The Sharing Parivar

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by anoop_mig25, Feb 6, 2011.

  1. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 17, 2009
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    The Sharing Parivar :balle:
    Vandita Mishra Posted: Sun Feb 06 2011

    From a scheme in which the government reaches out to grieving family members with monetary help for the last rites of the dead, to a programme that tracks down the village the nurse failed to reach during the last immunisation programme, to the harnessing of technology to offer online counselling to students—one state is learning from another. Such inter-state learning often goes unnoticed and unacknowledged because each state claims all successful schemes as entirely its own.
    Schemes and programmes borrowed or copied from another state are invariably rechristened. But even though it may be reluctant to speak its own name, the process of give-and-take between states is hearteningly ongoing.

    It continues despite the unfortunate lack of adequate institutional forums provided by the Centre in a federal polity for states to exchange ideas and best practices. The internet has provided it with a new informal platform. Today, for instance, the alert bureaucrat in State A downloads the governor’s address and finance minister’s speech from the regularly updated website of State B, and scans the former for its outline of achievements and programmes of the past year and the latter for plans and schemes marked out for the year ahead.

    The decline of identity politics, the rise of a politics of aspiration, and the increasing link being drawn between development and the vote, especially in states of north India (this happened much earlier in the country’s south), has given this cross-pollination of ideas, schemes and programmes between states a strong political push.

    Consider these examples

    One of Bihar’s most ambitious administrative reforms of the future can be traced back to Madhya Pradesh. When it was drawing up its draft Right to Services Bill, which provides for the time-bound delivery of essential public services and penalties for designated authorities if the stipulated deadline is not met, Bihar’s General Administration Department (GAD) looked closely at the Madhya Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2010. “Madhya Pradesh had made a presentation at a meeting called by the administrative reforms department at the Centre,” recalls Deepak Kumar, principal secretary, GAD. “We got the idea from there,” he admits. According to Kumar, now Rajasthan has asked Bihar for its draft Right to Services Bill.

    According to a top-ranking official in the Bhopal secretariat who spoke to The Sunday Express on condition of anonymity, Madhya Pradesh looked up the Bihar Special Courts Act that came into operation last year, to design its own anti-corruption law. Approved by the Cabinet and to be taken up in the next Vidhan Sabha session, the MP law will similarly enable the state to impound the properties of corrupt officials and ensure their trial by special courts.

    A team of bureaucrats from Bihar went to Chhattisgarh in 2010 to study first-hand the state’s procurement model and to pick up ideas for reform of the public distribution system. The involvement of primary agricultural cooperatives in paddy procurement and the use of information technology for monitoring both procurement and distribution has been deemed a success in Chhattisgarh. “A team from my department went to Chhattisgarh in July and I followed in late October-early November,” says Tripurari Sharan, principal secretary, Food and Consumer Protection department in Bihar. A plan is being drawn up in Patna’s secretariat, incorporating elements from the Chhattisgarh model, and will be presented to Cabinet soon.

    Madhya Pradesh borrowed the idea for ‘Samadhan Online’, its online grievance redressal system in operation since February 2006, from an experiment in Gujarat, where it goes by the name of ‘Swagat Online’. “We modified the scheme to suit our needs,” says Anurag Jain, secretary IT, Madhya Pradesh. On the first Tuesday of every month, the MP chief minister participates in a video conference with district officials, department secretaries and complainants selected earlier. In Gandhinagar, the CM logs in on the fourth Thursday of every month. Grievances are taken up in the programme in both states and disciplinary action could be announced, live, against the erring official.

    Secretary, Roads, Jharkhand has been in touch with him, says Pratyaya Amrit, Secretary, Roads, in Bihar. “He has expressed interest in the mobile inspector software that has been in use in Bihar since 2008 to monitor the construction of bridges,” he says.

    Currently, Chhattisgarh is taking a close look at urban development schemes in Gujarat, says principal secretary to the Chhattisgarh chief minister, Baijendra Kumar, “especially the planning of small townships around big cities”.

    Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, gave the political push for the implementation in his state of a version of the scheme that had caught his attention in Karnataka. Under the Kabir Antyeshti Yojana in Bihar, Rs 1,500 is given as monetary help to conduct the last rites in a bereaved BPL household. “We named it after Kabir to underline that it is for the needy, regardless of their religion,” says Modi. The food coupon yojana in Bihar was earlier successfully implemented in Rajasthan, he points out, by then chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia to cut down on corruption by PDS dealers.The erstwhile Vasundhara government also sent a team to study the working of ‘Parakh’ in Madhya Pradesh, a feedback programme on the main government schemes in its 52,000 villages. It was Congress’s Digvijay Singh who began the programme, but Shivraj Singh Chauhan revived it on a larger scale. Data gathered under Parakh is made available online—the number of handpumps in the village, for instance, or the PDS shop at which the ration did not arrive on time.

    Congress-ruled Rajasthan sent a team to Bhopal a few days ago to study ‘MPOnline’, says Anurag Jain, secretary IT, MP. MPOnline, a joint venture company set up in 2006, runs a portal that provides services to citizens like enrollment and examination forms, online counselling, birth certificates, etc. “As many as 130 services are now being provided by MPOnline,” says Jain. Rajasthan’s version of the programme is scheduled to come up soon.


    As states shop around for good ideas and schemes that they can replicate, there appears to be no political colour to the exchange and political lines are routinely crossed.

    BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh has been examining the Indiramma housing programme for weaker sections of Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh as well as the Kudumbasree programme launched in Kerala in 1998 that aims at poverty reduction by mobilising women to form self-help groups and encouraging their entrepreneurial activities. As it plans its new capital city of Naya Raipur, says Baijendra Kumar, principal secretary to the Chhattisgarh chief minister and spokesperson of the government, “We are looking at the layout of not just Gandhinagar but also capital cities like Chandigarh, apart from world cities.”

    A team went from Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh, says a top official in Gandhinagar, to study self-help groups and microfinance schemes over a year ago. Though he does not recall any team or delegation from Left-ruled states coming to Gujarat in his tenure, he insists “other states, regardless of the ruling party, are showing increasing interest in development, no distinction is made on the basis of the ruling party.”

    Yet clearly, of the two main national parties, the BJP appears to be more organisationally attentive to such an exchange—and to its political projection as well. The give-and-take of ideas happen in states where, singly or in coalition, the BJP is in power. This may not be entirely incidental.

    The Congress remains preoccupied with its own centre, or more specifically, its high command. It is markedly less responsive to the national phenomenon of the shift of political power to the states. Especially since the 2009 Lok Sabha win, the party is beset with complacency and inertia, lacking a story to tell of itself, at the Centre or in the states.

    Consider these:
    Since 2006, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states get a separate time slot in the BJP national executive, generally held once in three months, to air their overriding concerns. It is used by states to complain about the “step-motherly treatment” by the Congress-ruled Centre: “Slots are given to chief ministers of BJP-ruled states because of the open and blatant discrimination against them by the Centre,” says BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

    But these meetings can become opportunities to swap stories, especially success stories. In the last BJP national executive at Guwahati, for instance, Chhattisgarh showcased its use of IT in paddy procurement and its successful schemes in the power sector (the state prides itself on being the zero-power-cut state).

    Among Nitin Gadkari’s first organisational initiatives after he took over as party president was the establishment of the Good Governance Cell in April-May 2010, with former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar as convenor.

    A National Convention on Good Governance (Suraj Sankalp Sammelan) was organised at the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini in Mumbai in June 2010. All BJP chief ministers and 55 ministers holding key portfolios participated. Presentations were made on schemes and programmes of BJP governments that were deemed successful and replicable. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, to take one example, showcased his state’s social sector schemes like ‘Laadli Lakshmi’ for the girl child and ‘Kanyadaan’ in which the state conducts mass marriages.

    In the last year, BJP state finance ministers met in Delhi in January, BJP tribal welfare ministers in February, BJP education ministers in September and BJP agriculture and food civil supplies ministers in October at Raipur. The party’s river connectivity and water management ministers are scheduled to meet next month in Delhi.

    The Congress party has no comparable forum for states to come together, talk, exchange ideas. Interaction between states ruled by the Congress has been strictly episodic and dictated by political contingency. No formal space is allotted for state concerns or ideas in AICC or CWC meetings.

    The Congress chief ministers’ conclave, held seven times in all, is an irregular and receding platform. The last time Congress chief ministers met was in Nainital in September 2006. The first conclave of Congress chief ministers after the UPA assumed power at the Centre was held in Chandigarh in 2005.

    While the NDA was in power, Congress CMs met more frequently: they met in Srinagar in 2003, in Mount Abu and Guwahati in 2002, and in New Delhi in 2000 and 2001.

    For the record, at the recent Congress plenary in Burari in December 2010, Congress president Sonia Gandhi flagged this concern: “We must be more than a giant election machine,” she said. “In the coming months, we will hold a similar conclave (to the Pachmarhi Vichar Manthan Shivir and the Shimla Chintan Shivir)...” she promised. And, “I do think it is now necessary to create a professional party think-tank to be run on institutional lines”.

    For Congress-ruled states, she announced plans to facilitate greater dialogue between government and party. In her concluding remarks, she said: “...It is important every PCC appoint a monitoring committee to get systematic feedback on their (flagship programmes’) implementation... The PCC Monitoring Committee should submit an assessment report every quarter to the AICC. In addition, every PCC must ensure at least one session of all delegates is held once a year. In states where we are in power, the AICC will set up coordination committees to ensure regular and close interaction between the government and party organisation.”

    But if the Congress president was as concerned about the absence of institutionalised interaction between states as she was about that between government and party within the states, she didn’t say it.


    Off the record, however, Congress leaders admit that in an age when the state has become the primary locale for the exercise of power, and the national election has become an aggregate of state-level verdicts, the institutionalisation of brainstorming for states is only another example of the BJP’s greater political agility and of the inertia of the grand old party.

    Give and take

    While most of the exchange of ideas happens between BJP-ruled states or states where the BJP is part of the ruling coalition, there have been a few instances of such practices straddling political boundaries.


    When NDA-ruled Bihar was drawing up its draft Right to Services Bill, which provides for the time-bound delivery of essential public services, it looked at the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh’s Public Services Guarantee Act 2010. Now, Congress-ruled Rajasthan has asked Bihar for its draft Right to Services Bill.

    Congress-ruled Rajasthan sent a team to BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh a few days ago to study MPOnline, a portal that provides services to citizens.

    BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh has been examining Cong-ruled Andhra’s Indiramma housing programme for weaker sections and studying the Kudumbasree programme in Left-ruled Kerala.

    A team went from Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh to study self-help groups and microfinance schemes over a year ago.

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