Field-Visit-BootCamp

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 rohit.2691@gmail.com

BootCamp-quotes

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).

Somya-Bajaj-Policy-BootCamp

21 Days to Deepen Democracy

Somya Bajaj

 

Policy? Check. BootCamp? Check. 21 days? Unsure.

When the post popped on my desktop, I was delighted. A graduate with infinite dreams and a vision for the nation, with an unsatiating corporate job and goal to pursue a PhD in development Economics, needs motivation and a force to propel her dreams. And that is what I perceived Vision India Foundation Policy BootCamp as.

As the popular notion regarding policy studies goes, people around me were sceptical of my decision to quit my job and opt for the workshop. Something inside me said “Go for it” and I listened to Swami Vivekananda’s advice of “if you heart says go, go”.

Today, I can proudly say it is one of the decisions which I will always be proud of. More than anything else, I found myself at the BootCamp. It was not just about meeting the masterminds in the policy making arena, or meeting likeminded people. It was a 21 day exercise which put us through conversations and interactions which left us as better individuals.

Policy making is not laying down a framework for a country. It is a responsibility, an ability to look at the bigger picture with the stakeholders at the focal point and not one’s vested interests. Magic. Yes, that is what an impact a well crafted and inclusively thought of policy can make.

When we speak of changing the world, the intuitive response is, one needs to be at a pedestal, have the power and authority to regulate change. I shared a similar view. The enthusiastic budding development economist in me, wanting to battle the social issues, solve problems in the economy and leave a mark in the society, aspiring to join politics and saw it as the most influential as fastest way to make this change possible. When I realised the power of democracy which almost none of us are exercising.  A nation with so much potential, myriad views, cultural heritage has no reason to be poverty stricken. As Ms. Madhu Kishwar rightly puts it, poverty in India is as unnatural as a river flowing up. What has failed then? The government?

No. We as citizens, in exercising the rights and duties bestowed on us by the constitution. We succumbed to the conditions we were in as normal, we defined development as what the west defined it as. From the 1st to the 16th century, India was leading in growth. Ironically, this exactly was the phase where we did not intentionally put our focus on GDP numbers, rather, took a more holistic view towards development, and a spillover effect of that was the phenomenal growth record, pointed out Dr. Balasubramaniam.

This had a deep impact on me, and subtly taught a very important lesson. We correlate success with complicated processes whereas the answers lie in simplicity. India just has to look within, realise its unique tends, and capitalise on its strengths. We need an Indian model of growth for India, and not imitate other stories. Before we make in India, we need to make India, India.

Vote is the biggest tool of democracy. It hands the power to choose the leaders of the country in the hands of its citizens. Are we exercising this duty with enough cognizance? It is only a handful of people who judge the candidate and vote on the basis of the manifesto. My limited experience and myopic vision hardly realised this issue. Assuming that we vote based on the manifesto; do we demand accountability from the representative to adhere to the promises? Our inaction oftentimes leads to further damage. Thus, dawned an idea upon us on making this manifesto a legal document. It is a work in progress, like many other policy interventions that were brainstormed in the camp.

That precisely is the magic I am referring to. I feel the difference in my outlook. Before I knew it, my focus shifted from merely picking loopholes, to completely analysing the issue, finding its root cause, and proposing a long term sustainable solution.

A nodal point we miss in this entire exercise, is the emotional and mental stability of the policy maker or the intervener itself.  In our limited group of friends we observe many dynamics, imagine being accountable to an entire constituency or even your entire nation. It is a taxing job. The BootCamp sessions focussed on this aspect as well. Today I can confidently write on behalf of all participants saying that we have come out as stronger individuals.

An interaction opportunity with the cabinet ministers was the cherry on top. Having access to, sitting in the same room as people you look up to and aspire to become is nothing short of a dream. Listening to Mr. Piyush Goyal’s plan on renewable energy in India to Mr. Manohar Parrikar on his take on Make in India for Defence, was inspiring in more ways that words can describe.

The first two days of the camp felt very different. Being an economics student, I was constantly barged with numbers and graphs and theories. We spoke about its application, only to realise how the assumptions were a flaw. The reverse approach was taken in the camp. We first discussed the situation, from all perspectives. The profiles of participants were baffling. There were people who had stood for elections, those with 25 years of political experience, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, ethnographers, etc. The points they brought to the table took discussions as closer to reality and enabled to take a holistic view of every topic. Only post finding the root cause did we shift to finding solutions, discussions of which continued into the night. Readers might wonder how productive a sleep deprived, tired mind can be? Passion, motivation and vision can defy these conventional trends. The rigour and passion did not drop for a second. It in fact increased every second.

Yes, I found myself. Today I can stand tall and say who I am. Not by describing myself with my associations with people, but in terms of my strengths, my dreams and my vision. When 21 days can teach what it otherwise takes a lifetime to learn, you know you have made the right choice.

Thank you Vision India Foundation.

 

Somya Bajaj was a delegate at Policy BootCamp 2015. She studied economics at Christ University, Bangalore. The views expressed are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Vision India Foundation.