Impact Assessment of Change in Yatris – Good Governance Yatra ’16

 

ggy-survey-results

The GGY is an immersive learning experience that changes perspectives about government and elected representatives in our country. The bar graph shows an impact assessment of this change in the yatris from the recently concluded yatra – The final question reflects that the yatra indeed is contributing to change agents for nation building.

 

VIF-GoodGovernanceYatra

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.

Sabarmati Riverfront

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 MyGov.in 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 MyGov.in 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.