Mobilizing best minds for addressing complex national challenges?

Let us surmise about the post-election scenario far overall development expectations in general.

Whosever voters elect, there will be certainly a rise in expectations of change. Which changes will satisfy which section of society may not be always predictable?  But for most of the self-employed business and professional people, a simplification of regulatory framework will be the most cherished wish. For the working class, low consumer prices and easy availability of essentials, affordable health care, and quality education for their children in government schools and colleges obviously matter most. For the elite, the low to moderate risk-high return investment opportunities will be very attractive besides less taxation.   For high net-worth individuals, the ability to invest in start-ups and other ventures within and outside the country without attracting too many reporting liabilities and constraints will be attractive.


Now, no government can please all and that too equally. But then all programs which are intended to deliver benefits to the poor can benefit a lot from feedback from people with diverse background.  Labelling in ideological terms rather than intellectual terms does not help. In fact, it does not hurt at all if there are such people in every consultation process whose view one does not like at all. It is the diversity and debate that will bring out the best for the country.

Let us take the case of providing cooking gas connections to the poor, an eminently good idea. Now when we design supply chain, it will help to explore the relative utility in high biomass areas versus low biomass areas, frequency of replacement will need to be high in low biomass areas, population density may be low, villages may be located far away from the source of  supply and money required to buy the cylinder may not always be there. How do we link the employment program, payment of wages, payment for public supplied goods and services like ration, kerosene, gas, premium of health and life insurance etc.

It is quite possible the with a reduction in transaction costs, the utilization efficiency will go down. Spatial inequality can be compensated by sectoral allocative efficiency and effectiveness.

In contemporary data and knowledge-intensive world, the quality of management can be improved significantly by using big data and efficient and integrated supply chains. Why should this be made into an ideological issue? When Aadhar was implemented, a bipartisan approach was used to streamline the system regardless of who designed, under which ruling dispensation. The results are for all to see. Why can not similar professionalism be the way in which committees are constituted, minds are mobilized and consensus achieved for achieving the best societal good.

I am sure this is not in the interest of anyone to have good policies implemented badly or conceived weakly. There was news of an MNREGA worker whose thumb surface having been worn out, biometric identification did not work, though he had Aadhar card. Naturally, if we have to pay pension or wages to workers who work with their hands, should not we anticipate such problems. This is the kind of triangulation that will happen when the design of public policy and its implementation is checked up with not only experts but also user groups. Last week, I wrote about the pervasive scope of improvement that exists in the design and implementation of toilets all over the country.  Namibian entrepreneur recently designed a low-cost toilet which won a national second prize.  Gandhi ji announced a one  lakh rupees prize in 1929 open to all for redesigning the spinning wheel. The value of that amount will not be less than 10 cr today. Why not have both collaborative as well as crowdsourced design contest for meeting various developmental challenges.

I hope that the new government will bring a new approach to learning from its mistakes and as well as outstanding achievements in a bipartisan manner. It will try to mobilize the best minds over every issue regardless of whether they were engaged by one or the other government at different times.

There are not too many outstanding people in each discipline anyway who have spent their lives in understanding, analyzing and addressing complex problems creatively.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place