Category: Public Policy

TORA: 4TH PILLAR OF TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

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Transparency and accountability are one of the most important pillars of any democracy to function in an effective manner.  When India adopted the Right to Information(RTI) Act in 2005, it ushered into the era of ‘good governance”. However, achieving good governance is not a goal but it is a continuum and it needs to be supplemented by the other steps in terms of giving statutory backing to the concept of citizen charters, enacting the  Rights of Citizens for Timely Delivery of Goods and Services Act and the Transparency of Rules Act. In fact, the government already introduced the bill related to the time-bound delivery of goods and services including the concept of citizen charters. However, the bill got lapsed. It needs to be reintroduced.

However, I want to talk about another issue which the Economic Survey 2017 proposed in its Volume II. I want to congratulate the former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramaniam who has made the Economic Survey an intensive document by introducing many innovative ideas and principles. It’s up to the government of the day to take forward these ideas and make it a reality.  The Volume II of Economic Survey 2017 introduced the idea of Transparency of Rules Act(TORA).

TORA is aimed at putting an end to the asymmetry of information, rules, and regulations imposed upon the average citizen. The act requires all government departments to display all rules affecting the citizens directly on their website. If the rule is not displayed on the website, the rule cannot be imposed upon the citizens. All rules have to be updated regularly and the history of all rules will also have to be displayed. Every department after displaying all the information related to laws, rules and regulation will become “TORA” compliant. Once a department has been declared TORA compliant, citizens can be sure that the information provided is authentic and updated.

As per the law, a person cannot take “ignorance of the law” as a defense for not complying with the law. Once TORA is implemented, any rule which is not displayed on the website of the government that applies to a citizen cannot enforce against them. This does not act as an exception to the principle of ‘ignorance of law’ but helps strengthen by holding the government accountable for not generating awareness regarding the rules and this act can help in improving transparency and accountability in the political system. If the information related to laws, rules, and regulations will be easily available, citizens will understand their legal obligations. It will finally help in reducing the number of cases due to non-compliance of the laws which happens due to the ignorance of the law.

ADVANTAGES:

When the Government of India enacts this Act and all the websites of the government of India become TORA compliant, it will bring about a radical change in the society in various ways:

  1. It will increase the transparency and accountability in the whole legal process and the citizen trust in the legislative structure will deepen.
  2. It will also help in decreasing the litigations which have emerged due to the ignorance of the law which leads to non-compliance.
  3. It will also help in organizing the legal structure which is very opaque and difficult to understand for the common people.
  4. It will decrease the discretionary power of the government officials which will check the problem of corruption and other misgivings in the decision-making process.
  5. As per the Economic Survey, even government officials are also not aware of the ‘latest version of complicated rules’. To make the whole governance process more efficient and effective, the government must enact this law.
  6. Most importantly, it can turn out to be one of the pillars of transparency and accountability after the enactment of Right to Information(RTI), Citizens Charter and Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill.

India has still very low score in Corruption Perception Index (81/180) in 2018, Ease of Doing Business Index 2018(Rank of India-100/190) and Democracy Perception Index 2018 etc. Indian democracy is very vibrant in terms of procedures, laws, rules, and regulations. However, when we talk about substantive democracy, there is a long way to go. That is why Ramchandra Guha in his book “India After Gandhi” calls Indian democracy “fifty-fifty democracy”.

To achieve the full potential of Indian democracy, Government of India must take a step to enact the other three laws including the Transparency of Rules Act(TORA) to make our democracy full-fledged. As one paper of World Bank- “Do more Transparent Governments Govern Better?” tells us that countries with better information flow also govern better. Only freedom to get all information is not enough but it needs to be publicised with the help of TORA and make it actionable with the help of giving legal backing to citizen charters in every government institutions. When these four pillars are adopted in a proper sense, our democracy will be one of the best in terms of ensuring transparency and accountability.

REFERENCES:

Image taken-2018: Predictions:Transparency

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/survey-proposes-law-to-promote-transparency-of-citizen-rules/articleshow/60059824.cms

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/push-for-law-to-ensure-transparency-rules/article19476452.ece

https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/why-we-need-a-transparency-of-rules-act-113042700527_1.html

https://www.livemint.com/Politics/5cvYn8GTxsik5xSwoN0DhK/India-ranks-81st-in-global-corruption-perception-index-by-Tr.html

http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-right-of-citizens-for-time-bound-delivery-of-goods-and-services-and-redressal-of-their-grievances-bill-2011-2125/

SWOT analysis of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana(PMJDY)

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Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi in his first Independence speech announced the major initiative of financial inclusion in the name of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana(PMJDY) to mainstream the poorest of the poor to the formal economic system of the country. The scheme was launched on August 28, 2014. The Prime Minister in his emotional speech declared, “Mahatma Gandhi worked towards removing social untouchability. If we want to get rid of poverty, we have to first get rid of financial untouchability. We have to connect every person with the financial system”. In fact, after 68 years of Independence, 42% of households do not have bank accounts and only 35 % of Indians older than 15 years had a bank account in a formal financial institution in 2012.  Financial inclusion is the process where financial services and banking facilities are easily accessible to the weakest and marginalized sections of the society in the remotest corner of the country. Financial inclusion is not only important in removing poverty and deprivation but also helps in growth and development of the economy. The PMJDY scheme was launched in two phases: Phase I (August 2014-January 2015) and Phase II (August 2015 to August 2018). Initially, the target was to open 7.5 crore bank accounts in one year. As of August 16, 2017, 29.51 crores, Jan Dhan Accounts are opened in the country.

In this article, I will do the SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).

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Strengths:

  • Financial mainstreaming of the poorest of the poor of the country to create inclusive growth and development. As per the PMJDY website, 99% of the households now have at least one bank account.
  • It will help in generating higher savings for the poor people. As per one study[i], availability of bank branches positively impacts savings. As per the recent study conducted by State Bank of India(SBI)[ii], Jan Dhan Accounts are keeping villagers sober and it might be helping in slowing rural inflation.
  • Account holders will get the overdraft facility of ₹5000. It can help the people to start some self-employment activities which have the potential to improve their well-being and it will strengthen their decision-making abilities.
  • It will provide accident insurance cover of ₹1 lakh to deal with tragedies and shocks of life for the poor households.
  • It will provide RuPay debit card to every account holders to access the facility of cashless transactions.

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Weaknesses:

  • As per various reports[iii], it was found that one-fifth of these Jan Dhan accounts are dormant and 79 % of the households[iv] already had a regular bank account. Therefore, dormancy and zero balance accounts are serious challenges of this scheme.
  • As per the data, only 1.5% account holders have sanctioned loans and around half of the account holders did not even avail the loan. The loan facility is provided on the basis of the discretion of bank employees which can create some biases in disbursing the loans.
  • As per the RBI report[v], Jan Dhan accounts were misused during the demonetization process last year and a large sum was deposited to these accounts.
  • The absurd limit of ₹50,000 stops some poor people[vi] to receive their subsidies in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)[vii].
  • Only 76% of the Jan Dhan account holders got a Rupay card[viii] and at least one in five of the issued cards remained dormant.

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Opportunities:

  • It can help in implementing the Direct Benefit Transfer(DBT)[ix] scheme in terms of JAM trinity solution where J-Jan Dhan, A-Aadhaar, and M-Mobile. JAM[x] can usher into a radical transformation to provide social benefits directly to the bank accounts of the people, in turn, reducing hassles and massive leakages prevalent in the social-security schemes.
  • Digital India scheme[xi] and government’s consistent push for Mobile banking[xii] can create a conducive climate for increasing financial inclusion. In fact, after the demonetization of high-value currencies, there is a consistent increase in digital payment.
  • It can be used to provide for funding facilities to vulnerable sections of the society. In fact, as per the Gates Foundation Report[xiii], it helped in financially empowering the women and marginalized sections of the society.
  • MUDRA yojana[xiv] and Stand-Up India[xv] scheme can create opportunities for Jan Dhan Yojana to create business opportunities by providing funding to the ‘unfunded’ as well as ‘unbanked’ sections of the society.
  • It can help in increasing the ‘financial literacy’ in the country which will help in increasing the penetration of various financial services like insurance, loans, investment options etc. to far-flung areas of the country.

Threats:

  • The first and most obvious threat can come from the next government which comes into power if it is not BJP. They might scrap the whole scheme on various grounds.
  • Sustainability of these accounts in serving the long-term interests of providing financial services to the poorest sections of the society when they are not provided with gainful employment opportunities or the other ways of generating income.
  • Recently Supreme Court of India has given its verdict in the Aadhar case and provided “the Right to Privacy”[xvi] to every individual in the country. On the face of it, linking bank accounts with Aadhar number can create hurdles for the scheme in providing direct benefit transfer.
  • Misuse of these Jan Dhan accounts and RuPay cards will always be a threat to this program of the government. Due to this, a number of Jan Dhan accounts were closed during demonetization because of their suspicious activities[xvii].
  • The overdraft facility and insurance scheme can also increase the NPA (Non-performing Assets) of the Banks who are already stressed due to stalled projects of the private and public sectors.

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is the game-changer[xviii] scheme of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) to create a medium to mainstream the poorest of the poor of the country so that an era of social-transformation can be ushered in our country. The use of these accounts to transfer the cash benefits to the beneficiaries’ accounts can turn into a panacea to all the ills which are plaguing the social security schemes of the government. However, after three years of the scheme, the government should also focus on addressing the challenges[xix] emanating from the schemes.

[i] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161893808000859

[ii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jan-dhan-accounts-keep-villagers-sober-slow-rural-inflation-study/articleshow/61095142.cms

[iii] https://thewire.in/177265/jan-dhan-yojana-one-rupee-balance-dormancy-duplication-problem/

[iv] https://video.scroll.in/851824/video-a-fact-check-of-the-jan-dhan-yojana-scheme-busts-some-myths-about-its-alleged-success

[v] https://rbi.org.in/scripts/PublicationsView.aspx?Id=17447

[vi] http://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/jan-dhan-account-big-hurdle-to-government-welfare-schemes/story-MM39hamEEEwmacuhy9cMGO.html

[vii] http://iay.nic.in/netiay/home.aspx

[viii] http://www.firstpost.com/business/jan-dhan-reality-check-manmohan-singhs-criticism-is-indeed-right-but-only-partially-2718642.html

[ix] https://dbtbharat.gov.in/

[x] http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/policy/jaitley-pmjdy-jam-trinity-can-link-all-citizens-to-a-common-financial-digital-space/article9832227.ece

[xi] http://digitalindia.gov.in/content/about-programme

[xii] http://www.livemint.com/Industry/lSkb5rEURwIPpFfpmNQuKM/Mobilebanking-sees-dramatic-surge-in-India.html

[xiii] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/pmjdy-helped-more-women-financially-empowered-report/articleshow/53065380.cms

[xiv] http://www.mudra.org.in/

[xv] https://www.standupmitra.in/

[xvi] http://www.livelaw.in/supreme-courts-right-privacy-judgment-foundations/

[xvii] http://indianexpress.com/article/business/banking-and-finance/make-sure-jan-dhan-accounts-are-not-misused-rbi-tells-govt-banks-4368916/

[xviii] http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/a2JcrrxPY6O9VVfYrV9MiL/Lessons-from-Pradhan-Mantri-Jan-Dhan-Yojana.html

[xix] https://www.pmjdy.gov.in/account

 

Policy Boot Camp( June 3rd to June 23rd)

Policy-BootCamp

We had an amazing start of the Policy Boot Camp. There are so many good expereinces to share. Meeting a diverse crowd from all parts of the country, renowned speakers sharing their experiences and knowledge to us. These 21 days of knowledge and experience will take  more than a year to assimilate in my system.

Every speaker was unique in its approach and they shared their life time experiences in a short duration lecture. After listening to all stakeholders of policy processes, it made me realise that we need to understand any issue comprehensively and sensitively before giving any comment on that.

Every single day from June 3rd to June 23rd, every single delegate from various parts of the country was in hurry to attend the lectures of speakers. We had really inspiring peers during the Boot Camp. All the delegates were so passionate about the issues discussed there that they will start the discussion on Whats-app group itself. Then after, there was a “Reflection Class”. It was the best part of the Boot Camp. There were four classrooms: Vikramshila, Takshashila, Valabhi and Nalanda. I was part of the Vikramshila class moderated by Shobhit Mathur. Every single day, we had heated exchange of views. It was a great experience witnessing young minds debating about national issues with such a huge interest and enthusiasm.Vikramshila classroom

I really liked the idea of reflection class. Reflection about the discussion in a group gave me a realization how you can see an issue with a multi-dimensional perspective. Every single delegate had unique ideas, views and opinions to express.

It was predicted by various authors and researchers at the time of India’s independence, India as a nation will not survive. But India has survived and now It is thriving economy and a vibrant democracy. The idea of ” Unity in Diversity” and ” Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” is responsible for India’s growth as a nation. I was aware about this idea but I never witnessed it in my life except in the Boot Camp. In the Boot Camp, we had lot of heated discussion, arguments etc. Even after, we sat together to have breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as we helped each other. We laughed, cried, played together. Differences in ideologies were not visible outside the classroom. That is why, My India has survived and It will thrive till the end of this universe.

Every single day was full of special memories and stories. Two days, we traveled to Teen Murthi Bhavan for other lectures. Bus journey was really interesting. I got opportunity to talk to various delegates and volunteers. I found that everyone has a story to tell.

One day, we also traveled to a nearby village just to explore and understand what is happening there. It was also very enlightening visit. We talked to villagers, children, working women in Food Processing Industries, owner of the Factory. Interaction with them taught us the gap between theory and practical, policy and outcome.

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I can never forget one delegate of the bootcamp who was who was visually challenged. His name is Rahul. He is a civil services aspirant. The last day when he spoke about his experiences, every single delegate gave him standing ovation. It was a breathtaking experience for me. In fact, all those 150 delegates were amazing. It is very difficult and impossible to write about all the delegates.

I am also not able to forget the moment when we all stand up for first, Srilanka’s national anthem and after that India’s national anthem. It was an incredible moment of my life. How much love the people of both countries have for each other? This should set an example for peace and cooperation among all the nations. Mutual respect and love for each other’s national symbols should become a cornerstone for all the bilateral and international relations.

Indo-Srilanka image

The most important thing which I learned here, is that a single person without any resources or wealth can make a great difference in the lives of others. Only we need courage and willpower. Start with the small thing and it will eventually become a big movement.

Last but not the least,  many delegates and volunteers have touched the chord of my heart. I will never ever be able to forget these co-delegates

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In the last, I can say that Be the change and make the change.

BannerPlease find important links:

http://visionindiafoundation.com/

http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Pathfinder-delivers-keynote-at-New-Delhi-Policy-Boot-Camp-131651.html

Introduction to Public Policy

“Public Policy is whatever government choose to do or not do”

Thomas R. Dye (Political Scientist)

I got this interesting opportunity to listen to the lectures of Dr. Rakesh Chakravarti and Kaushiki Sanyal (Authors of this book) during the Policy Boot Camp 2017 where this book was part of our reading materials. This book is quite short and interesting as it talks about the origin and processes of policy making in a few pages. Every public policy enthusiast read this book before venturing into the complex field of public policy.

In these few pages, this book answered all intrigued questions related to public policy. For instance: What is public policy? What is the origin of public policy? How can we contribute to policy making? What are the institutions which provide degrees in this area? What are the stages of policymaking exercises? When did public policy as a discipline become popular in India? It touches almost most of the aspects of the policy making and encourages us to read more about the issues in the domain of public policy. And this book is quite significant for Indian policy students as it has been written in the context of current issues dominating in the social space of the country. It talks about the nirbhya rape case as well as public transport revolution created by Delhi metro.

The authors have tried to trace the history of public policymaking starting from Harold Lasswell‘s basic definition of public policy as ‘who gets what,when and how as the starting point for this existence. They also discussed in detail the transformation of Bihar in the leadership of Nitish Kumar emphasizing that a great leadership can bring about substantial changes in a short span of time.

They also discussed the challenges of policy implementation and evaluation. The ideas of Randomised Control Trial(RCT) and the difference in difference principle as methods for effective implementation of public policies were also explored in the book.

They tried to tell the policymakers of the country not to be dogmatic so that they can adopt various perspectives from around the world in the policymaking process. In the last pages of the book, the authors also attempted to provide different solutions to overcome various challenges to policy making, implementation, and evaluation. They also tell you, How to broad-base policy-making, how to increase legislative capability, and how to evaluate policies in a better manner so that we can develop better policies.

I would recommend this book to all current and future policy makers so that they can understand the nitty-gritty of Public Policy in a few pages.

Negotiation workshop on Mouse Case Study:

During this lecture, we were also told to solve this case study Mouse(http://www.depa.univ-paris8.fr/IMG/pdf/Disney_Case_Study.pdf)

In this case study, there was a group where we have to play different roles like someone was playing a representative of the private sector, another three people were playing the role of local government and another was a representative of the government. So, it was a great learning experience and realization towards the complexity of public policy making, implementation, and its challenges:

  1.  The first time in my life, I realized how difficult it is to bring about consensus on any issues. It is very difficult to satisfy the aspirations of the people in a group.
  2. I was acting as a representative of the government and I had to mediate between private sector representatives and local government representatives.
  3. When the discussions were going on, suddenly one of the local representatives went outside the room saying that he didn’t agree with the proposals. This showed the kind of emotions someone goes through when it comes to your self-interest.
  4. At last, we somehow reached a deal but I think that I, as a government representative, gave more concessions than it was required.

I don’t know if I acted in a good sense or not? Even so, it was quite insightful and an eye-opening exercise that provided an interesting experience of nuances of policymaking. Convincing and negotiating with others when their self-interest is involved is a very difficult issue. We keep on criticizing our leaders, bureaucrats, policymakers, teachers, etc, but we never put ourselves into their shoes to understand their constraints and challenges.

Review of the Nudge

This book was really different and difficult for me because I never read this kind of book before. The title of the book conveys the main idea of the book. Nudge can create a sustained push for not only changing the human behavior towards everything but also help in various policy matters.

Richard Thaler, the writer has provided various examples to prove his theory. In fact, after reading these ideas, we can also realize those things after a keen observation in our personal life.

The most recent and important example can be remembered in the context of India is the issue of prohibition. Supreme Court of India has banned the shops from serving liquor if they are located within a 500m distance of national highway. Various state governments have also banned liquor in their state. Bihar is the recent example. Here, the question is: Will banning any substance solve the real issue? Will it really solve the issue of drunken driving?  It was always found that banning/ restrictions have failed miserably to solve any problem. Here we need an innovative form of pushes in the form of nudges as described in the book. Why not the government should start an innovative campaign of information dissemination regarding prohibition. For instance, popularize the information that spending on alcohol can be used for other productive purposes like buying a house or a vehicle. There is need to create a feedback mechanism to make the people realize about their choices.   For example, banning junk food will not solve the problem of obesity but providing the fresh fruits, vegetables at a reasonable rate to the public will create a powerful nudge. Make eating fresh fruits as a fashion statement. It is really happening nowadays for organic foods.

This book has provided various concepts:  Libertarian Paternalism, Choice Architect, Default options etc. These concepts decide the choices we make in our life. Our parents, governments act as a choice architecture which provides us various options to choose in our life. Why not provide good choices to the people so that there is no need to ban anything.

In fact, I found something very interesting in this book regarding how we think and why we choose bad options despite knowing that they are not good for our well being:

  • Because we use our automatic system to think which is effortless and uncontrolled.
  • We generally do not use our reflective system which is rational and controlled.
  • The most prominent example is of Voters who seem to rely primarily on the automatic system. They just go by the pictures or possibilities that who is going to win.
  • We follow guesses, rules of thumb, behave in overconfidence, work in the spirit of unrealistic optimism and more worried about losses than gains. Not only this, the status quo bias also hurts our choices.
  • We are not able to resist temptation and sometimes act mindlessly. For example, eating is one of the most mindless activities we do in our life despite knowing that it affects our health, well being and overall life. But we don’t care whatever garbage comes in front of our eyes, we just grab on that because of lack of self-control.
  • Sometimes, we also behave in that manner due to social influences.

So, the issue is how to solve these issues: There is need to NUDGE people towards good choices. And the writer has provided six principles:

  1. INCENTIVES
  2. UNDERSTAND MAPPINGS
  3. DEFAULTS
  4. GIVE FEEDBACK
  5. EXPECT ERROR
  6. STRUCTURE COMPLEX CHOICES

The policymakers, as well as people at the helm, should provide incentives to the people to follow rules. The recent example, I can remember about providing various prizes under DIGI DHAN MELA programme of Government of India to make India digital.

The default options are very powerful and ubiquitous. People generally do not change the default options. So why not make good choices as default so that number of people can follow it. The writer discusses this option so many times. For instance, if we want to save money, why not deduct the amount from the salary automatically. In fact, the saving and insurance ideas of today are mostly based on this concept. In fact, he has highlighted the concept of SAVE MORE TOMORROW.

Providing feedback is also a good option. If we provide feedback to the people in comparison to others, they tend to improve their situation. This also works in cases of comparison.

The writer has written this book analyzing the policies prevailing in the USA. However, the basic idea of nudge can be used in India’s various public policies. In fact, the campaign of Texas-DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS was very successful in reducing littering in the city. It can be adopted in India in various manners. For instance- DON’T MESS WITH DELHI.

The writer also discusses various objections to the idea of LIBERTARIAN PATERNALISM.

In fact, the book is a good read for future as well as present policymakers who really want to provide good choices to the people to make their life better.

Just now, I found a very interesting implementation of this idea by the UK government. The UK government has a “NUDGE UNIT” in the name of BEHAVIORAL INSIGHTS TEAM.  This organization was set up to popularize “nudge theory”, which is a combination of behavioral economics and psychology. It is helping the government to improve policy options and bring about change in the behavior of the people.