When the values give way to velocity: are we monitoring right indicators


There are goals which we wish to pursue faster in the larger public interest but often lose track of certain values of subsidiarity in design, action, review and redesign. What does subsidiarity imply in the context of public policy? Let us take one of the most noble, long overdue goal of removing open defection through building of toilets. I was talking to one of the district level officer recently responsible for this program. I asked whether the design of the toilet pot has been made variable in respect to the water available for cleaning per use in different pockets of the district. It had not been done. I have done no study to find out how many thousand post can be cleaned say with 2 l of water, how many need 4 l of water and how many need 10 or more litre of water. We know the situation about water availability in the country for drinking. Naturally situation for sanitation may not be that bad but still, availability is constrained in many places for people, whom public policy makers wish to reach. Now if many of these toilets get choked after some time and girls continue to suffer in schools and other places where these much needed toilets are non-functional; we will have to blame ourselves. Why did not we use public policy space for enough decentralization, reflection on the design suitable for given water constrained situation, and what remedies are available for mid-course correction. Will not it become very embarrassing in future if a large number of toilets are found not used well because of improper design to begin with?

Are we compromising some values in pursuit of velocity, or speed in implementation? Can we not combine speed, scale and successful implementation through efficient adaptation of location specific design? What is remarkable is that national policy does take note of this problem very graphically (http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/upload_document/Eng_Swachch-Bharat-Swachch-Vidhalaya.pdf). India does not lack sensitivity on such vital issues. Then where are we faltering: in supplying design templates for different situations, in failing to monitor the variability in design (I have argued since 1984: a change not monitored is a change not desired); Whether about design of soak pits in high ground water table regions or design of toilet seats in low water availability situation.

How do we ensure that we reward innovations in design, delivery, and disposal and reuse of waste material if old design has to be scrapped and replaced by new design? Similarly government issues guidelines to banks to give loans to stsrt-ups recently. Two loans to sc/st and other disadvantaged clients per branch. In addition under start-up, stand-up India massive facilities have been offered by the government.

But when one visits the portal (http://pmjandhanyojana.co.in/start-up-india-stand-up-india-scheme/) and looks at the responsiveness, earlier for first few months, at least reply were being given. Of late, the comment is not being responded. Obviously, no senior officer may be monitoring such responses or lack of them to make this well intentioned program more effective. We surely can make changes in our portal so that if some comment is not responded in reasonable time, the unanswered question or comment is escalated to higher officer so that at least ion two weeks all concerns are responded. When I reviewed the links at http://smallb.sidbi.in/%20/fund-your-business/financing-schemes-various-banks and checked a few schemes of banks, Their guidelines still stress mortgage of immovable assets and other assets as required earlier for small business loan. The impact of various concessions announces by the government is not visible in these schemes. Surely, if this factor, so vital for customer service and success of the start-up movement is supported by user satisfaction surveys, monitoring changes in these schemes, the results would have been much better.

We have knowledge, we also have some feeling but when it comes to translating our feelings into action, we sometime falter, as I have argued in my recent book on Grassroots Innovation: mind on margin are marginal minds (2016). I hope we will avoid making a trade-off between values of serving society and velocity with which this service is provided with desirable consequences. This is a movement, country cannot afford to fail our entrepreneurial youth and rest of the society.


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