Saturday, 19 December 2015

Increasing chasm between civil society and government in India

 I had recently  an opportunity to participate in a conference in New Delhi  on education .It was organised by a prestigious  civil society organisation .What struck me , after going through the list of speakers and the participants that there was no one from government of India or any of the state governments .On inquiry , I was told that  despite invitations , no  delegate  from any of the central or state governments  cared to attend this otherwise very sincere and meaningful effort.
                      There is no doubt that India is a low trust society , and no one trusts any one .The situation is more serious when it comes to trusting government  representatives.On the other side , government representatives also have very  little trust in civil society .And as the above  conference revealed to me  , this  chasm between the civil society and the government is increasing .This has alarmed even me , who has seen and experienced this increasing   distance between the civil society and the government, over the past three decades or so.This does not augur well for our country , which needs better governance  from the government , with new ideas and support from  the civil society organisations.It is not an easy  goal , but it has to be reached.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Churchill on Leadership by Steven F. Hayward

Scarcity of leadership in Uttar Pradesh  and India led me to begin a search for  leaders elsewhere , present and past , and I thought of reading  this book  about Churchill .(Churchill on Leadership by  Steven  F. Hayward.)
                   For those who do not know, Churchill became Prime Minister of  Britain  for the duration of World War II.Just two months after the end of the war,Churchill suffered the humiliation of  being voted out of office..During the next six years as leader of the opposition,Churchill wrote his six-volume memoirs about World war II , for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
                The book is divided into ten chapters.Most of the politicians  seem to be models neither of leadership  nor of basic managerial skill.But Churchill was an exception,the book says.
1."The pursuit of power with the capacity and  the  desire to exercise it worthily is among the noblest of human occupations". . . Churchill.
2. He balanced overview and attention to details.
 3.It is not enough simply to learn the job.Define it.Do not become the passive  matrix upon which others impose their designs.
4.Responsibility must be combined with authority.
5. The person at the top may consult others but he must be decisive.In the absence of responsible leadership, collective decision making bodies will temporize.
6.Maintain flexibility and use adhoc structures for  particular problems.
 7.Get information direct and unfiltered.Have your own statistical  office to gather information and statistics , and report  to you directly.
8."It is far better to to take too many precautions  than too few.
9."There is great wisdom in reserving one's decisions as long as possible and until all the facts and forces  are revealed.
10. "It is a good thing to stand away from the  canvas from time to time  and take a full view of the picture"
 11.Put it in writing -- and keep it short.Conduct all important matters in writing .
12.Compress your thoughts into a reasonable space.
    Above ideas are  worthy of putting into practice by  leaders in any field.But I expected more out of a book on Churchill.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? by Edward Albee

At first ,I thought that I had completely  failed to understand this play by Edward Albee, perhaps  because of my lack of comprehension .But slowly , it dawned on me that the play itself has certain  complications  and weaknesses".Incidentally ,Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?" , won the 1961 Tony Award for best play.
                    The play is about a husband(George) and wife(Martha)  who continue to  drink and fight through out the night in the  play.It is   obvious that their relationship is quite complex.Their dialogues are   full of insults and even obscenities.They keep fighting about a son who actually does not exist.They have been telling  this fairy tale to each other for years now.They have decided not to mention their imaginary son in the presence of strangers.However the wife breaks this promise in the presence of strangers.The husband takes his revenge by saying that their son is dead in the presence of same strangers.
                 It is not really a great" read".It may  perhaps , appear better when performed.It was made into a film with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in lead roles.For me,this book is still a  work in progress.It may need a few more readings.It is a work which can be called   both mad and genius
 I quote this  from the book itself:"We all peel labels , sweetie;and when you get through the skin, all three layers, through the muscle,slosh aside the organs(...) and get down to bone . . . you know what you do then?
(....)when you get down to bone, you haven't got all the way,yet.There's  something inside the bone . . ..the marrow . . .and that's what you gotta get at."

Thursday, 5 November 2015

An Effort I admire

Today(November5,2015;Thursday), I chaired a session on  Draft Policy on Employment and employability  of the Persons with Disabilities in Rai Umanath Bali Auditorium Hall,Kaisar Bagh ,Lucknow.It was organised by   Sparc India, a small NGO run by Amitabh Mehrotra and  his other associates , for the welfare and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
                  When I entered the Jai Shankar Prasad Hall , I found three groups of   young boys and girls , discussing various aspects of proposed policy for enhancing the employability and employment of  persons with disabilities.Then the three groups made  brief presentations, each  on five different aspects of the subject in hand.
                   The whole experience was very touching and inspiring.Amitabh himself has  some disability  related to cerebral palsy.But this dedicated  band of young persons under his leadership  came up with ideas and  suggestions about what the proposed policy should contain .What impressed me most was their honesty of purpose and a strong hope that some of their recommendations will be accepted by  state government of Uttar Pradesh and   government of India.Hovering between my cynicism in the political establishment  and the faith  and hope of this youth , I gave them ,(what I thought,)helpful suggestions.That a good policy must be evidence-based, it should have a connect with reality,it should be politically acceptable,it needs advocacy, lobbying , persuasion  and involvement of all stakeholders.But still ,this experience  brought home to me the power of pure and  innocent  efforts  by   ordinary citizens to give voice and articulation to the  millions of voiceless  persons with disabilities , in Uttar Pradesh and India.I hope ,that state government of Uttar Pradesh and government of India  will soon  make some  good and implementable  policy to increase the  share  of  persons with disabilities in employment from present 1% to 3%(as needed   by the share of their  population)  Well done ,Amitabh.

Friday, 30 October 2015

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

This  362 pages long book  with the title What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly  gives a fresh perspective on the  present and future role of technology in human life.Is technology good for us? Can we or should we minimise technology in our lives?Is  the progress of technology evolutionary and  inevitable?How technology is related to culture?Is life getting better and better through technology?What does technology want from us?
                  Kevin  asks us to select technology for the empowerment of individuals.(Page 5).     Technology creates choice and  enhances our  potential for self realisation.So,on the whole ,technology is good for us.
                                        In chapter 8,"Listen to the Technology" ,Kelly gives an optimistic picture."Digital technologies will roughly double  in performance every two years for the foreseeable future.That means our most culturally  important devices and systems  will get faster,cheaper and better  by 50% every year.The optimism of our age rests on the reliable advance of Moore's promise:That stuff will get significantly ,seriously and desirably  better and cheaper tomorrow"
                           In chapter 11:Lessons of Amish Hackers,Kelly  describes  how Amish people adopt technology after years of carefully observing its effects on  their guinea pig neighbours.
Technology is evolving incredibly fast.We need to understand and deal with the changes.We need strategies to get the best out of technologies, and out of ourselves.That is what technology wants.Technology also wants mindfulness from us.
                 Technology wants what life wants.In chapter 13,Kelly   describes thirteen  trajectories life and technology tend towards.
What technology wants is understanding.Its purpose is to create structures that organic  life cannot. Life is trying  to discover different  possible ways to evolve.  There are possibly minds in the universe that biology cannot  evolve , but technology might be able to create them.We are making minds that biology can not make.The long term trend will be to make as many different kinds of mind as possible through technology.This trend needs to be understood and supported.This is what technology wants from us.
         This book  tells us  exciting possibilities  which technology is headed towards, especially in the area of artificial intelligence and making of minds.Despite its large size,I recommend you to read this fascinating book.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Quest for Personal Mastery . ..From Patanjali to Peter Senge

One of the five disciplines ,which Peter Senge has included in his list of Five Disciplines in his famous book(The Fifth Discipline) is  Personal Mastery.I have not tried to find out the sources of Senge's   ideas.But every time I  come across  his writings, I  am reminded of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali .Both Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and The Fifth Discipline of Peter Senge  have personal mastery as one of the ideas  in common .Personal mastery is personal growth and learning.
       Is it possible for every one or any one to  achieve  personal mastery? Yes, though the  goal is not easy to achieve .It is not correct to expect grand and instant character transformations.Any such expectation will be a mistake and will breed cynicism.The goal of personal mastery is a life long goal.One has to take this goal seriously , if one wishes to achieve it .Peter Senge  describes in his book  strategies to achieve personal mastery , some of which are:
3.Telling the truth.
4.Remaining connected to others (compassion)but simultaneously  retaining  one's own individuality.

Yoga Sutra   describes  five ethical disciplines (yama) for personal  mastery:
5.Non -coveting and non-possessiveness.
Yoga Sutra also gives five Rules of Conduct (niyama):
1.Purity and cleanliness.
4.Study of the Self.
5.Dedication to the Lord.
To  the above list of Patanjali . certain additional  yamas and niyamas have been added  by latter thinkers after Patanjali.
 Additional  ethical disciplines(yama);
7.Fortitude ,non-giving up in adversity.
9.Non-hypocrisy or sincerity.
10.Measured diet(Neither over-eating , nor under-eating)
Additional  Rules of Conduct(niyam);
6.Belief in God.
7.Charity ,sharing with others.
9.Thinking and reflecting to understand.
10.Religious and social ceremonies.
In addition to  the ethical disciplines and Rules of Conduct ,Yoga Sutra also prescribes the  other six  parts of Yoga:
1.Control of breathing.
2.Withdrawl of mind  from senses and external objects.
3.Concentration .
5.Super-consciousness-being one with  the object of meditation.
If we  compare carefully , all the strategies of personal mastery mentioned by Peter Senge are  included in Yoga Sutra.In fact , Yoga Sutra tells us many more  methods to  attain progress in  personal mastery.
We  should  not only pursue in our quest for personal mastery , we should also encourage  others in our neighbourhood and organizations  in their quest for personal mastery.It will help in making our own self,our  society and our organisations   stronger ,more prosperous and peaceful.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Dark and Desperate State of Uttar Pradesh by Ramchandra Guha .. . ...Taking it further

The column by Ramchandra Guha with the title "The Dark and Desperate State of Uttar Pradesh" published in  the Hindustan Times  on  Sunday,October 11,2015  is thought provoking.Anyone  connected in any way ,with Uttar Pradesh , needs to ask himself or herself a few questions.
1.Do you agree that  three decades on ,while Bihar,Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan   have shown some (modest) signs of progress ,UP has become even more sick ,whether reckoned in terms of  economic development ,education , health or social (and especially communal) peace, it is absolutely the worst governed state.?
2.The political class in UP-even by Indian  standards-is excessively prone to corruption?
3.The most important  reason why the state of UP is so depressing  is its large size?UP  should be divided into four smaller states for more focused and fairer governance?
                Having worked in UP as an IAS officer for 35 years and experienced the above problem continuously ,I  can say without any doubt  that I agree with  questions 1 and 2  above.
But I am not sure if the solution lies in dividing the state into four smaller states .While I agree that smaller size is easier  to monitor  , both from the point of view of development as well as law and order. But  smaller size alone will not help.The real remedy lies in rooting out the endemic corruption  in the governance apparatus(political , bureaucratic,police, judiciary) at all levels.The cancer of corruption is so chronic that a major surgery is needed.The  questions are:Who will do it?How will it be done?And when?

Saturday, 26 September 2015

In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee

A short novel of 266  numbered  paragraphs (151 pages), written  by Nobel Prize Winner J.M.Coetzee in 1977 as his second book  leaves its impact  despite its darkness.It is a story based in colonial South Africa  and  is narrated by a lonely , African white spinster Magda . "Yes; but to you  am I only the miss?Have I no name of my own?"
"Miss Magda?"
"Yes;or just plain Magda."
                               Hendrik is the black  farm hand  and a helper  to her widower father, who is a sheep farmer .Hendrik has found a wife Anna  , because man was not made to live alone.Her  father , who hates only  because he dare not love.He decides to keep Anna as his  concubine ." He believes that he and she can choose  their words and make a private language ,with an I and You and here and now of their own.Bur there can be no private language .Their intimate You is my You too."  Magda cannot tolerate  this relationship  and kills her father.With the help of Hendrik , she buries the dead body in  a place nearby the farm .In perseverance lies our strength.
               After the death of her father, Hendrik rapes Magda .After the rape , due to her loneliness and  her  desire  for sex(Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.Anatomy is destiny.Or perhaps ,I never had animal integrity.)and craving for  love(She needs to be needed."In knowing him better I seem to have lost all that I liked best in him"),with a fear that is also an expectancy, Magda begins to have  sex with Hendrik every night   , in the heart of the country . She begins to question the notions of race and slavery"I am not simply one of the whites,I am I! I am I, not a people." Are you waiting for me to become your white slave?
                                                One day , the  farmers from neighbouring farms  visit  Magda's  farmhouse .Hendrik and his wife Anna , run away , fearing that they might be punished for the killing of  Magda's father, being black and poor.The rest is the story of how Magda deals with her loneliness(My purgatory of solitude."I need people to talk to,I need a history and a culture , I need a moral sense and a teleology  before I will be happy , not to mention food or drink")  ,
(page 128).Slaves lose everything in their chains,I recognise,even joy in escaping from them.  .
        She starts keeping a journal ,like a good castaway.To explain is to forgive , to be explained is to be forgiven.Certain things seem to be forever irrecoverable.Perhaps that proves the reality of the past.
"When one truly means what one says, when one speaks not in shouts of panic, but quietly, deliberately , decisively, then one is understood and obeyed."(page 74)."The innocent victim  can only know  evil in the form of suffering.When evil is known as evil,innocence is destroyed"(page 141).I will die before I get to the truth.I want the truth, certainly , but I want finality even more!
                        The novel has a unique and rare blend  of   intensity  of emotion  and precision   of   language .I recommend you to read this short novel  from a master story teller ,J.M. Coetzee.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Unemployment ,the biggest challenge to Indian democracy.

When the  Secretariat Administration Department (SAD) of Government of U.P.  advertised in August ,2015 for the 368 posts of  peons , they got a shock.They were flooded with over 23 lac applications.The shock got  intense when it was revealed that   255  among the  applicants were Ph.D.,25 thousand were postgraduates,1.5 lacs were graduates,7.5 lacs were intermediate pass and 11.21 lacs were  High school pass.The rest 54,000 only  were class 5 pass.This was  the first advertisement  for  peons' jobs in the  state secretariat in ten years.
             This is not the  only instance of glaring unemployment in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Recently , against  1400 posts of  Lekhpals in the state , 27 lakh persons appeared  for the written test.This  is another evidence to prove that the unemployment among the educated youth in Uttar Pradesh  is very acute.
                  The post of a peon in  the U.P. government  carries a pay scale of Rs. 5200 to Rs. 20200 ,with a grade pay of Rs.1800. The Dearness allowance for Government Employees  is 119% with effect from 01/07/2015. This makes the  gross salary of a peon  to be Rs. !5260  per month.The essential qualifications for the job ,as advertised were
:(1)The  candidate  should have passed class 5.
(2) Should know how to read and write in Hindi.
(3)Should be between 18-40 years of age.
(4) Must know how to ride a bicycle.
                            Incidentally , under the Right to Education Act ,2009 , every student  who enters  class one will automatically  pass till class  eight. So, marks secured in school examination in class five have no relevance.The state government had  incidentally  asked the candidates to submit applications online.
While it remains to be seen what  way  the  U.P. government finds to recruit "on merit"  368 peons out of 23 lakh applicants, the situation has raised many questions.:
1.Why is there  such a large scale unemployment in U.P. ?What changes are needed in our policies  of creating employment? Why candidates with Ph.D.  and postgraduate degrees have applied for unskilled jobs , the minimum qualifications for which is class 5 pass?
2.Is our education providing skilled labour force?What changes are needed in out education system?Do we have similar level of unemployment in  labour market of skilled jobs?Is our system generating adequate number of jobs requiring skills?            
3.What is the ideal system of recruitment  for unskilled posts of peons?5.Who is best suited for the post of a peon , a class 5 pass or a Ph.D?7.Was it right to ask for online applications from class 5 pass persons?(  The best way to recruit peons is to re-advertise , and to stipulate clearly that only people with class 5  education will be considered , and any person having qualifications higher than class 5 will not be considered).
           While one may try to explain  this development  away by  saying that the government jobs  hold  special attraction for youth because of  better pay  and better job security in the government at  junior  levels than the private sector , this cannot explain the  unprecedented  rush  for these jobs.It certainly indicates  chronic unemployment  in Uttar Pradesh.Successive governments, both at the centre and in the state , have   not paid any attention to the  problems being faced by the youth , especially in lower middle classes.
    The grinding" factories" of universities, colleges and institutes of technology  keep on churning out  thousands of Ph.D's , postgraduates , engineers and other graduates , without  imparting the  skills needed for employment. Skill Development Missions at state level  have tried to impart training in skills to the youth , but  it has not been able to  meet  the challenge of unemployment.The private sector requiring  persons with skills , is not  getting  such persons  ,because the products of most of universities are un-employable.
     The  problem of ever increasing unemployment  is a great challenge to the state government of U.P..The 66th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation report  projected  that by the end of the 12th Five year Plan(2012-17), the number of unemployed youth in the age group 15-35   in U.P.  will be about 1.32 crores. This youth needs good skills, training, meaningful   and decent job opportunities , before they become  the cause of social unrest and crime.This requires  a public policy and its  implementation  which has a thrust  on finding a solution to  problem of unemployment .Mere rhetoric , road shows, posters ,hoardings  and  promises cannot meet this gigantic  challenge.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

The Denial of Death is a very profound book  (  314 pages) ,   by Ernest Becker,who got Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for this book ,two months after his death.Becker quotes profusely  Otto Rank ,Kierkegaard and Freud to make his points clear.He died at the age of 49.5 years .The book is full of some incredible insights.
                    Becker says that all human beings have death anxiety.The fear of death haunts us like nothing else.To transcend the sense of mortality, all human beings seek to do   heroic acts.Seeking heroic acts is the central fact of human nature, as it   helps us to become a part of some thing eternal.Heroism is a way of defying death by means of achieving lasting value outside of one's transient self. From birth till death , every human being is  living to identify and pursue an immortality project till he dies.Becoming conscious of one's own method  of heroism is the primary self-analytic problems of life,Becker says. People yearn for fame , anticipate it ,hope that through it , they could create their own immortality."Immortality means being loved by  many anonymous people."It means living in the esteem of men yet unborn, for the works  that you have contributed to their life and betterment.
                    Two motives or urges  that seem to be part of creature consciousness and point in opposite directions.One is a powerful desire to identify with the cosmic process ,to merge with the rest of nature.On the other hand , is the desire to be unique, to stand out as something different.The heroic  striving  for a Beyond  gives self-validation , which is needed to live .This transference is due  to fear of death on one hand and  due to heroic attempt to assure self-expansion and connection to surrounding nature.
                                      Romantic love  is also a continuation of the causa-sui project (immortality project),it is also a lie that must fail.True heroic validation of one's life lies beyond sex, beyond the other("Thou"), beyond the private religion, beyond the consolations of others and of things of this world.People "tranquilise themselves with the trivial"- so they can lead normal lives.The essence of normality  is the refusal of  reality.In this sense,some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life.
                   Otto Rank says: "With truth ,one cannot live.To be able to live,one needs illusions,not only outer illusions such as art,religion,philosophy, science and love afford, but inner illusions which first condition the outer(i.e. a secure  sense of one's active powers, and of being able to count on the powers of others).The more a man can take reality as truth, appearance as essence,the sounder , the better adjusted , the happier will he be . . . this constantly effective process of self-deceiving , pretending and blundering , is no psychopathological mechanism.". Life is possible only with illusions..When we talk about the need for illusion, we are not being cynical.On what level of illusion does one live?It depends on how much freedom , dignity , and hope a given illusion provides.These three things turn our minds to  creative living.                    
                        Human character is a vital lie.Man lives by lying to himself about himself and about the world.The failure to build dependable character defences allows the true nature of reality to appear to man. Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth  of one's condition.Anxiety leads to possibility only by destroying the vital lie of character, the vital lie of cultural conditioning.
               Becker quotes   Ferenczi : " The  need to be subject  to someone remains as we grow up;only the part of the father is transferred to teachers , superiors, impressive personalities;the submissive loyalty to rulers that  is so wide-spread is also a transference of this sort". .Freud  provided the best insights ever into the psychology of leadership  in his great work "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego".Men  abandon their egos to the leader's,identified with his power,try to function with him as an ideal.
      Becker finally quotes Tillich " Man  has to have courage to be himself, to stand on his feet, to face up to the eternal contradictions of the real world" .
                  This book has the power to change the way we look at life and the world.You will understand why people want  fame and immortality.I recommend you to read it.It is worthy of  your time.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Appointments at High Places in the Government

Among the many important factors  ,which are responsible for the poor governance in our  country,in our  state of Uttar Pradesh , and in many other states , is the  appointment of people  to very high posts  on grounds other than merit.  The  judgement of  a division  bench of  the high court  Allahabad  on September 7,2015 (Monday) quashing the appointment of three members  of the UP Higher Education Services Commission (UPHESC) ,has  put this  unfortunate reality in  sharp focus. The court  has also directed the state government  to make fresh appointments to the three posts by  adopting a TRANSPARENT PROCEDURE.
                    The  division bench comprising of  chief justice DY Chandrachud  and Justice Yashwant Varma  passed the above order on the  writ petition filed by  Gorakhpur University  Affiliated Colleges Teachers' Association .The court quashed the appointment of three members  Ram Veer Singh Yadav,Dr. Rudal Yadav and Anil Kumar Singh.The court was categorical that the state  government had made these appointments  ,without following the twin norms of transparency and objectivity.The state government had not issued any notification  to public at large  about the vacancies in the Commission .As a result , eligible candidates could not apply.The government made selections out of  whoever sent his bio-data, without following any transparencyThe court said:"Appointment to high government post cannot be allowed to be  a means to breed  nepotism and political patronage in a society which is built on  the principle of Rule of Law  and any such appointment attracts  provisions of Article 14 of  Indian Constitution".The three persons were neither eminent  nor had made any valuable contribution in the field of education .The government claimed about one member   that he was eminent because he had received an award from the  Akhil bhart Varshiya Yadav Mahasabha.
            This is  just one instance of  the non-transparent  manner in which ineligible persons   were appointed to  the posts at high places in the public domain .There are  other important posts at high places , like the chairman and members of  state public service commission, state information commissioners , members of  state  electricity regulatory authority , chairman and members of state pollution control board  and so on .In Uttar Pradesh,  differences  over the appointment of Lokayukta  has led the state  government  to  get the  amendment bill   related to the appointment of Lokayukta  passed by the legislature.The bill is now under the consideration of the Governor of U.P. The list is long .The incumbents of these posts have an extremely important role on the quality of governance.But alas!  very often , the appointment to such important posts  have been  made on the  basis of political patronage  and personal loyalty to the influential political personalities.In turn , such appointees  became   tools  for nepotism , and indulged in corrupt practices.The governance is the  obvious casualty.Such blatant disregard by the  state government to governance ,probity ,integrity and transparency in appointments , raises many doubts about the future of democracy in our country.
                        Let us hope that  there will be more awakening among our citizens so that each such wrong appointment at high places is challenged before the judiciary till  the state  government starts  making  appointments   at high places transparently ,objectively and true to the letter and spirit  of our constitution , without indulging  in  political patronage  and nepotism.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Elementary Education in Uttar Pradesh and the helpless Child

It is a pure coincidence that I write this post on Teachers Day.Those of you  who have not yet read the judgement of Hon'ble High Court   ,Allahabad  ,delivered on 18th August , 2015  ,should read it .For reference , this judgement was delivered by Hon'ble  Justice Sudhir Agarwal    in  ten  writ petitions, with lead case of Writ -A No-57476 of 2013  ,Shiv Kumar Pathak and 11 Others  versus State of U.P. and 3 Others.The  Judgement was reserved on 25.05.2015 and was delivered on 18.08.2015. If you don't have time to read the 35 pages long judgement , you  may read only the last 5 pages , starting from para 79.
PARA 90 :
"Therefore ,the Chief Secretary, U.P. Government  is directed to take appropriate action  in the matter  in consultation with other Officials , responsible in this regard, to ensure that the children /wards of Government servants,semi-Government  servants , local bodies , representatives of people, judiciary and all such persons  who receive any perk, benefit or salary  etc. from state exchequer or public fund , send their child/children/wards who are  in age of receiving  primary education , to Primary  Schools run by Board.He shall also ensure  to make penal provisions for those who violate this condition, for example , if a child is sent to  a Primary  School not maintained by  Board , the amount of fee etc.  paid in such privately managed  Primary School , an equal amount  shall be deposited  in the Government  funds, every month, so long as such education  in other kind of Primary  School is continued.This amount collected can be utilised  for betterment of  schools of Board.Besides such person ,if in service , should also be made to suffer other benefits  like increment,promotional avenues  for certain period, as the case may be.This is only illustrative .The appropriate  provisions can be made  by Government  so as to ensure that  ward(s)/child /children of persons , as detailed above , are compelled necessarily to receive primary education in  the Primary Schools run by the Board."
  On the face of it , it is an unusual order.Moreover, the writ petitions were  about  recruitment  to the posts of  Assistant teachers in basic schools , not only on the basis of  academic qualification , but also giving weightage to the scores obtained by candidates in  Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).While giving judgement  on the issues  prayed for in the writ  petitions , the  Court  thought it fit to  make a few  additional observations and orders:" However, before parting , this Court finds  something necessary to be said with respect to primary education in the State and shabby manner  it is being dealt with  by the Department  and Officers responsible therefor which has resulted in  multiple litigation also."
      The Court observed that in  November 2013,2.70 lacs posts of  Assistant  Teachers  in Primary Schools run by Board were lying vacant .This was    due to huge litigation , which was due to   "unmindful,irregular and casual approach of officials  responsible for managing such recruitment , lack of accountability as well as sincerity.Unmindful and casual legislation  by way of frequent amendment of Rules has worsened the situation .
          The Court has categorised the  Primary Schools in three  categories.These are Elite Schools, Semi-Elite Schools and  Common-men's Schools .It is the third category of schools which are run and managed by the Board(Basic Shiksha Parishad).Numbering about 1.25  lacs,these schools lack infrastructure , drinking water ,toilets ,and even class rooms.At many places , buildings are in dilapidated conditions.Court has observed that  "there is  no real involvement of administration  with these schools.. . . The  public administration  therefore has no  actual indulgence to see functioning and requirements of these schools.These schools have become a mode of earning political mileage instead of  real catering to its need.  'These schools  are victim of  highest level of misappropriation, maladministration and widespread corruption."
                                 " A competition is going on  for political reasons  to make lacs of vacancies  available in  Primary Schools as a source  to create committed voters  by appointing persons,if not illiterate, but not really competent to teach children in Primary School.....A persistent  effort is going on  now to absorb these  persons (Shisha  Mitras, Anganbari Karyakartris) as Teachers in Primary Schools run by the Board.,if necessary , even by frequent amendments  in Rules , without caring  but compromising with standard."
                         "It  is lack of accountability and casual approach on the part of  officials of  Basic Education Department  that mindless , negligent , casual amendments in Rules , defective Government  Orders have been issued from  time to time  creating cause for  multifarious litigations  resulting not only delay in appointment of  Primary Teachers  but also a very heavy pressure  on this Court also."
                        Let us try to summarise:
1.The condition of Primary Schools of Board  is bad(Shabby) due to a large number of vacancies of teachers as well as due to poor infrastructure.
2.An effort is being made "for political reasons " to recruit  non-qualified persons as teachers , by  frequent amendment in Rules.The legislation  in this regard is unmindful and casual.
3..There is   no involvement  and seriousness   of the administration  with these schools.
4.There is a lack of accountability on the part of the officials of the Basic Education Department.They are casual ,mindless  and negligent in  amendment of rules and in issuing defective Government Orders.
        I had the chance to work  as Principal Secretary of Basic Education of U.P.  in 2008 for 90 days  , and I  cannot agree more  with the above summary of the Court's  observations .But the remedy suggested  in para 90 of the judgement quoted above , is   not really a solution to the four very serious points  listed in the above summary. Most of the people , Ministers , Legislators , Bureaucrats  influential in decision - making are well past the  age and stage   when their children  go to Primary Schools.So, the remedy suggested is not likely to be effective.
                      The  real remedy lies in accountable and responsible governance in U.P., strict control on corruption , rising above the political interests in appointments of teachers and other officials and ensuring that appointments are made impartially and strictly on merit.This in turn requires  revamp and cleansing of Recruitment Boards. I know , in Uttar Pradesh , this is just a wish list , but I was encouraged to put across this list , thanks to Hon'ble High Court of Allahabad.I hope ,this Judgement will  generate a healthy debate and meaningful decisions .

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Exam or No Exam ,That is the Question

Section  16 of the Right to Education Act  ,2009 says that no child admitted in school  shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.It  provides for no detention policy for students from class one to eight.This was enforced  in 2010 to ensure holistic development of students.
On  August 19,2015,the newly constituted CABE(Central Advisory Board of Education),the top body advising the government on education  in its meeting  considered the report of its subcommittee (Geeta Bukkal  sub committee) on  detention policy.Reportedly,there was a broad consensus for revoking the no-detention policy.This would mean that the policy  of automatic promotion of students in classes one to eight is likely to come to an end.No detention policy has been found to adversely affect  students' learning.
                      If the central government  and the state governments come to the decision that  no- detention policy is to be scrapped, it will require an amendment of the RTE Act.It makes me wonder  how and why this provision  was included in the first place ,in the fundamental law relating to elementary education .There is something seriously wrong  with our process of formulating policies and laws.This fundamental flaw in our governance system needs to be corrected on priority.And I have a reason to believe that  there  is a need to revisit  most of  the provisions of the Right to Education Act ,2009 .

Thursday, 20 August 2015

I and Thou by Martin Buber

I and Thou was written by Martin Buber  between 1919 and 1922 and was published in 1923 when he  was only 45 years old .He spent next four decades in explaining , arguing and explaining his ideas.
    Human beings possess two types of attitude towards the world which are indicated by the concepts of I - It and I-Thou.These are two  word pairs.There is no singular I.No I isolated from thing , person or God.No autonomous or independent  individual.It is a fundamental challenge to the western conception of self or individual.The I of the basic word I-Thou is different from the I of the basic word I-It.Persons appear by entering into relation with other persons.      The  basic word I-Thou can be spoken only with one's whole being.The concentration and fusion into a whole being  can never be accomplished  by me, can never be accomplished without me.I require a Thou to become;becoming I, I say Thou.All real life is meeting. I and Thou precedes I.I  and It  comes after I.Through the Thou,a man becomes I.Without It , a man cannot live.But he who lives with It alone , is not a  man.

       When two free and rational   human beings encounter each other and treat each other equals , then an I-Thou relation is possible between them .Though  it is difficult to develop such a relationship, it is real and perceivable.Examples of such relations  are :two lovers, two friends , a teacher and a student. No aim,no lust,and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou.(Pages 25).
           The important point is the close connection of the relation to God with the relation to one's fellow man.  Whoever abhors the name and fancies that he is godless,when he addresses with his whole devoted being  the Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other , he addresses God.
                           Spirit is not in the I,but between I and  Thou.Man lives in the spirit,if he is able to respond to his Thou.He is able to do so ,if he enters into relation with his whole being.Only in his virtue of his power to enter into relation is he able to live in the spirit.Spirit does not germinate and grow in man's world without being sown,but arises from this  world's meeting with the other.
                         The Spheres in which the world of relation is built are three.First,our life with nature.Second,our life with men.Third,our life with spiritual beings.He who loves a woman,is able to look in the Thou of her eyes into a beam of eternal Thou.You cannot both truly pray to God and profit  by the world.
               "There is a hierarchy of deceptions.Near the bottom of the ladder is journalism:a steady stream of irresponsible distortions that most people  find refreshing although on the morning after, or at least within a week ,it will be stale and flat.
At the top ,we find fictions that men eagerly believe , regardless of the evidence , because they gratify some wish."
       "There is a divine meaning in the life of the world of man , of human persons of you and me.Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning-we tremble and are faint, we submit.We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him,helpers and companions.Through the Thou, a person becomes I".
                I  must admit that I have to read this book a number of times before I find its full meaning.But I am certain that it is a great book.The person who translated this book from German into English, Ronald Gregor Smith says:" To the reader who finds the meaning obscure at a first reading, we may only say that  I and Thou is indeed  a  poem.Hence it must be read more than once and its total effect allowed to work in mind" I totally agree.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Civil Services Board . . . . an ineffective institution in governance

                    I would not have written this piece  but for a news item  that   there is a proposal to  change the procedure to be followed by the CSB(Civil Services Board) .The CSB was created  on the direction in 2013   by the Supreme Court  to protect civil servants from  premature transfers.
  In Indian Administrative service (cadre) Rules ,1954, a new schedule was added on January 28,2014.This schedule provided for the composition of CSB as follows:
1.Chief Secretary  .. .Chairman
2.Senior most Additional Chief Secretary,or Chairman ,Board of Revenue or Financial Commissioner
or officer of equivalent rank and status . . .Member
3.Principal Secretary , department of Personnel in the state government . . .Member Secretary
Procedure followed by the CSB  is to be as follows:The CSB
 (1)shall consider the report of administrative department along with any  other inputs it may have from other reliable sources.
(11).Obtain the comments or views of the officer proposed to be transferred based on the circumstances presented to it in the justification of the proposal
(111)Not make recommendation of the transfer of the  cadre officers  unless it has been  satisfied itself of the reasons of such premature  transfer.
 The Rules of 2014 provide that  minimum tenure of  civil servants is two years , but a civil servant can be shifted before two years from a post  if the CSB   recommends  the proposal.  
                In the first week of August ,2015, the Central government circulated a proposal  to change the existing  rules of procedure  followed by CSB, that make it mandatory  for the CSB to  get a report from the  department concerned and hear out the officer  before clearing  a premature transfer.The new  proposal  says that in such cases ,the CSB  may"obtain  such information  from the relevant  sources" as it desires.In other words,there is a proposal to delete  first part of  clause (1) and  full clause  (11) above. The Centre's  communication to the states  makes it clear that  the changes were proposed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.The U.P. Government had given the suggestion at a conference of states earlier this year(2015).
                  The constitution of a CSB  headed by  the Chief secretary and having other senior   officers serving under the state government  makes it totally vulnerable to the dictates of the political executive.Such a CSB  " recommends" all premature transfers  which are  decided beforehand  by the Chief Minister ,in case of all India services(IAS,IPS , IFS).I do not know what the supreme court had in mind when they directed the clearance by such a CSB.A pliable , subservient and vulnerable CSB  is completely ineffective in  stopping the premature transfers done  on the grounds of  political expediency or the "dictates of the sovereign".It  forces the chief secretary and his colleagues to take the responsibility for recommending proposals which  they may not find reasonable or feel satisfied about ,but which they are forced to recommend because they want to continue in the senior key posts like chief secretary  and other equivalent posts, for  the reasons of their own .Let us face it .What is the value addition of such a CSB to good  governance? Practically none.I agree that there is a hypocrisy  in  most of the  areas of public  life in India , but when such a hypocrisy has the indirect sanction from the highest offices , the search of the people of India for good governance is just a cry in wilderness.
          The step of trying to change the procedure  to be followed by the CSB is just an indication that we want to drive the last nail in the coffin of the CSB(which is dead ,in any  case.).The fact that this nail has reportedly  come from my own state of  Uttar Pradesh makes me  feel concerned.I also wonder if this was the intention of the supreme court.  What good governance do we expect from civil servants who are not sure how long they will remain in their present post, and which next morning , they will read in the newspapers ( along with million with others) that they have been transferred prematurely to a new post in a new place.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Servant Leadership : A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

I just finished reading  the 25th Anniversary Edition of this book(368 pages) by Robert K.Greenleaf , with a Foreword by Stephen R. Covey and Afterword by Peter M. Senge.Servant Leadership is difficult to be established as a scientific theory.It is reasonable to see it as an emerging leadership philosophy.
                    In fact,the book is  a collection of 12  essays  written by Greenleaf in sixties and early seventies  about  Servant Leadership  .The book was originally published in 1978.The core of servant leadership is  moral authority.The essence of moral authority is  subordinating one's ego to a higher purpose.It also implies that means as well as ends must be good.
                    The idea of the servant as leader came out of reading  Herman Hesse's Journey to the East.The servant  Leo in this book is a servant leader.MacMurphy ,the tough ,gutter-bred patient  in   One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kessy , is another example of servant leader.The best test of servant leader is what needs of other persons are being served by him.Do those served grow as persons?Do they  become healthier,wiser ,freer,more autonomous,more likely themselves to become servants?Do the less privileged in society benefit or at least not be further  deprived?(page 27)
                  Our educational structure devotes very little care to nurturing leaders.Greenleaf says that the goal of education should be to prepare students to serve and be served by the present society.
                           Also ,one needs a lifestyle that keeps one in touch with"the unsearchable and secret aims of nature(page 312).Make a motto on your wall;"Lord,grant that I may seek not so much to be understood as to understand"(Prayer of Saint Francis)
 The last chapter entitled An Inward journey is devoted to explain the  profound meaning of the poem  Directive by Robert Frost."Directive offers a promise to those who do aspire:When we have gone back out of all this now too much for us,when we are lost enough to find ourselves and have pulled in our ladder road behind us ,then we shall have the opportunity to drink of the waters of wholeness"(Page 338).This is a hopeful hypothesis at a time when hope is dim.
                         Servant leaders are those who care for both persons and institutions , and who are determined to make their caring count.
                      Though somewhat repetitive, this book is  full of  a new way of looking at leaders and leadership .I recommend you to read it .

Monday, 3 August 2015

Should schools run as Not for Profit enterprises only?

                                     The Uttar Pradesh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory education  Rules , 2011, Rule 11 requires fulfilment of  the condition(among other conditions) that the school is not run for profit to any individual,group or association of individuals or any other persons. A school has to be  Not for Profit.In other words , profit is a dirty word as far as school  education  is concerned.The Model Rules  circulated by Government of India  under the Right of Children to free and compulsory Education Act ,2009  in Rule 11 carries the same provision .This has been carried as such in the RTE Rules of the states   Uttarakhand,,Orissa,Karnataka,Maharashtra,Kerala ,Delhi ,Punjab,West Bengal and Chattisgarh.The three states Gujrat,Haryana and Himachal Pradesh  have  not included this provision in their State RTE Rules , indicating that in  these states for-profit schools can legally operate.
                      One issue which is likely to  dominate the education debate for some time to come  is whether schools should be run for profit.Should profit making firms be allowed to run failing schools?Introduction of for profit schools has the great potential of bringing new investors into education , thereby increasing the much needed capacity.Permitting profits can promote competition between schools, provides extra incentive to improve results.It can also encourage schools to seek efficiencies,There are philosophical objections to for profit companies to make profit from education , which is publicly funded.Education is regarded as a public good , rather than an industry, to be used to earn profit.Many people think that for-profit schools will channel money from students into private pockets.
                For profit schools are being run int USA,Sweden , the UK and many other countries but with mixed results. In these countries , private schools are generally set up in one of two ways:As for profit entities, or not for profit entities.The for profit version is used  by either a corporation  or a private individual  in order to make a profit  but they will not be eligible for contributions  which are permitted by law to be tax-deductible.Not for profit schools can make money but also receive contributions  which the law permits to be tax-deductible.They are also exempted from federal . state and local taxes  . It is not that they are not allowed to generate surplus or that they cannot hire salaried staff.It is that they  cannot permit their surplus to be distributed as dividends to the owners or promoters .This means that the promoters of schools have to be persons  whose predominant needs are the needs of esteem , respect, recognition and self-actualisation(to quote Maslow's hierarchy of needs.)Both types of schools , for-profit and not for profit , are legally permitted in these countries . It is not possible to say which type of schools gives better  education.It depends how well the school is managed  educationally , financially and strategically.
                    But what is surprising is that  many state  governments in India   ,through  their RTE  Rules  , have made for -profit schools  illegal.This is not  in the interest of attracting new investment in education sector.A review of this policy is needed in the context of  ever expanding but deteriorating school education in  these states of India.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Friday, 31 July 2015

Short term lateral exit for civil service

It is really intriguing to know that despite the falling standards of governance in India, more and more young men and women aspire to become civil servants  by joining IAS and other  civil services.In 2014,9.45  lacs candidates applied for the examination,6.80 lacs downloaded their admit cards for appearing in the test,4.51 lac candidates took the preliminary  examination in 2137 centres in 59 cities of India.(This was 1.27 lacs more than 2013 when 3.24 had appeared in the civil services preliminary examination)(Indian Express, New Delhi , August 24,2014).Only 0.15% got finally selected.This  makes India's Civil services Examination as  the most competitive in the world.
                                           After serving my  full term in  the IAS , I have  the opportunity to work outside the civil service.It has struck me  more than once that the civil servants  need to  be  given incentive to  move out and work for different sectors, outside the civil service , on a short term basis.Why?
           Civil servants at policy making levels  do  not have exposure to the ground realities of all the  sectors of governance.For example,  if a law  or a rule is proposed to be drafted for education, it is helpful if the education secretary and education director have a first hand experience of running a big educational  institution  in private sector for at least  two to three years.Such a lateral exposure  is likely to  give them an insight into the real life difficulties which an entrepreneur  running a private enterprise  may face.Similar is the situation for a secretary or director in the industrial development department .Different regulatory departments of the government frame rules or issue government orders , which are difficult to implement , and discourage entrepreneurs from making investments.Such a lateral tenure in the private sector can  train or prepare such civil servants for  a better understanding of the ground realities  and develop a positive attitude before formulating or proposing a policy related to  a particular sector.This can even renew their spirit  and make them aware of the inherent efficiencies of the private sector.
                          This is however not a panacea for all the ills of governance .The whole idea of lateral exit into the private sector has the risk of shifting loyalties of civil servants to the employer in the private sector , who may use the civil servants  to create policies suiting him, once the civil servants complete the period of lateral exit and return to the government .
                           The security offered to civil servants  by the constitution of India,along withe fact that promotions and postings  are not  linked to  competence and merit, except  in a very limited way.This makes them complacent and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone.That is why it is important to  encourage them to go out on lateral exit  for  a short tenure.If sufficient incentives are not given , this  valuable idea will remain only on paper.
                In 2007,guidelines were issued permitting civil servants to take up assignments for up to seven years with permitted organisations. The organisations included constitutional bodies, statutory bodies,international agencies  such as the United Nations and the World bank,NGOs,societies and autonomous bodies not controlled by the government. Further,  before 2007, an officer who went on deputation with an Indian body was not allowed to draw more than what the government paid him.But the 2007 guidelines say,"While serving in  constitutional , statutory,multilateral,or bilateral organisations,or international financial organisations,the officer shall be eligible to draw pay and allowances as per the scheme of the borrowing organisation"But such  a policy has only resulted in civil servants trying   for posts only in international bodies like the UNO,the World Bank,etc.The civil servants do not get experience of the ground realities faced by the private sector, especially the difficulties being faced by the small or middle level entrepreneurs.There is a need to introduce some qualifying service in such enterprises for promotions at different levels.



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan  won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998.I presumed that it was his best work .But it is not so .Atonement,Saturday and On Chesil Beach  are his three novels , which are far superior to Amsterdam .I really wonder what   made the jury of Booker Prize   to select this book for  the Award.
                         A 108 page novel  reads like a  long story of betrayals.Two friends  Clive and Vernon  poison each other in the end in Amsterdam in the most theatrical way .Garmony , the Foreign Secretary ,  finally loses his post.These three were the ex-lovers of  a woman   named  Molly .
                         I found the book shallow  and a waste of time . .It lowered my esteem for Ian McEwan and also for the jury of  Booker Prize .

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ceremony by Leslie Silko

Tayo , the protagonist  suffers from estrangement and alienation , on his return from captivity to his native land Laguna Pueblo reservation in  America .He was released from the mental ward at the Veterans' Hospital in Los Angeles, having been a prisoner of the Japanese during the World War II.The search  for comfort and resolution of alienation  takes him to the past ,traditions and beliefs  of  Native  Indians in  America.He questions those beliefs and witchcraft and ancient stories and folklore.This search  itself becomes a ceremony which cures him of his despair.
              This is the first book  by Leslie Marmon Silko  , read by me .She took me into her world Laguna Pueblo Reservation , a world full of stories.
                        "  He was tired of fighting .If there was no one left to trust, then he had no more reason to live.(page 122).Nothing was ever lost as long as the love remained(page 220)."
    Ceremonies have always been changing."At one time , the ceremonies  as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then .But after the white people came,elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies.I have made changes in the rituals.The people mistrust this greatly , but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong."(page126).But ceremonies need to be completed .                Was there some way to stop?It all depends how far you are willing to go.(page 230).Without friends , he didn't have a chance of completing the ceremony.(page 241).In an alien place , you doubt the ceremony.Ceremonies and stories are related.All stories fit together.The world as it always was , has no boundaries.(page 246).

."You don't have anything if you don't have the stories".The story behind each word must be told , and this demanded great patience and love.A world  is made of stories.We should feel stories happening to us.Some part of a story we have together, and some part we have alone.
 It takes a long time to tell  people the story.They ask questions about the location and the time of the day,the direction she had come from and the color of her eyes.
                   I enjoyed  reading this beautiful book.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Changing a system while being a part of it

Can a person change the "system" from within, being a part of the "system"? Many idealistic young men and women  attempt to do it.They join  the civil services with a view to change the "system" which includes not only the civil services but also the political system as also the lager society.My answer is that they cannot change the system while being a part of the very system .Why?
                 The reason is that civil servants are required to obey the  service conduct rules.These conduct rules  put several   severe  restrictions on what they can say or do in public  , and what  they cannot.Any violation of conduct rules can be punished , with suspension .These conduct rules and their alleged violations  make the civil servants quite vulnerable , and drastically reduces their capacity to  take up  fights with vested interests.
                      Further , it also raises several ethical issues including the accountability of civil servants to the government of the day.Many decisions of the government may be morally indefensible but may not be illegal.Such decisions have to be implemented by the civil servants.Under the existing scheme of things , the government is accountable to the legislature, and not the civil servants per se.
                   The moral is that if someone wants to change the  "system",he or she  needs to do it by coming out of the government .And then   he or she may  try to change the mindset of the public which  accepts and creates this 'system'.Otherwise , such attempts at change  are likely to fail.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Joy of Books :Confessions of a Llifelong Reader by Eric Burns

Any book ,which inspires me to read  more  books, is a book worth reading .The Joy of Books :Confessions of a Lifelong Reader by Eric Burns is one such book.Eric Burns  is a former TV journalist  with NBC  News.This book was published in 1995  when there were no e-books and no Kindle.But still , it makes a strong plea for printed , literary books.
               The Joy of Books is about history of books as well as a history of reading .It makes a case in favour of  printed books  over TV or Movies.It gives an insight that books" raise possibilities",It also narrates many instances of book burning and censorship,and the psychology of people behind such attitudes.
            The author points out  the relationship between a writer and reader as also between a reader and another reader.We read books for the pure joy of reading .The author also compares how our experience is different when we  read a book for the second or third time.It is a short book of 182 pages , and is worthy of your time .

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Guide by R K Narayan

The Guide is a 1958 classic by  Indian author( late) Padma Vibhushan  R K Narayan. I read this 247 pages long novel recently  , after a gap of nearly 20 years ,after the first reading .The Bollywood  movie Guide continues to be my favourite  movie.
                   Like all of us , it is about search for identity  by Raju.What is the true identity of Raju?He finds it near the end of his life .It is the identity of a spiritual adviser.How does he find it? By  self-abnegation, by  doing  something sincerely for others, Raju finds spiritual peace, and arrives at his true identity.He starts as a tourist guide , then becomes a guide to Rosie , the dancer, then  a forgerer , then a model prisoner  and finally a spiritual adviser , who sacrifices for others.In fact , having got spiritual peace on the eleventh day of fasting , he dies on the twelfth day.
                  The real issue between Rosie and her husband Marco was  about dancing.Rosie had a natural flair and passion for dance but Marco was completely against her dancing .She wanted to be a faithful wife but dance was her identity.Ultimately  she left both."Neither Marco nor I had any place in her life,which had its own sustaining vitality and which she herself had underestimated all along."(Page223).Once she  realised her true identity , she set about to live  accordingly , brooking no relationship or obstacle in the way.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Are there any signs of evidence -based policy formulation in the states of India ? A Case of Uttar Pradesh

The article " Case for Evidence- based  policy formulation(June ,2015) "by Prof Geeta Gandhi Kingdon , in Education World magazine, set me thinking about   the  actual system  of policy making prevailing  in a state  like Uttar Pradesh in India.There is no doubt that  there is a case for  evidence-based policy formulation , both in the state governments  as well as in the  government of India.         As Prof Kingdon says :"In good education  systems defined by real learning outcomes,education policy is not made on hunches, ideology or political expediency,but on the basis of evidence of what works"
                        I worked in Uttar Pradesh as an IAS officer for 35 years,  spent about  14 years in different field postings and about 21 years in the  State Secretariat . In the Secretariat , I spent about 11 years in various departments  as Secretary to the State Government and about  10 years as Principal Secretary to the State government .I also served as Staff Officer and Special Secretary  to  three Chief secretaries of U.P. , for a total period of 3 years,where  I had the benefit of  having access to all the proposals of all the departments which were  put up before the State Cabinet from time to time .This , I believe, makes me eligible to write about this important subject , with a view to give it  a real- life  perspective.I do not intend to criticise any government in particular  , but to explain and shed light on the  system as it prevails.
                   Do the state governments make policies , based on the evidence?My answer is a big No.Do the  civil servants have the adequate training , competence and expertise  to look for the right kind of evidence  and to sift and analyse that evidence , so as to  put forward  the right kind of policy options? Do they have the capability to separate good evidence from the bad? My answer is again "Not really" , though some civil servants are exception to this  general observation.
               If our policies are not based on evidence , then  how are these  formulated and decided?  It is a bit tricky question , and I have no  evidence(except my experience)to answer it .But still , I can say that most policies are made on the impressions , ideology,political expediency or prompted by some interest groups. For example , if the government thinks that it is politically expedient to  make all para teachers into  regular teachers, it will take this decision in the cabinet .The role of the Secretary in the Education  Department will be merely  to draft a cabinet note(proposal) which "justifies" this policy  , rather than looking for evidence and data  whether  para teachers deliver better quality of teaching than the regular teachers.And whether the decision to make them into regular teachers  will impact the quality of education adversely .What does the published research say on this kind of issues  ? Are there similar instances  in other states or countries where different decisions were taken , with success and positive outcomes?
                  In the state governments in India ,there is  no scope for any civil servant (Education Secretary , Chief Secretary , Planning Secretary , Finance Secretary , Law Secretary) to offer a different opinion .There are many reasons for this.:
1.Political decision makers(Normally , the Chief Minister and other political leaders)  take a decision  beforehand on political grounds.No civil servant is given any space to differ.
2.Once the political decision has been taken , there is a pressure on the concerned civil servants  to issue the government order  containing the policy at the earliest.It could be yesterday(expostfacto approval of the Cabinet is taken) , today or tomorrow.In such a situation , there is hardly any time for any Head of the Department or the Secretary of the Department to look for the "evidence" to put across the alternative options .The expectation  and pressure is to  prepare a  note for the Cabinet , recommending the option already decided politically .
3.The mandatory inter departmental consultation  requires the opinion of the Law , Finance  , Personnel  and Planning Departments.Law department looks at the legality of the proposal .There is nothing illegal in making para teachers into regular teachers .So , the law department agrees.Finance Department may object (If Finance Secretary has the guts to say so), but he or she can be" persuaded "by the Chief Secretary or the Minister   , and I have seen that finally , the finance secretary gets persuaded, for he cannot go against the wishes of the political establishment .In any case , his opinion  can be over-ruled .Personnel polices are generally pro employees.So , the Personnel Department also   agrees.Planning Department hardly  differs .So normally  the planning department agrees.
4.The culture of making policies and decisions based on evidence , and not on whims and fancies of political establishment , simply does not exist in a state like Uttar Pradesh .This also suits all the powerful stakeholders  who have any say in the decision making .The interest of the common citizens  or public interest , generally  gets ignored in the process.
5.The civil servants  do not have the motivation  to  acquire needed skills or competence to search  for the evidence and to analyse the evidence, to distinguish good evidence from the bad,to appreciate the difference between co-relation and causation. .They  remain in their comfort zone of having  "contributed" to the policy without evidence , as per the process laid down in the Rules of Business.
      The above is the general pattern of policy making in a state like Uttar Pradesh, irrespective of the party in power.In many cases , powerful industrialists  "convince" the political leadership of the need for a policy decision, to enhance their business or financial interests, and we have chrony capitalism in its most obvious form.
               What is the way out?I  know that in other countries also, policy making is   controlled by the political leadership , but to some extent , it is evidence based.Perhaps , this is because there is a healthy culture,a  lively debate in the legislature, the civil society is vigilant and media is  impartial  and  alert.Perhaps , there is more space for the civil servants to advise.Perhaps , the civil servants there are better trained and equipped to source , locate and analyse the evidence.Perhaps , the political leadership is more receptive to ask for evidence.
 I hope,  a day will come when  our political leaders rise above their need to remain in power for ever, our civil servants will have the motivation  , courage, skills and competence to formulate  , present , get approved and implement  Evidence based policies in public interest.Into that heaven of freedom  , let my country awake
(I wait without hope)   .