The Need for Civil Society in Good Governance

Shobhit Mathur

As conscious citizens, we cannot hope for good governance without civil society’s engagement. A well-functioning democracy needs everyone’s participation and investment.

The socio-economic problems plaguing our nation are huge and need immediate attention. We rank at the bottom of the list on several human development indicators. Numerous NGOs have spawned to champion uncountable causes. It is reported that India has 31 lakh NGOs registered, i.e. one for every 400 people in the country.

This is twice the number of schools in the country and 250 times the number of government hospitals. However, NGOs in India have paid little attention to the larger issue of gaps in policy making and governance shortfalls.

Many problems we face today are a consequence of systemic problems and fixing them should be a topmost priority. In this article, we make a case for why more NGOs in India need to work with the government and why such NGOs need to be patiently supported by the citizens and philanthropy organisations.

Let’s take the issue of women’s empowerment in the country which has lately gained prominence. Several private and charitable organisations are working to address this at various levels. The issues being tackled range from declining sex-ratio, limited access to education, high school dropouts, early marriages, lack of access to healthcare, etc. Millions of rupees as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds are channelled to fund the above initiatives and thousands of volunteers are devoting millions of manhours towards it.

An entire private parallel NGO and funding structure has been created to address the problem and this involves a tremendous investment of resources. However, the role of the state is central to solving large scale complex problems in a sustainable way. Investing any amount of resources without taking policy and governance issues into consideration would not result in any sustainable solution.

Let us take an example of a policy intervention to address this issue. The government of Madhya Pradesh launched the Ladli Laxmi Yojana ( in 2007. Six other states have now replicated this scheme with some modifications. This scheme was launched in MP to address the declining sex ratio in the state, improve access to education and health for the girl child and reduce child marriages. Under the scheme the government purchases a National Savings Certificate worth Rs 6,000 on behalf of the girl child for five consecutive years – i.e. Rs 30,000 in total. Different amounts can be drawn when the girl reaches the sixth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth standards. If a registered girl reaches the age of 21 and was not married before the age of 18, the girl receives Rs 1 lakh.

Till 2013, 15 lakh ladlis benefitted from the scheme. In a study conducted by the Directorate for Women Empowerment in MP, it was found that 97 percent of the Ladlis of 2007 are enrolled in schools now. There was a marked difference in behaviour of families towards the girl child; increased instances of family planning, immunisation, enrolment in schools and reduced preference to child marriages.


A total of Rs 2,326 crore had been spent on the scheme in the first six years of implementation. The government has the machinery and resources to execute such multi-dimensional long-term projects. It needs fresh ideas, good people and technology most of the time.

Scale and sustainability of change can only be achieved with government involvement. However, it is a common experience that working with the government is challenging and frustrating. That is the reason civil society and businesses have avoided involving government in its developmental projects. But isolating the government will never result in long term sustained change.

NGOs in India have tried to substitute for the state and have been unable to scale or sustain their impact. Very often good hard work is done to undo the impact of the policy gaps of the government. Instead of working against each other, government, businesses and civil society need to collaborate to bring lasting change.

There is a need for more NGOs to work in building capacity in the government, to help it function more effectively and efficiently. There is a need to support organisations working in this space – i.e. policy research, policy advocacy and efficient policy implementation or good governance. Good governance creates the favourable environment for overall economic development and prosperity. Internationally, a few organisations have taken high impact steps in this regard and are engaging with the government in a positive way.

Let’s take the example of Liberia. In 2005 when Liberia came out of 14 years of civil war all its institutions were destroyed. The country had a budget of $149 million while it had debts of $3 billion. To address this, the Scott Family Fellows Program was founded with a generous $1,000,000 grant from the family of Ed Scott Jr.

Ed Scott JrEd Scott Jr
The fellowship programme recruited young professionals to support the government of Liberia, as ‘special assistants’ to senior Liberian government officials, primarily cabinet ministers. The programme placed a special emphasis on encouraging qualified Liberians to apply. The fellows worked with the goal of helping Liberia in its urgent reconstruction and development efforts.

In the Indian context as well, without investing in the human capital who would be future leaders, we cannot hope for governance to change. There are a few organisations which are making an effort in this direction, but given the huge need for fresh talent more such efforts are needed. We need fellowships which support such young talent in the public policy and governance space.

These efforts need to be recognised and supported through patient philanthropic support. They have undertaken a challenging path, but the results will be seen in the long run in a sustainable way. As conscious citizens, we cannot hope for good governance without our engagement. A well-functioning democracy needs our participation and investment. As the governments today are increasingly open to engagement and the citizens restless for change, it makes such efforts more relevant than ever before.


Originally written by Shobhit Mathur for Swarajya.

A new attitude towards ‘government’

Shashank Rai

We were all in Vadodara at Hotel Planet. We gathered in front of the gate after light breakfast at 7:30 am. In 10 minutes, we were told that the bus has arrived. And it began, 15 of us ready to embark on a journey which was supposed to change our outlook towards governance and government (trust me, they are distinct, until a week back, I also thought them to be same). Little did we know what lay ahead, but we were brimming over with enthusiasm, completely oblivious of the fact whether we would be able to sustain the enthusiasm for the next few days, since one thing was certain that the next few days were going to be different from our conventional lives.

Lets go some time back in history….

It was 16th November when I heard from Shubham about Good Governance Yatra. He told me that it aimed at training young minds about various models of government and intricacies involved in policy making. He advised me to register in case it excited me. I believe that such knowledge is important for someone who sees his future as a policy-maker. Looking at current breed of politicians, let me re-emphasize: it is important, but neither necessary nor sufficient. It was 1 am in the night, without further ado, I started the application process and it was 3 am, when I finally clicked on the Submit button. 3 days later, I heard back from Shubham saying that I was selected.

Now fast-forwarding to the eve of the D-day:
12th December, 2014 :

I arrived at Vadodara in the evening after a long and tiresome train journey from Hyderabad. All the yatris were asked to assemble at Hotel Planet, quite close to the railway station. I met with the fellow yatris who had already arrived, I could sense the thin wall of formality which would soon be broken, rather shattered (broken is too weak a word to describe this). Our dinner was hosted by Jigar bhai, in charge of the Gujarat leg of the yatra, where we were briefed about GGY and Vision India Foundation (the NGO organizing the yatra). It was an all-in-all Gujarati meal & then I realized why Narendra Bhai (our honorable PM) asks for Gujarati food wherever he goes. We were given the reading material and asked to be mentally prepared for a hectic and packed 8 days.

Gujarat being on the western part of India & it being winter season, the sun was a bit lazy but we weren’t. We did beat the sun, and the sun woke up to find us ready to start the journey.

Our first project was a visit to Sardar Sarovar Dam followed by a visit to one of the Rehabilitation villages. After a 2 hour ride, the bus stopped in front of a spacious white-coloured building in a sparsely populated area. We could see hills on our both sides, we later came to know that they were the Vindhyas and the Satpura Range, between which flows the NARMADA. The interiors of the place were decorated with various pictures of the Narmada, the dam itself in different phases of its construction, and the adjoining power station. And there stood Sardar, the Iron Man of India beaming with pride at whoever enters the premises, as if he wanted to tell us – Fulfillment of my vision lies at your shoulders, don’t give up. After a brief visit around the hall, we were taken to board room where a senior engineer, in his 60’s, was waiting for us to show us a presentation. The presentation chiefly dwelt on a brief history of the dam, various obstructions in its path, the adverse and useful impacts of the dam. It also talked about the engineering marvel of the dam, and the details like usage of radial gates instead of vertical, which I’ll omit here.

After the theoretical understanding, it was time for some practical observations. So, we left for the dam site. On the way we stopped for some time at the site of the Statue of Unity, where the construction was in full swing. We were told how it was going to boost the tourism industry in Gujarat and come up as a chief center for water recreation. Finally we reached the dam site. We could see a massive wall between Vindhyas on one side and Satpura on the other. Standing on top of the wall, when we looked upstream, there was water everywhere till the sky met the water surface and became one with it. In all the amazement, we were reminded of how many villages might have been submerged under that mighty reservoir. From the reservoir, ran a canal (called the Narmada canal) which carried water to various parts of Gujarat and also 70 km into Rajasthan through its network.There were also 2 power stations, one with capacity 1200 MW, and the other with capacity 250 MW. The 1200 MW power station has reversible turbines, it would produce electricity when water is released downstream, but it can also serve to pump water upstream in case there is excess water downstream. The main intention of Gujarat behind the dam is to provide drinking water and irrigation facilities to otherwise drought-prone region. Gujarat is a power surplus state, hence a major share of the power generated goes to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

After an eventful first half, we came back to the same old building for lunch. There we had some government officials waiting for us who supervised the resettlement and rehabilitation process. Post lunch, we were shown a presentation which focused on how Government of Gujarat has followed a liberal rehabilitation policy through which the benefits have reached the last person displaced.Now it was time for verification…

We went to the largest and oldest rehabilitation village, named Suka. When we got down from the bus, the children gathered around us like in any other village. Let alone children, even the adults hardly remembered that they had moved from somewhere else. It was only when we interacted with the old people that we could do a comparative analysis.

Each family was given 5000 sq feet of land for residential purposes irrespective of the size of their plot in their native place. Additionally,  they were also given 45000 cash to construct their house. In fact the rehabilitation policy of GoG was so liberal that the adult brothers who earlier stayed together were given 5K sq feet land each. With regard to agricultural land, each family was a either 2 acre or equal to the land he previously owned in submerged village, whichever is greater. Each of the houses had electricity connection & the roads were well laid out. We were told that the municipality pays the bills of the streetlights (an allowance for the rehabilitation village, unavailable to other villages). The fields were well irrigated from the water from the Narmada canal, they did not have this facility in their native village. Overall the people were happy, their living standards had gone up, evident from DTH antenna on the top of almost all the houses. in fact we were given chilled water to drink when we asked for it, suggesting that the family even had refrigerator. The villagers told us that a doctor visited the village twice a week, and they can call ambulance in case of delivery or other serious conditions. Certainly, Suka is not a model village, it had its own share of problems like lack of proper schools, teachers, sanitation facilities, but it’s a shame that these problems are common to all the villages in India. Additionally, the government has provided them with so many freebies that they don’t take any initiative on their own, they want the government to do everything. the bureaucrats accompanying us told that the plan was to merge Suka with the host village, but we believe that it won’t be easy since this will mean an end to their special status. Another contentious point that we found out was that the government is still paying 45K to new families being resettled, but in the present time, constructing a house in 45K is close to impossible.

I wondered at the kind of pessimism we carry with ourselves. Each one of us was skeptical after the presentation since our prior experience with government and bureaucrats has knowingly or unknowingly taught us not to trust them. It was a Sunday. The engineers and the bureaucrats still came and answered all our questions. The passion with which they spoke bears testimony to the amount of work they have done. If they had not done a good job or were ashamed of their work, they would not be standing in front us with their heads held high, and quenching all our doubts.They laid a lot of emphasis on the political will for the success of this project. In fact if it were not for the persistence of GoG, the Sardar Sarovar Dam would never have seen the light of the day. In fact the engineer was quick to point out that the proposal to increase the height of the dam was pending since 2006, but

They laid a lot of emphasis on the political will for the success of this project. In fact if it were not for the persistence of GoG, the Sardar Sarovar Dam would never have seen the light of the day. In fact the engineer was quick to point out that the proposal to increase the height of the dam was pending since 2006, but as soon as Narendra Bhai occupied 7 RCR, it was cleared & the work has started with so much vigour that they are 6 months ahead of schedule.

On the 4th day of the Yatra, we visited Punsari village, the first digital village of India. We were received by Himanshu Patel, who is the present Sarpanch of the village and the man behind the transformation of the village. It is here that I realized what a Sarpanch can do for his village. I come from a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh where Sarpanches come and go, but the village remains as it is. Himanshu ji has transformed the face of the village. The biggest takeaway from this visit was that if your intentions are good and you are well informed of government schemes, you can do a lot. We all know how popular is dairy-cooperative in Gujarat. Like any other village, the women in Pansari had to travel miles carrying milk. Himanshu ji thought that a bus run by Gram Panchayat for carrying women to and fro milk-collection centres will solve their plight. But it would have been a great strain on the funds of the Panchayat, hence he got the funds through some NGO for women, and now the bus is running. Similarly he has come with CCTV cameras at regular intervals, which has not only reduced the crime rates, but has also made the government officials including police more regular, as it is now very easy to monitor them. The entire village has WIFI access, and he doesn’t forget to charge Rs 50 for this facility. One practice that runs through all his facilities is that he doesn’t give any of those for free. He charges a token amount, which is essential, otherwise people end up losing its value.

It’s not that there was no resistance, every system has inertia & Punsari was no exception, but with strong will and trust in his actions, which comes only when you are on the right path, Newton obliged and the state changed. People of Pansari have moved from a state of resistance to a state of acceptance, so much so that the youngsters are coming up with ideas for apps to make life simpler. From my personal experience, I had lost faith in government schools but in Punsari, the intake in government schools has increased manifold and dropout is almost zero. Himanshu ji has installed CCTV cameras in classrooms, with screens located at several centres in the village. What this basically means is that a guardian can keep a check on the activities of his child, and the teachers are also at their toes since they know that they are under surveillance. He is planning to tag each house so that you canlocate each house on GPS. To increase the participation of people, he is planning to install machines in various parts of the village where you can vote Yes/No. He plans to use it to gauge public opinion before taking any decision. To support the various initiatives he has taken, he has made sure that the Gram Panchayat comes with other sources of revenue. He gives the Panchayat land on rent for pastures, grazing land. He also charges tax from shops or other businesses located in the Panchayat’s land.

We visited around 15 projects. If I start writing about all of them, I can go on and on, but due to the constraints of time and space, I just wrote about two of them.
Finally, the prized question,
What did I gain out of it ?
If you expect my answer to be something tangible or quantifiable, I am sorry to disappoint you. It has transformed me as a person.
Can’t that change come through other means?
May be, may not be. I attended the Yatra, and I can comment on what happened as a result, but when you ask what would have happened if I hadn’t attended it and done something else, it’s a completely different space with too many conditional statements and too many unknowns.

Final Words

Deep inside me, there lies a person who wants to be part of change that he wants to see. But all I had done till now was criticize the policies from a 3rd person perspective without having a complete picture. I had become so cynical that I started believing that whatever little progress that the country has made or is making is not due to the government, but despite the government.

It is this attitude which GGY has sought to change. It made me realize the intricacies of policy making, and showed me how the policies that I had so far criticized had the pros, which media had intentionally or unintentionally ignored. As I have mentioned earlier that political will plays a very important role. I would like to quote a line from one of our projects: Targeted approach, pressure from the top, and demand from the bottom are responsible for its success. It reminded me of a statement I heard long back: Politics is a dirty game, but rather than sitting back and cribbing, get up, enter politics and prove it otherwise.


Shashank is a software engineer at Microsoft.

Good Governance Yatra’15


Swami Vivekananda once said:

Experience is the only teacher we have. We may talk and reason all our lives, but we shall not understand a word of truth until we experience it ourselves.

This triggered a conversation in the VIF team meeting. Without an immersive experience, training and education in policy making will not have its intended outcome.  The idea of Good Governance Yatra germinated. GGY aimed to provide an experiential learning ecosystem for bright young minds, who wish to build a career in the domain of public policy and governance.


The 1st expedition was planned: 1 Bus, 8 Days, 4 States, 15 Projects, 18 Role Models, 20 Yatris, and 2700 KMs on the road.

The journey was a stupendous success on all parameters. Here is a brief report.


The first edition of Good Governance Yatra was from 13th-20th December 2015.  A diverse set of yatris consisting of a balanced mix of students and working professionals from backgrounds like Engineering, Economics, Developmental Studies, Social Service, Law were onboard. With a baffling yatri profile, the yatra saw enriching discussions on policy parameters for judging and adding value to the visited projects. The enthusiasm was contagious. The people we met were equally exuberant in sharing their experiences, and learning with these young yatris.


Gujarat – 13th to 16th Dec

The Yatra began at a mega-infrastructure project, Sardar Sarovar Dam. Awed by the massive concrete structure, sweeping backwaters and the extensive purpose it serves, the yatris were attentive to the every detail thrown at them by the accompanying chief engineer of the project. But, having heard a lot about the flip side of the project, the delegation went to the neighboring Sukha Village and had a look into the lives of the displaced community there. Much to their delight, the villagers were content with their lives, thanks to the newly laid irrigation canals and 24×7 electricity supply.

The next destination for the yatris was the Dahej SEZ on coastal Gujarat. The SEZ was metamorphosed from a barren land to a bustling industrial hub. Interactions with the city officials apprised the yatris of the clustered city planning and the softened labor laws. After this, the delegation moved on towards Anand, to visit the collection and production center for Amul dairy products. After having an amazing tour around the production centre, the yatris had an interactive session with the CEO. The yatris engaged with the Amul team on a diverse range of topics including, the low-cost high-efficiency methods and their cooperative business model centered around benefitting the milk producers. Later in the evening, the yatris had an engaging interaction with Dr. Manoj Soni, the youngest Indian Vice-Chancellor. He presented the Gujarat State Education Policy in 7 crisp points and took questions from yatris.

The third day was spent in the two major cities of Gujarat, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The delegation visited Sabarmati Riverfront and Kankaria Lakefront to interact with their respective agencies and learn about planning urban recreational zones, and a PPP model for tourism development. After this, the delegation visited a unique Slum Re-development project in  Ahmedabad. The yatris were overwhelmed with the newly constructed buildings providing 2BHK residence for slum dwellers, and a cleaner environment to reside in. After an informal discussion with the residents, the yatris moved to the Secretariat. The yatris interacted with the Education Minister (Sh. Bhupendrasinh Chudasama), Minister for Women and Child Development (Smt. Vasuben Trivedi) and the Minister of Finance (Sh. Saurabh Bhai Patel), to understand the long term vision that goes into policy making, and learn from their share of experiences about the intricacies of policy implementation. The yatris were amazed with the clarity of vision in the ministers, and their dedication towards providing a better social environment. The delegation’s next stop was the GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), a global finance hub and multi-speciality SEZ . The city plan amazed the yatris with the long run planning for the commute, waste management systems, and the business development plans to attract corporate houses.

The next morning, yatra took a side road from urban, state-driven projects to a rural lesser-known project of Punsari digital model-village. Punsari presents a unique developmental model for villages. Some unique initiatives the pro-active Sarpanch has taken include  village-wide WiFi, PA system, CCTV monitoring of schools, and a village run transport system. Mr. Himanshu Patel, a visionary sarpanch delighted the yatris by sharing his journey as a sarpanch and how he developed the village through proper utilization of government schemes and funds. The yatra then proceeded to an Agricultural Excellence Center at Vadrad, run in cooperation with the Israeli government. The centre boasted of directly serving 10,000+ farmers with its soil-less agricultural techniques promising high yield and low crop damage. This marked the end of the Gujarat leg of the yatra, and the delegation moved to Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi for the remaining yatra.


Rajasthan – 17th Dec

The delegation reached Jaipur on the afternoon of 17th December and directly headed to Jaipur Metro underground construction site. The site visited was located in a sensitive area due to the presence of heritage structures. Accompanied by the project engineer and operations in-charge of Jaipur Metro, yatris had a chance to go deep into the construction site. This was followed by an interaction with Mr. Nihal Chand Goel, CMD of Jaipur Metro, who introduced the policy front of urban transportation planning to the yatris on the choice between various transport options for a city, project planning at various stages, land acquisition methodology and project finances. Immediately after this, the delegation met the team at e-Mitra, a flagship e-governance project of Rajasthan Government. A presentation informed the delegation of the journey of e-mitra from being just a payment portal to providing almost all the government services with spectacular efficiency. While getting their queries cleared, the yatris got a chance to get into the depth of policy challenges in bringing together various government departments providing hassle-free services. Later, they were also joined by Mr. Akhil Arora, Secretary for DoITC, Rajasthan Government, who shared his own experience of working across government departments. Following this, in order to have a complete understanding of the functioning of e-mitra from a user’s perspective, the delegation visited a nearby e-mitra center. This marked the end of Rajasthan leg of the yatra, and the delegation left for Delhi.


Union Government – 18th Dec

The day began early, and with a lot of on-board projects, the delegation was brimming with excitement to learn from the governance models put forward by the central government. The first project of the day was a visit to the office and an interaction with Mr. Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO of the project. He shared with the yatris, the history of the project, and how this first ever experiment on open democracy was planned and executed. This was followed by a quick user feedback of the interface. After this, the delegation moved to the nerve of the Indian government, north block, which houses the home and finance ministry. The delegation was also joined by Mr. Sachit, Co-founder, Stayzilla, our partner organisation, who had arranged home-stays for the delegation throughout the yatra. The delegation was then addressed by Dr. Jitendra Singh, MoS PMO, who spoke about the need of having youth centric policies, and the need to engage youth in governance. This session was followed by an informal interaction between the minister and the yatris, where the yatris shared their on-ground experience with the minister. The delegation later moved to visit Common Services Center, the central e-governance agency delivering all major online services like PAN card, voter registration, and managing all the major e-governance, and online complaint portals. On interaction with Mr. Dinesh Tyagi, CEO for CSC, the yatris were amazed to see the zeal and passion driving him and his vision of providing easy service to all citizens. Been in administrative services for long, Mr. Tyagi shared his life experiences and how the autonomy makes CSC an efficient organisation. Thereafter, the delegation went on to visit Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). Being on a mission mode to fulfill the Prime Minister’s promise of electrifying 18,500 villages in 1000 days, the REC team brought new definitions to transparency with its mobile application, Garv. Live updates about the status of the project, continuous monitoring of the on-ground engineers and deadline based implementation has made REC, one of the flag bearers of good governance. Interaction with Mr. Dinesh Arora, who heads REC, also enlightened the yatris on the existing system’s fallacies, and how one can bring efficacy in old systems. This was followed by a presentation of  Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), which is running on a mission mode to bring LED lights to every home, and thereby reducing the Nation’s power demand. EESL is distributing LED lights at one-third the market price without providing any subsidy using innovative purchasing schemes.


19th Dec – Haryana

The delegation began early on the next morning and left for Haryana to visit the implementation of the state government’s flagship scheme, Beti Bachao Beti Padao. The first project was at a village named Hasanpur, which houses a modern Aanganwadi (Nand Ghar) , built through a grant from Vedanta. The delegation was joined by Dr. Yogendra Malik, who serves as an advisor to CM for Beti Bachao Beti Padao (BBBP) and Swachh Bharat. He briefed the yatris on various government schemes to promote the girl child and bring an end to female foeticide. The session proved a myth buster for ones who had stereotypes on Haryanvi mindsets. This was followed by a visit to an all women police station at Sonepat. Interaction with the police officers educated the yatris about the crimes related to women, and the impact of having an all-women police station. Post this, the delegation left for Delhi, where the yatris enjoyed a tête-a-tete with the Vision India Foundation team. They relished the story of the team, how the idea came about and what the organization aims to do. This marked the end of 7th day, and the night continued late for the yatris, who were eager to have some last fun filled moments together before the expedition ended.


20th Dec – Delhi Government and Convocation

The last day of the yatra began with a visit to a Sewage Treatment Plant at Keshopur by the Delhi Government. Accompanied by Mr. Ankit Srivastava, APS to Delhi Jal Board, the yatris were informed of the sewage treatment process. He also discussed with the yatris about how the demand-supply gap for water can be met by treated sewage water. The social psychology towards “dirty” drain water was also debated upon, and the yatris took a step ahead and drank the water cleaned by the “Toilet to tap” project. The yatris also got to know about decentralised sewage treatment, which is the current policy pursued by the government and was the next project in the itinerary. The delegation moved ahead after this, to have a final adieu at the campus of SOIL (School of Inspired Leadership), where the convocation function was chaired by Mr. Arun Maira, a former member of the Planning Commission. The session began with a brief about the yatra and experience sharing by the yatris. Mr. Maira later spoke about the need to having committed individuals in nation building process, and supported the VIF mission of aligning one’s career with nation building. The session finally ended with the award distribution and presenting the certificates to the yatris.


More details about the yatra can be found here.


Learning, Unlearning, Relearning: Good Governance Yatra’15

Anuva S. Agarwal

To stare at the window, to see the roads pass by
Amidst the constant and excited banter inside, to watch a different side of the country hitherto unexplored, we try.
When journeys became destinations and destinations become journeys,
Where the minds resonated each thought with a selflessness unknown.
Projects that were once mere facts on paper have now each become that open door we’d never thought, existed.
The insights into the VIF machinery, strung chords deep within,
To watch those eyes that burned with the passion, charisma and conviction of an idea that was meant to change.

I had a simple wish. It began as a passing thought and I didn’t know how it’d be fulfilled.
It was, to be amongst a culture that had no inhibitions and was outright ready to do something to change the world.
Moving beyond the confines of our comfort zones, realising my personal limits in respect of staying hungry, minimising sleep and yet not feeling the lethargy creep in, the sheer joy felt at that moment of a ‘connect’ with a fellow yatri;
Singing on the wayside of the highway when the bus petrol got over, dancing like the bus corridor was the dance floor, listening to poetry recited by fellow yatris, respecting idiosyncrasies, laughing till the throat went sore – this yatra has undoubtedly reinstilled a belief in the change that is possible, via visits and ‘jumping into’ a system that truly bothers.
I have a major weakness in me – I become indifferent to situations very easily even if they are important, say, a certain activist movement or an exam result or an exam, and I have always wondered why.
“Indifference is an outcome of apathy, which in turn is born out of disconnect”.
This revelation hit me almost as if the impact was physical, just yesterday! I suppose it was merely the last straw.
I don’t need say anymore about how this Yatra has helped rid us all of the supposed set of ‘disconnects’ we had in our minds.

I thought it would be impossible to find a bunch of people, in one place, one for whom the word ‘ego’ doesn’t exist.
Where humour is the only language and iridescent bonhomie, a trademark.
Well, I was proved wrong, for, these 8 days have given me nothing but this.
We came as individuals but depart as a team.
Fathom the complexity, embrace with integrity. Make your life your own finger print.



Anuva S. Agarwal was a yatri at Good Governance Yatra 2015. She studied masters in economics at Shiv Nadar University, Noida. The views expressed are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Vision India Foundation.

Greenhouses Gases and Vegetarianism

The world is struggling to protect the environment and achieve sustainability. Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are real concerns. Population growth has exploded from around one billion people two centuries ago to seven billion now, of which more than 10 percent do not have enough to eat. Under these conditions, it is imperative to re-examine the environmental impact of human diet.

In preparation for the Paris climate conference in December, India has recently put forward its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to limit its carbon emissions and mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Nowhere in India’s INDC is there any discussion of the environmental impact of human diet, meat in general and beef in particular.

Evidence suggests that meat is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reveals that the production and consumption of meat are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to 13 percent from all transportation. A non-vegetarian diet can release anywhere between two to ten times more carbon dioxide equivalents than a vegetarian diet, depending on the type of meat. Beef production releases methane, which is 23 times more harmful than CO2. One pound of dry beans produces 0.4 kilograms of CO2 equivalents against 1.6 produced by chicken and 7 by beef. Greenhouse gases cause global warming and meat produces greenhouse gases.

The study by the FAO also concludes that livestock agriculture is the ‘single largest anthropogenic user of land.’ Livestock takes up 70 per cent of all agricultural land, making it a key factor responsible for deforestation and degradation. A non-vegetarian diet not only leads to more degradation but also requires more land for its production. A Netherlands-based study published in 2002 noted that an ‘affluent’ diet requires three times as much land as a vegetarian diet. With the world population growing and people suffering from hunger, it is remarkable to consume a diet which needs more land and even degrades it.

The American state of California is suffering from acute water shortage. The Pacific Institute, a US-based research center, reports that meat and dairy products consume nearly half of California’s water. India too is a water-stressed country. Falling water tables pose a food security risk for the nation, and agriculture is a key sector for water consumption. The FAO also observes that livestock is the largest source of water pollution. Livestock maintenance pollutes freshwater sources, degrades coral reefs in coastal seas and harms human health. Therefore, just like land use and degradation, meat consumes more water while also polluting more of it. Land and water resources are used to produce grains which are in turn used to raise livestock. This has significant consequences for land, water and energy available to the world.

To understand how diet measures up against other efforts towards sustainability, consider solar energy. Typically, solar energy saves one kilogram of carbon emissions per kilowatt-hour of energy. An average Indian consumes 700 kWh per year. Shifting to solar energy saves that many kilograms of CO2 equivalents. Shifting to a non-meat diet can save up to 1 ton of carbon emissions per person per year, more than that achieved through solar energy. And the cost? Zero. The world can take a big step towards sustainability, and this is a step that comes at no cost. In fact, it saves money while saving the planet.

Roughly 40 percent of Indians are vegetarian, making India home to more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined. This saves enormous amounts of greenhouse gases when compared to other nations. When the parties meet to negotiate climate change, India must highlight its vegetarian behaviour. India’s INDCs should be based not only on what the government is planning to do. It should also come from what Indian people have been doing for years. Five hundred million Indians have mitigated and will keep mitigating global climate change, simply by not eating meat. India should support sustainability efforts for research, development and entrepreneurship so that humans can gradually shift to a green and healthy diet.

The referred study by the FAO gives all possible solutions to save resources and reduce emissions but does not advocate a change in dietary habits. The UN and the international community need to recognize meat reduction as an actionable goal in order to achieve sustainability. In a scenario where eating beef has become criminal for some and fashionable for others, we need to forge a middle path. This path should neither be criminal nor fashionable, but rather responsible. There is no conservative or progressive way to save the environment. There’s only the way that works.

Armin Rosencranz, advisor to Vision India Foundation, and Sahil Aggarwal, program director.

The article was originally published in The Statesman.

One Year of Nation Building


1 year of VIF

Twelve months ago, VIF started its journey with a policy workshop at IIT Delhi. As we complete one year of nation-building, we feel proud to share our story so far.

On 6th November 2014, the day that marked VIF’s launch, we had asked the participants about their career choices. The average age of respondents was just over twenty years. Coming from some of the best institutes of the country, more than 22% said they want to go for politics / bureaucracy / and related careers. A similar number chose entrepreneurship.

This could be the most passionate and fortunate generation in India for centuries. This is the youth for which we are building the nation of our dreams, and this is also the youth which will realize this dream. Young India wants to make a difference. We keep working to ignite this spirit.

Over the last year, we built a strong advisory board and mentor panel consisting of academicians, industry leaders and professionals. Our network of ambassadors reaches three continents, and our 6-member executive team is as excited as ever. Soon, we will also have ten fellows join us for different projects.

We hosted the nation’s first Policy BootCamp which was appreciated by politicians cutting across party lines, reputed bureaucrats, grassroots workers, academicians and social leaders alike. Delegates spent 21 energetic days with us, many of whom regard this as a transformational experience.

15 summer interns worked in stressful climate to bring changes. Some worked in remote tribal villages, some with top-level governance agencies and policy makers. From these experiences, it is clear that the system can involve young talent to bring unforeseen progress.

To further train aspiring change agents, we have planned programs like the Good Governance Yatra. We are also about to roll out an advanced policy research camp in partnership with one of the world’s best university and a reputed grassroots organization.

With a strong technology background, our team has developed products which can transform the way democracy functions in India. These technology products will make democracy truly participative and help elected representatives improve their efficiency and effectiveness in managing the constituency.

In addition to this, we have co-published a book on citizen engagement, worked with government agencies and political parties for research, and conducted Hangouts with renowned personalities in this space. While doing all this, we partnered with state governments, academic institutions, members of the parliament, non-governmental organizations and more. Moving forward in creating this ecosystem where we train young people for nation-building, we are consolidating our programs and working on specific reforms needed for the country.

A detailed description of the journey so far and the roadmap of the organization is here.

India needs a critical mass of change agents. Once it crosses that tipping point, there will be no looking back. The youth is craving to be a part of the change. Will we, as a nation, provide the right opportunity and mentorship?

Renewable Energy in Jhabua

Nitin Dhakad


This report provides information on the scope of implementing solar and bio-energy to provide power for meeting domestic as well as agricultural requirements of the people of Dharampuri in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. It has been proved through survey that devices such as Solar Water Purifier and Bio-Lamp desk can better meet requirements of the rural population.


Jhabua is a tribal district of Madhya Pradesh where development has been at very slower pace despite all the efforts of several government and non-government bodies. The rural areas of this district still face problem in accessing basic necessities of water, electricity, employment and education. The motive of the project was to study energy problem and to work out solution using renewable sources of energy. The study was conducted in the Dharampuri village under the aegis of Shivganga (a non-government organization based in Jhabua). The survey was conducted to analyze availability of resources mainly electricity, water, cattle, land and human resources. Participation of various government and non-government bodies was also observed by meeting with officials of concerned authorities. Based on these observations, and survey analysis, solutions of the energy and water problem using solar and bio-energy potentials were designed.

Survey Results

There are 70 homes in Dharampuri and 53 out of them are surveyed:


  • Equipment

    • # of bulbs = 58 and 1 CFL
    • # of fans = 13
    • # of water motors = 26 (mostly 3 HP & 5HP)

There is mostly one 100 W bulb per house lighted outside the home, dark inside the house. They are still not using energy efficient bulbs due to lack of awareness and traditional practices. Very less number of families have fans. Almost half of them have water motors and these motors are rented by them to other people also. There are 30 motors in the village (survey results) that will irrigate total land. Therefore, one motor will work for approximately 8 hrs per day in Kharif season and 7 Hrs per day in Rabi season.

Water pump = 5HP x 750W x 8Hrs = 3KWHr (1HP = 750W)

Light Bulb = 100 W x 8Hrs = 0.8KWHr

Electric fan = 80W x 8Hrs = 0.64KWHr

Total energy requirement = 4.44KWHr

This is required per farmer. For the entire village of 70 farmers:

  • For 30 Electric Motors = 30 x 3 KWHr = 90KWHr
  • For 70 Home Lightings = 70 x 0.8 KWHr = 56KWHr
  • For 70 Ceiling Fans = 70 x 0.64 KWHr = 44.8 KWHr

Total Energy = 2MW (approximately)

All these calculations are done based on the assumption that there is enough water availability.

Electricity Availability

Electricity was accessible to almost all of them they mainly have these two arrangements for accessing them.

  1. Hooking two wires
  2. Hooking one wire and then applying gadget and then earthing the other end.

In one case there was electricity available but the consumer didn’t put wires so as not to pay bills unlike others and said uses kerosene for lighting the lamp.

In other cases, there was no electricity available as the distribution point transformer malfunctioned but they too hooked the line passing through river side far from home.

Overall observation shows that there was electricity available but in order to avoid billing, people are not having proper connections. But for that illegal connection also, they pay about Rs.1000 per year or it is said as the rent to connect a water pump during irrigation season.

Drinking Water Source

  1. 40 families use government hand pump
  2. 8 families dig on river bed for drinking water
  3. 1 family use well water to drink
  4. Many families when unable to get hand pump water go to Shivganga Gurukul Tubewell.

There is no water purification before consumption.  A lot of water borne diseases happen in the region and most of the time a good treatment is not affordable. This problem can be overcome by using Solar Water Purifier developed by Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).


According to the survey, there are 65 bulls, 24 cows, 66 goats,8 buffaloes, 13 calves. Huge amounts of dung generated from these animals and the crop waste can be used as a bio-fuel for the Bio-Lamp Desk.

Details of Solar Water Purifier and Bio-Lamp Desk are given in following sections. Usage of these alternative sources of energy can reduce the load on domestic lines; the electricity thus saved can be used for irrigation purposes.

Solar Water Purifier

This was developed by an Indian scientist, Dr. Anil Rajvanshi at the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) from Phaltan, Maharashtra. The technology uses cotton cloth, glass pipes and sunlight. According to Dr. Rajvanshi, the water purifier can both filter the water and kill germs by heating it to 60oC for 15 minutes at a low cost using solar energy. The equipment consists of four tubular solar water heaters attached to a manifold. The unclean water, which is filtered by the cotton cloth, is filled in the Solar Water Purifier and is later heated to make it potable. Unlike other reverse osmosis based water filters, this technology, besides being cheap also doesn’t require any maintenance because of its clogging-free feature.

Bio-Lamp Desk

A lamp was designed based on oxidation-reduction reactions on the metals generating electricity with cow dung as the electrolyte. This was given a shape of desk lamp which can be utilized for various purposes such as dinner table for one person, desk can be used as a platform for domestic purpose of chopping vegetables or preparing ‘chapattis’ on it etc. The raw materials are easily available. This concept can also be used to design a bio-battery charger for mobiles. In the experiment performed a 2.5 V LED was lighted for 10 Hrs. Hence more improved process can light an LED upto 12V. For higher power, the systems can be scaled and electricity can be generated using Bio-gas (Methane).


From the above discussion, following conclusions can be drawn:

  • The problems concerned with electricity can be overcome by educating the farmers about the possible drawbacks associated with providing wrong information about the pump-sets as well as with power thefts.
  • Creating awareness among the villagers about the vast availability of natural resources for producing energy in an eco-friendly manner reduces their dependence on conventional power sources.
  • Devices designed based on alternative sources of energy such as solar and biomass can better meet the energy- requirements of the rural population when developed in full-scale.


Nitin Dhakahd is a final year undergraduate student at IIT Roorkee. He performed an energy audit for this report in 2015.

Skill Development in Tribal Rajasthan

Kapil Surve


Sahariyas are a tribe residing in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Many of them earn their living by working in someone else’s field, a job known as ‘Hali’. Some also work for the Government Construction programmes on daily wage basis. They normally live at a distance from the city’s central region.

Shahbad, one of the tehsil city of the Baran district of Rajasthan is located at a distance of 140km from Kota and is located on the border between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The city has good transportation facilities due to its location on the side of National Highway 76.

The skill development programme was implemented by the Indian Institute of Rural Development (IIRD), an NGO operating inspired from Nanaji Deshmukh, based on whose ideas many development activities are being carried out in the Chitrakoot region of Madhya Pradesh. IIRD has taken inspiration from the methodology applied in Chitrakoot and started work on large scale in Rajasthan. It operates with the help of Samaj Shilipi Dampatti (SSD) who are active in the developmental activities of villages with the Sahariya tribe in dominating number.

Some of the problems faced by the Sahariya tribe are:

  • Non-functional government aid: The government aid provided in the form of free supply of basic commodities, has led to inactiveness among the people belonging to this tribe
  • Alcohol and other addictions: People here are addicted to alcohol and Vimal (a tobacco product) from the teenage itself because of early marriage. Marriage turned out to be a license for the alcohol consumption. Due to this reason, the Sahariya tribe has a bad reputation across Rajasthan.

SSDs are playing major role in inspiring and educating them so as to improve their lifestyle. But the Sahariyas donot have any concern to the issues raised by SSDs. The inactiveness spread across the tribe has led to improper utilization of crops given by the IIRD resulting in wastage of money for the later.

People belonging to the Sahariya tribe are trained in various vocations such as ladies tailoring, mechanic, horticulture, driving electrician and sports-training. In some cases, necessary financial aid was also provided to them to stand on their own feet. Possibilities of flourishment of these vocations in relation with the geographic conditions was also studied.

In a brain-storming session with some Sahariya youngsters, we came up with some innovative ways to earn a decent living. They include – foreign cuisine eateries, career agency, advanced dairy and young sports club & gymnasium.

Present work is based on the successful implementation of the model established by the late Nanaji Deshmukh in Chitrakoot. For any social work to be carried out in this regard, it is recommended to have a close bond with the tribal people by living along with them and conducting informative sessions with them, thereby, suggesting them innovative improvements for the betterment in their lifestyle.

Kapil is a final year undergraduate student at IIT Bombay. He lived among Sahariya people for two months and worked on skill development initiatives.

A Visit to Asawarpur

– Rohit Parakh


On Day 8 of the BootCamp, there was more excitement than usual amongst the BootCamp delegates for we were going to go the highly awaited field visit. As for most of the delegates (myself included) this was a first-ever exposure to seeing the countryside in Haryana, we were unsure what to expect. We were quite keen to see and assess for ourselves how the current policies and administration served the people in rural Haryana. I was in group number 3 and we were told that we would be going to Asawarpur village which was on the outskirts of Sonepat city (situated right next to the sprawling campus of Rajiv Gandhi Education City). After reaching the village, we were to spend the next few hours in small groups visiting the people to get a ground reality check understanding the situation on the ground.


After walking for what seemed forever around the village, we nervously approached a retired man Ishwarchand (name changed) who smilingly welcomed us. Ishwarchand (or Tauji as we referred to him) was a retired man who used to be a farmer. His land was amongst the ones which was taken by the government and used for the Rajiv Gandhi Education City development. We later learnt that there was a 5-yr battle that was fought by the farmers which successfully ensured they received appropriate prices for the land acquisition for the Education city.


Tauji told us that there were no medical institutions nearby, the nearest one that he could access was around 12 kms from his house. Tauji had 3 grown up children – 1 worked at a petrol pump, another at a medical store (both of whom lived in Delhi) and the third one didn’t have any job at all. Although we could see that he clearly lived in conditions of deprivation he did not have a BPL card ; Tauji confirmed what we already suspected that getting a BPL card is a curious case of combination involving multiple factors – the 3 C’s caste, connections with the assessors and corruption. He mentioned that most of the Above Poverty Line families would have BPL cards whereas only some of the BPL families would have those cards too. Even then, the officially defined poverty line of Rs 32 a day in rural India left much to be answered to the people.


We also spoke to Tejus (name changed), who was the only graduate in the locality and was working in a private firm nearby after having pursued his graduation through a distance learning course. We learnt from Tejus that he sent his kids to a private school at a certain distance, as although there was a government school nearby; the teachers would either not turn up at the school or if they did turn up provide even semi-decent quality of education. Which is why even today (and not unlike most of the other 650,000 villages in the country), students in the Aswarpur who could not afford private education could not get decent quality education.


We couldn’t help but wonder as to how the fruits of development in the country being unevenly shared held true even in Aswarpur where we still had people who could not get decent quality primary education in a village right next to the ironically titled Education City which hosted some of the finest education institutions in the country. We also noticed the huge pile of waste in the open gutters right outside Tauji’s house which in addition to serving as a dustbin for him also attracted a lot of flies in the house.


After spending a few hours speaking to Tejas, Tauji and a few other villagers we started making our way back to the bus bidding goodbyes feeling grateful for the heartfelt hospitality extended to us and quietly reflected at what we had learnt in the last few hrs. With a million questions and no clear solutions as to what could be done to improve the ground realities in Aswarpur, we certainly had an eye-opener with regards to the magnitude of the task in front of the country. We would without a doubt remember the lessons and experiences from Aswarpur trip as we started taking our first steps on working towards making India a more equitable place.


Rohit Parakh currently works in the financial services industry in London in his day-job. He also voluntarily leads the UK Chapter of a Bangalore-based non-profit social enterprise called RangDe. He is also working on Democracy Reforms in South Asia (with ex- Indian Chief Election Commissioner Dr Quraishi). He can be reached out at

BootCamp in 39 quotes

Compiled by Yash Sharma


“It’s not about Make in India, It’s about Making India” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“It’s not the politicians or the bureaucrats, but the Judiciary that is most responsible for this present state of the country.” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“The government without a Result Framework Document is like playing soccer with goal posts” ~ Dr Prajapati Trivedi

“India is a flailing state” ~ Dr Rajeev Gowda

“Spending money has become a measuring tool for progress no matter how much and where the money is going” ~ Shyam Kashyap

“Make in India is a frame of mind. It’s the thinking that requires a change” ~ Manohar Parrikar

“Politics = Poly + Tics” ~ Baijayant Jay Panda

“Politics should be ensuring that the taxpayers money is utilized in the best way possible” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“Change is not about change only, It’s more about what to preserve” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“The gap between the Kathni and Karni is what that matters in Policy making” ~ Dr Prajapati Trivedi

“Full-fledged war is history. The future could be jockeying for resources.” ~ Major General Ajay Chaturvedi

“You aren’t accountable to anyone, teachers or family but to yourself. Make sure your surrounding s are clean in all aspects” ~ Vinod Rai

“Family as an institution is on a decline just like savings” ~ Prof R Vaidyanathan

“Logic and dividends drives policy making, not the prejudices and beliefs” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“Shortage of teachers and trainers is not the problem, but how to reach them or get them reach to students” ~ Dilip Chenoy

“Development is not about economic growth. It’s about constant expansion of human capability” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“An econometrics on performance management is a blind man looking for a black cat in a dark room, when the cat is not there but still keeps saying I’ve got it, I’ve got it” ~ Dr Pajapati Trivedi

“Indian Judiciary in a way is incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable.” ~ Dr Jayprakash Narayan

“To make an impact, add a little bit of competence to your commitment” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Integrity, probity, ethics and transparency is needed but most important is the culture of discipline” ~ Vinod Rai

“Leadership is an activity of mobilizing a group and utilizing their resources for societal work” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Empowering means giving some authority to the last mile worker to make decisions but also make sure that no one questions them directly” ~ Dr Devesh Chaturvedi

“Women in UP, Bihar know that they would lose but still stand for elections because they dont want someone else to win” ~ Dr Mudit Kapoor 

“No matter what people say, MPs and Politicians from different part of the country keep this country together” ~ Prem Das Rai

“The input to education system has always been in focus. It’s time the outcome of the same be mapped efficiently” ~ Aziz Gupta

“Leadership is not about having solution to every problem but also having humility to accept that you don’t have the solution” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“The country has draconian dowry laws. Even the burden of proof is on the husband and his family which is not the case even with murder accused” ~ Dr Madhu Kishwar

‘Ask to yourself in 10 years- have you made a difference? If no, why? If yes, how?” ~ Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

“Don’t do anything wrong, but more important is don’t allow anyone else to do wrong through you.” ~ Vinod Rai

“Citizens need to act for good governance, feeling helpless doesn’t bring reforms.” ~ Dr Trilochan Shastry

“We (Sikkim) are normal just like anyone else but we have some extra time to do organic farming” ~ Prem Das Rai

“Leadership is also about giving work back to the people and staying alive” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Policy making is not pure science, but trial & error. Political entrepreneurship can bring the changes we need.” ~ Dr Shamika Ravi

“We get opportunities. We face failures. But again, that is not the final meaning of life” ~ Hrishikesh Mafatlal

“Women have been the agents of change in Indian democracy with increasing participation & representation” ~ Dr Mudit Kapoor

“It is utter failure of the governance if citizens need to knock the doors of Supreme Court over every issue” ~ Dr Madhu Kishwar

“Leadership is building Coalition with the one who disagrees with you the most and communicating the loss at the rate at which it can be absorbed” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“I don’t care about treating the ill or deceased, all i teach is how to stay Healthy” ~ Ayurveda

‘Don’t hold on to Assumptions, or soon assumptions will start holding on to you.’


Yash Sharma was a delegate at Policy BootCamp 2015. He is a 4th year student at BITS Pilani (Goa).