agenda for the first 100 days of the new Indian government: a wishlist


written in mid May

We are in the month of May and the rains may arrive in early to mid-June. Skymet forecasts 77 percent chances of below the normal rainfall in June. Most other forecasts also are sanguine about the prospects due to el Nino effect.

What should we do then? Obviously, if the rain fall is likely to be less by 70 per cent in June and by 50 per cent in July. Should not conserving this water be the first priority? Advisory is due to all states to urgently commission all earth digging/moving equipment, and dredgers which private sector may be willing to provide as a social contribution, to deepen canals, tanks, ponds, and all other water bodies. At the same time, new water conservation measures must be taken up on an emergency basis. The drinking water crisis is likely to take place. And it is completely avoidable. The Farmers are already complaining about lack of irrigation resources. Manufacturing index is already low and thus industrial demand for water is likely to rise too. Water management is likely to become pivotal in the first hundred days and a crisis management group may be needed to ensure that there is peace and order through persuasion, self-regulation and participation of people in reducing consumption of water.

Second priority will be seed and fertiliser distribution among those farmers whose seed may be lost due to a y spell in the early rains. Or maybe excessive late rains which may cause a ss in eastern India. Emergency second sowing may be needed in many parts of the country.

Third priority may be a massive industrial internship program for youth who have waited patiently without jobs and relevant skilling opportunities. Creating immediate jobs may not be possible but if large scale paid internship is generated, it will provide low-cost workshop, develop skills of youth and some of them will also get absorbed on merit in these or other industries. Much of the skill development program has been delinked with actual jobs being generated in the economy.

Fourth priority must be to improve productivity in various sectors by regional, national and global benchmarking. There is so much asymmetry in productivity in each cluster, district and region in various sectors. It is not difficult to find out most productive, energy efficient industrial unit or farming unit in each cluster/gramsabha  and document, analyse and share the factors responsible for the same. This was the advice Gandhiji gave a  long time ago and we have still not implemented it as a major policy plank. It quite is likely that those farmers who are found to be most productive also use less water, and chemical inputs. Similarly, most productive industrial units might be oprioduc8ing less waste and consumer lesser energy per unit of production than others. Sickness in the industry can be overcome on a long term basis by improving productivity of labour, energy and capital.

Fifth priority is access to basic health and nutrition by all, not just tertiary but also high quality primary and secondary health care must be provided to all. The diagnostic mission will need to be set up so that all innovations in this space get tested and screened on top priority for final procurement in different regions. Instead of patronising any one company, let multiple choices be available at each PHC and then depending upon after-sale service, and quality of consistent performance, the best may survive.

Sixth priority is to use public procurement as a major driver for promoting, grassroots, industrial and system innovations.

part two

 The democratization of learning, sharing and growth opportunities is the need of the hour. The cost of arrogance can be very high because a proper triangulation of ideas does not take place and the cost is borne by least powerful people whose capacity to compensate policy weaknesses through institutional malleability or innovations is minimum.

I discussed several ideas last week and I hope that the action on them might begin soon or may have started. Deepening of water bodies might have started all over the country, tenders might have been floated (besides CSR pooling) for earth moving equipment. The MGNREGA plans must be on the ground to conserve water in the forthcoming rains. The rationing of water in urban areas might have been started so that rural areas don’t always bear the brunt of scarcity as always in the past.

Educational experiments in government school are badly needed. Hope that the new government will make it obligatory for children of all government employees, municipal councilors, MLA, MPs to be sent to the nearest government schools and aided schools without exception. This will bring about a drastic improvement in the quality of education right away. There was a collector in Tamil Nadu who actually did it and the results were spectacular. Else we will continue to produce two classes of citizen, one, brought up in government schools to serve and another in private schools to be served. There should be a national agency for appointing vice chancellors of universities and directors of school education. This will require a consensus among the states because education is one of the most politicized sectors. Appointment of meritorious vice-chancellors and directors of school education will rejuvenate the education system.
The multimedia, multi-language open source content must be made available to every school in the first year of the new government. Given the cost and quality of the network access, merely, providing content on the web will not be enough.

Each KVK [Krishi Vigyan Kendra] almost in every district should become a hub for showcasing all available low-cost technologies from the formal and informal sector. This will require a separate national authority comprising the secretaries of all science departments and directors of selected institutions, besides the private sector and civil society representatives. The new government must have a time-bound program for translation of technologies into community-level practices. No inter-institutional barrier should be allowed to come in the way of bridging available solutions and the unmet needs. A massive connect between the final projects of the students and the unmet needs of the communities in the hinterland need to be institutionalized within the first hundred days.

A GEM like a platform supplemented by a strong logistical backend should be created for farmers, SHGs and other start-ups and small entrepreneurs. Not only public procurement but also private procurement from these small-scale producers should be encouraged. The horizontal exchange and trade among the district and state level SHGs should be enabled.

There has been a considerable decline in the environmental regulations and conservation efforts without achieving economic growth which was an ostensible reason for dilution of these regulations. A new consensus must be achieved for fostering green growth.
Strong institutions help in repairing and improving weak policies during implementation but not vice versa. The new government must make special efforts to safeguard the integrity of institutions at all levels.
The future of any society crucially hinges on the prevalence of meritocracy. The agendas may differ among various political parties but efforts should be made to build consensus along with certain key areas of nation building. Role of science, technology, and innovation will be paramount in this regard and various science academies will have to reposition themselves in shaping National Agenda for socio-economic transformation in a regionally, socially and culturally balanced manner. Let us hope that the new government will open a new paradigm of policymaking, shaping, and pursuing social outreach


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