Can the mind of bureaucracy be reformatted?
Recently while addressing the probationers who have just entered the civil service, I was very impressed with many ideas that they generated on the spot for redesigning services, sectors, and social context of various products we use. I have always realized that young people when they enter the elite Indian Administrative Service or allied services, they have many ideas that can illuminate the life of common people. But then as the years wear off, their ability to spot, spawn and sustain new ideas goes down. In fact many times, they become hostile to the ideas that their subordinates suggest for better delivery of services. It is also true that our political system rewards the conformist and shunts those who try to overcome the inertia through change and reforms to insignificant positions. But things are changing. And many of us are experiencing the result of these changes. Undoubtedly the influence of connections, and corridor negotiations is going down, and the across the counter delivery is becoming more easily accessible and affordable. Let me share some of the ideas that I liked to illustrate how the training programs can easily become the seeding nurseries of new ideas, should we care listen to them more attentively.
Terakchi Marak, from Meghalaya shared an unusual example of reverse gender bias in a matrilineal society. She met almost a seventy year old inventor in Aseegre region, Garo hills who had invented a bamboo splitting machine in 2000. Though he was recognized in a local exhibition, no bank would lend him loan for improving the innovation because he did not own any property. District Innovation Fund, which NIF had helped in creating in each district through 13th Finance commission, may also not help such a person unless the complicated and very unhelpful guidelines for use of these funds by district collector are modified. If the person is a retired employee or attached with formal sector, NIF will find it beyond its mandate to support. The proposed Indian innovation Inclusive Fund would not touch him with a barge pole because this fund seeks inclusion through supporting companies and not individuals. Where should this person go? What kind of ecosystem we have built in the country that those who are not from informal sector but have very useful ideas can also get support to take these further.
Several participants suggested ideas to connect the people with nature through new applications or devices. Arvind of forest service suggested an application in which when one took photo of any plant, one could immediately get all the important scientific information, distribution, growth properties, and uses by local communities to kindle curiosity of the user. A great idea to link national collection of herbaria maintained by various organizations with such an app. It will promote eco-tourism, and conservation efforts apart from recording any unusual use found locally which was not already listed in the database. When I had taken my students at IIMA to Valley of Flowers as a part of shodhyatra course many years ago, we had realized the need for such a device while trekking in the region so that at selected spots, by just press of a button, one could get information about local rocks, plants, soil and other faunal biodiversity. Years ago, I had suggested to forester in charge of Nal Sarovar lake that they should sell Cds with sounds and sights of birds some of which one may miss on a particular day but would like to train one’s ear to hear them or look for them in future. These are not difficult ideas to implement but environment and forestry ministry may have to reorient its outlook, if such ideas have to get traction. May be when Arvind gets an independent posting, he will talk to local computer science department of a college and get an app made, may be some reader with green eyes and ears will make it even before that. I am waiting for action by someone who cares. Thank to the course coordinator like Vijaylaxmi that inertia so deeply seeped in our psyche, is broken every year, at least for a day.
Lot more ideas will follow next week. Remember, you can be a Bee, of course, Honey Bee to share and cross pollinate such ideas. Waiting to hear from you.