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.