
e-governance, and how the India of the future
could become a role model for sustainable and
equitable growth on the backbone of a digital
governance framework. But thats just a minor
quibble. Bhattacharya has broken new ground
by expounding the need for a formalisation
and institutionalisation of e-governance in India. In his own subtle way, he has brought out
the need for a dedicated and formally trained
cadre of people who understand the nuances of
digital governance. In that foresight itself, Bhattacharya has painted a future of India that will
be increasingly digital and hopefully equitable.
This book is a must read. n
Swaminathan is a National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) Fellow. He is also a Senior Fellow in Observer Research Foundation (ORF). A dyed-in-wool
digital native, he is one of the few surviving members of the original tribe of Internet crazies who
used floppy diskettes, DOS prompts and WordStar

Briefly noted
Here is an attempt to establish that Gandhian Economics is not neoclassical
in essence and that it goes
beyond the defined domain
of economics in analysing
BN Ghosh
social, political and ethical
Sage Publications,
implications of econompp 224, ` 650
ics actions or policies.
What goes by the name of
Gandhian Economics are
some of Gandhis personal
views on different topical questions related to a
broader spectrum of issues encompassing moral philosophy, politics and society.
The book aims to fill the knowledge gap existing in the ontology of Gandhian
Economics. It goes beyond the narrow precinct of this field and proclaims that
many useful issues that Gandhi dealt with do not belong to the domain of pure
economics. The book also provides a trajectory towards a more sensible but
hitherto unexplored area of Gandhian political economy.
Ghosh, visiting professor at Leeds College of Management and Technology,
UK, has also worked in the same capacity at Eastern Mediterranean University,
Cyprus, University of Science, Penang (Malaysia), and Zhejiang Gongshang University, China. n

Beyond Gandhian
Economic:
Towards a Creative
Deconstruction

This work posits a world order


Toward a Geopolitics
marked less by univocal gloof Hope
balisation than by a grating
By William H.
geopolitics of rival capitalisms. Now that China, Russia,
Thornton and Songok
and much of the undemoHan Thornton
cratic developing world have
Sage Publications,
embraced capitalism, this new
pp 262, ` 750
Second World can no longer be
regarded as a fleeting phenomenon. Globalisation turns out to
be anything but the steadfast ally of democratization it purports to be. Indeed,
the western democratic experiment of the last two centuries is starting to look
very tentative and parochial.
For this the west has nothing to blame but itself. In many respects the new
Second World was spawned by First World neoliberal engagement. The Washington Consensus has not only brought the world to the brink of an intractable
economic depression, but has also played midwife to a chronic geopolitical
crisis. This book, however, is anything but defeatist in the face of this globalist
impasse. It draws upon a host of non-western reformisms with special attention to those of India, Burma, and the Arab Spring to forge a Global Third
Way. Likewise its moral realism bridges the classic imperatives of Third World
social justice and First World security. Its paramount goal is not just a new soft
power politics, but a post-globalist geopolitics of hope. n
feedback@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 71

people politics policy performance

Illustration: ashish asthana

Random Notes

For your
eyes only
Regularly visit an
ophthalmologist who
regularly visits a dentist

K Balakumar

f I have to give you a medical advice


with regard to your eyes, this is the
one: regularly visit an ophthalmologist who regularly visits a dentist.
No, seriously. Vision-screening involves
a procedure wherein the oculist has to
peer into your eye in a position, which,
outside of a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation situation, can be deemed a bit kinky.
Basically when he is looking deep into
your eyes you will be performing an impromptu manual breath-analyser test on
him. Suffice to say, it is never a good idea
to visit an ophthalmologist just after his/
her lunch hour (unless otherwise your intention is to the test the efficacy of garlicfumes as clinical anaesthesia).
Another piece of information that I
would like to share with you in this regard is: you must also avoid going to the
ophthalmologist in the evenings because
your eyes have to undergo something
called dilation. I suspect dilation is the
medical term for temporary blindness.
OK, when dilated your eyes lose their
ability to focus, and everything gets all
fuzzy and you basically see the world
like Kamal Haasan did in that song Vaanam Kizhe Vandhal Enna in the film
Thoongaathe Thambi Thoongathe.
Once the dilation drops are administered

72 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

into your eyes you are not supposed to


open your eyes, and when you are taken
into the doctors chamber later and asked
to read the letters on the screen, you are
supposed to open your eyes.
This might seem elementary to many
but when I went for my eye screening last
week, it did not occur to me at all:
Doctor: Sit in a comfortable position and
read the letters on the screen.
Me: (In a panic-filled voice) Ayyo doctor, onnume theriyala (Doctor, I cant see
a thing).
Doctor: (Testily looking at me and pointing to the screen which alone was illuminated in the room) I said read the letters.
Which means you have to open your eyes.
Can anyone read with his eyes closed?
Me: But the nurse told me not to open
my eyes at all when they are dilated.

Doctor: OK, open your eyes, see the


screen. Can you see the screen? Now
read. (If sarcasm had a font the previous
sentences will be all in it).
Me: (Hurriedly looking at the letter E
which was the size of Bappi Lahiri) Yes,
doctor I can read it. No problems. It is all
very clear.
Doctor: No, wait. Why are you in a hurry?
I want you to have a look at this (pointing to
a line that had letters in a size clearly meant
to prevent anyone from reading them.
This is exactly the point-size that banks use
in their documents listing out important
terms and conditions, which can be basically summed up thus: In the event of any
problem, you can go bang your head on a
wall).
Me: Doctor, all I see is a full stop-like
smudge. Is this an early symptom of

cataract?
Doctor: (Probably wanting to smack
his forehead in desperation) Leave all
those things to me. Just do what I tell
you to. Now read this. (Hands me a
small leaflet kind of thing.)
Me: Ayyo doctor, cant see a thing
and I can confirm that my eyes are
fully open.
Doctor: Oh sorry. Completely forgot
that. (Sheepishly switches on the light)
(Surely my effect was rubbing on to
him.)
After continuing with this, and later
examining my eyes further, the doctor
finally told me that I had hypermetropia, which suspiciously sounds like an
eye affliction specific to those living in
(hyper-metro cities) Chennai or Mumbai. But I didnt say that to him because I also realised that would have
been a pretty weak joke even by my
standards.
Dont worry, the doctor told me,
hypermetropia is inevitable for a
middle-aged man like you. We can fix
this with a new pair of spectacles.
Neither the fact that he called me a
middle-aged man nor the fact that I
had hypermetropia seemed to worry
me at that moment. But the thought
that I had to go in for a new pair of
glasses did put me off. Because, in my
reckoning, all those who had planned
a career in highway robbery had put
their plans on hold and become investment bankers? No, they all seem
to have started optical shops. Because:
1. It is not all that different. 2. It is actually far more lucrative. 3. It is worth
telling that it is far, far more lucrative
than any of you believe.
You want to try out the spectacles in
our shop? the doctors assistant later
asked me as he made out the prescription for me. We can give you some
good deals.
No, thanks, I said.
But anyway have this. You may need
it in the future, the assistant said and
handed me the shops visiting card.
But anyway, you have this. Your
doctor sure needs it, I said while
handing a small piece of paper to him.
In it written was, well, the phone number of my dentist. n
balakumarkb@gmail.com

Pee Pawar apologises,


but to whom?
Ajit Pawar tells Maharashtra assembly that his comment
on urinating to raise water levels for supply was not
intended for drought-affected people. So who does he now
propose his comments were meant for?
Shantanu Datta

y comments on Saturday were


not directed towards droughtaffected people and I had no
intentions to hurt anybody's sentiments...
I hope my comments will not affect
drought relief measures which will continue vigorously... Also, it was never my
intention to hurt anybody's sentiments...
It is true that I should have spoken responsibly. I apologise to all."
Thats Ajit Pawar, the deputy chief
minister of Maharashtra, on Monday,
two days after his callous remarks on the
drought and power situation in the state
caused an uproar.
On Saturday, according to reports in
different media outlets, including PTI,
Pawar, a nephew of union agriculture
minister and Nationalist Congress Party
(NCP) honcho Sharad Pawar, said, What
can we do if there is no water in the dams
of Maharashtra? Should we urinate?
The first part of Pawars apology
says the comments were not directed
towards drought-affected people. So
who were they directed toward? People
enjoying ample water supply? But, then,
why and how would they be interested
in the water levels of the dams? Either
way, it matters little since the suggestion
to urinate would have made it deplorable
even if the comment was directed toward
non-drought-affected people either in
Maharashtra or outside.
The second part of the statement I
had no intentions to hurt anybody's
sentiments is weirder. So what was
Pawars intention in suggesting that he
could, and should, urinate in order to
raise the water levels? Was it a joke? Or a
matter-of-fact statement of purpose with
para-scientific implications? If he meant
he urinates quite a lot, is that a cause of
concern or apprehension for the people

both in drought-prone areas and


outside, and in Maharashtra and outside.
Either way, it matters little since the suggestion to urinate would make it deplorable even if the comment was made not
to hurt public sentiment.
The third part I hope my comments
will not affect drought relief measures
which will continue vigorously is even
more bizarre. So how exactly does he
want the relief measures to continue?
Will he, or wont he (urinate, that is)? How
does Pawar, who held the states irrigation
portfolio for nearly a decade, propose to
address the issue? Neither his intendedor-otherwise suggestion to urinate
nor his apology to both houses of the state
assembly holds an answer to that.
The fourth part of the apology It
is true that I should have spoken responsibly is the only one that makes any
sense. And in it Pawar, intentionally or
otherwise, hits the nail on its head for
the whole political class. Responsibility is a noun that is fast dying out from
the lexicon of most Indian politicians. So
when Abhijit Mukherjee, a Congress MP
from Jangipur in West Bengal but more
famous as president Pranabs son, tags
women protesting after the December 16
gangrape-turned-murder in Delhi as being part of the dented-painted brigade
or home minister Sushilkumar Shinde
says people will forget, over time, the coal
block allocation scam like they forgot the
Bofors rip-off, one knows exactly what
the problem is. Responsibility went for a
toss. And in came the casual joke.
But since being a public representative,
let alone a ministers job, entails 24x7
responsibility, maybe people with a bent
to make casual jokes joker, is that the
word for such characters? in public
should also go for a toss. And without
apology this time. n
shantanu@governancenow.com

www.GovernanceNow.com 73

Last Word

The battle for my


surname

Why is retaining my surname after


marriage such a constant fight?
Tara Kaushal

am fiercely protective of my name, and would not change


it for the world. (Thanks to a bullying ex-husband, Ive
been there, done that, got the passport, thank you very
much.) Nothing but Tara Kaushal feels like my name
not then, and even not now in a very happy second marriage.
Besides, I have a strong feminist agenda, and a whole score of
reasons why I believe it was a mistake of youth to hyphenate the
first time around and why I wont do it again. Anyway, the issue
here is not why I want to retain my surname after marriage, but
the fact that I do. I have realised just how ingrained the patriarchal assumption of an automatic name-change is in our society
and government systems.
My passport was a whole different level of complication. Well
after my divorce and even a few months in to my second marriage, for want of a permanent address, my passport stayed
unupdated and said I was still married to
my first husband, hyphenated surname et
al. Now, in Maharashtra, marrying a Sahil
Mane automatically makes me a Mrs Tara
Sahil Mane, adding the insult of his first
name as my middle name to the injury of
his surname automatically replacing mine.
So when it came time to update my passport, I visited the passport office to figure
out how I could bypass this. The blank
stares that greeted my preposterous request
led me into the arms of an agent.
Much research later, he said I would
need an affidavit that went: I, Tara <insert
hyphenated surname>, upon divorce and
remarriage, would not like to change my
name to Tara Sahil Mane but would like to
revert to my maiden name.
I bullied and blustered my way through
the first few stages of the passport

74 GovernanceNow | April 16-30, 2013

interviews, flashing my affidavit at confused officials. The last


lady asked for a copy of the ad I should have placed in a national
newspaper declaring my changed name, but accepted my protests that I was just choosing to retain the name on my birth certificate: why would I need an ad? It must have been a confusing
case, because my passport came four months later.
Armed with this passport, getting my lost PAN card reissued was simpler. A friendly, gentle Mr Deshpande with a foot
in the retirement door asked if I was one of those crusader
types. Though I dont know the language, he even showed me a
Marathi newspaper with an article about some feminist campaign, and insisted I take a photocopy to keep up with the actions of my comrades in arms.
The effort towards a married-with-my-original-name passport
has made life infinitely easier. Now, every time I have to insist
on the use of my name, I simply have to whip out my passport.
Whats scary is how often Ive had to use this tactic. Adding my
name on to Sahils membership at a local gymkhana is a fight
Im still fighting. Apparently, its systems are not built to accept
different surnames for married couples with the same membership number. Aapko feminism karna hai toh dono naam kyon
nahi rakh lete? It will be easier, advised a helpful clerk.
Then, there are social reactions that I and other women who
have different surnames from their husbands encounter. When
booking tickets on a sleeper bus to Goa, I told the agent Id like
the seats together as I would be travelling with my husband.
He filled in my name, then assumed my husbands name was
Kaushal. When I said it wasnt, his snigger said it all. (And when
he realised that we dont share a surname and he is younger,
thats it, his image of me as a lying woman of questionable character was complete.) I also deal with sniggering clerks when we
try to check in to smaller hotels. The social censure doesnt faze
me; Sahil and I lived together for years before we married, and
one develops a bit of a thick skin. Fortunately, he laughs off the
mail addressed to Mr & Mrs Kaushal that occasionally lands up
in our letterbox, as he does when friends teasingly call him Mr
Kaushal when Im hogging the limelight.
These may not be easy things for a less secure man to accept.
The sign of a mature democracy is the way
it treats its women. Are we cattle, to be possessed and passed on from one male to another, ensconced in a patriarchal cultural and
governance system? Or are we to be treated
as individuals entitled to make our own
choices? That the default is patriarchal is bad
enough, it is infinitely worse that one has to
struggle against so much to make customised
choices against the norm. I always choose to
wear the name I grew up with Except when
dealing with traffic cops, where I allow myself
the small luxury of donning Sahils Maharashtrian surname!
The battle wages. Because, for a long time to
come, you will find the type of man who assumes his wifes surname upon marriage only
in Havel fans ads! n
Tara is a Mumbai-based writer.