Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A New Year - A New Milestone

When The 'Temple' of Indian Public Administration Research & Studies - Indian Institute Of Public Administration's (IIPA) next coveted publication gives this blog https://publicadministrationtheone.blogspot.in/ a special and exclusive mention, that is proof that this blog is on the right path. Here it is:
"A public administration study blog used by all India services aspirants for their examinations called Publicadministrationtheone.blogspot.in/. mentions that one major reason why the numerous recommendations of Committees and Commissions did not get implemented was because these were expected to be followed up in ministries and departments which implemented only those recommendations that did not threaten their positions and prevented their lateral and vertical spread. The costs of running such huge bureaucracies in the Centre and the States was never considered very seriously as there was always an organic interdependence between the bureaucrat and the politician that transcended the common weal."
Apart from the above milestone, the other spectacular news is that the MHRD, under its National Mission on Education through ICT (NME-ICT), has assigned work to the UGC for development of e-content in 77 subjects at postgraduate level. The content and its quality is the key component of education system.
High quality, curriculum-based,interactive content in different subjects across all disciplines of social sciences, arts, fine arts & humanities, natural & mathematical sciences, linguistics and languages is being develope under this initiative named e-PG Pathshala.
And this blog finds a special mention here as well in the Public Administration catalogue content:
Shodhganga : a reservoir of Indian theses is a digital repository of theses and dissertations submitted to Indian universities. It is maintained by INFLIBNET Centre which is an autonomous Inter-University Centre of the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India located in the campus of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. As on 4 October 2016, as many as 293 universities in India have signed MoUs with the INFLIBNET Centre to participate in the Shodhganga project. The top five universities in terms of the numbers of theses submitted are Panjab University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Karnatak University and Anna University. 
International Journal of Science Research In Science & Technology:
International Research Fellows Association
ModernGhana A Critical Analysis Of The Policies And Programmes Of The Restoration Administration:
Berlin University: Smart Cities Mission in India
Analysing the implementation mechanism and its impact on urban governance:

Friday, December 22, 2017

Governance: Civil Service & Politician Interface By B K Chaturvedi

     " It has to be emphasized that the onus is on civil servants to strengthen public administration and good governance. However, while working as part of policy making or field responsibilities, it may be useful to understand the nature of the relationship between the political executive and the civil service. It is also necessary to appreciate the enormous inconvenience and widespread corruption faced by the people while availing public service"

Two important issues facing the nation today are how the economic growth can be accelerated and how benefits of growth and development can flow to the citizens in an efficient manner. Issues of governance have increasingly come to centre stage while working out strategies for the above. There is a strong view that corruption in civil service is endemic and funds provided by government leak very badly. I recall a recent discussion during a book launch when it was argued that from the famous fifteen paisa reaching the poor man, the amount is now reduced to five paisa. There are large technological changes taking place in our society. The aspirations and expectations of citizens from the government system are of delivery of service of the highest order of excellence.

The independence of civil service in giving advice in policy-making and in performing field responsibilities is an important issue which has affected the functioning of the civil service in recent years. In the Constituent Assembly of India, on 10th October, 1949, Sardar Vallabh Bai Patel said:“If you want an efficient all-India service, I advise you to allow the service to open their mouth freely. If you are a Premier, it would be your duty to allow your Secretary, or Chief Secretary, or other services working under you, to express their opinion without fear or favour. But I see a tendency today that in several provinces, the services are set upon and told, “No, you, are servicemen, you must carry out our orders.” The Union will go, you will not have a united India, if you do not have a good all-India service which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has a sense of security that you will stand by your word and that after all, there is the Parliament, of which we can be proud, where their rights and privileges are secure. If you do not adopt this course, then do not follow the present Constitution.”

And further: “Today my Secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given that freedom to all my Secretaries. I have told them, “If you do not give your honest opinion for fear that it will displease your Minister, please then you had better go. I will bring another Secretary,” I will never be displeased over a frank expression of opinion."  the 1950s1 and even the early 1960s, the relationship between political executive and civil service was of trust and non-partisan functioning of the civil service. This trust has gradually given way to segmentation of civil servants and their politicisation in many cases. Two different types of relationships have emerged. First covers those, who try to maintain a degree of integrity and upright behaviour. Second covers those senior civil servants, who cosy up to the political executive and go along with them, irrespective of the civil service norms, good conduct or ethical behaviour. Often, the second category is bifurcated when the political power is transferred from one political party to the other. Invariably, one group of the committed faction of civil service starts its innings in close proximity with the political executive and the other committed class is put in the dog house. Of the first category, the number is gradually dwindling. There is increasingly a feeling that civil servants who fall in this category may not be treated fairly by the political class in respect of their assignments, transfers or their other service matters.

An important point, which is often overlooked in the above context, is the requirement of citizens for good governance. This is invariably a casualty when the political executive and the civil service cosy up to each other forgetting the norms for good administration. The Civil Service provides an exciting opportunity full of challenges. There are very few services which provide such a vast range of challenges, a mix of field and policy making opportunity and opportunity to act as a key player in the national growth process. One has to be proud of one’s work and dedication to get full satisfaction from these challenges. These, however, require qualities which one has to develop.

Senior civil servants belonging to All India Services (AIS) have a special responsibility, in case they are to live up to the commitment with which they have entered the service. Business as usual cannot deliver results. The civil service has to live up to certain norms of behaviour which, in the long run will bring them success, but may be painful in the short run. At times, acting in accordance with laws and rules or pointing out their implications may be termed as risk-aversing behaviour. One may be assigned inconsequential jobs. There can be others who may try to get short-run advantages by using their closeness to political masters. In the long-run, however, persons who have acted in accordance with norms and delivered results are generally able to come up and be recognized. Such civil servants are well-respected by peer groups, subordinates, the people and even the political parties across the spectrum.

Civil Service has to follow norms of professional conduct. These will not only bring good governance agenda on centre stage, but also once again enhance the reputation of the All India Service as that of a steel frame which serves the country for growth and prosperity. It will also help in development of confidence of people in the civil services and earn them new respect.2 Let me highlight some norms for civil servants:
First, maintain high personal integrity. The strength of civil service is people’s faith in their absolute incorruptibility and honesty. This is specially so in top civil servants who should be absolutely beyond reproach. This gives you strength to get your way with the political executive who respect such officers. Even in corrupt regimes, such officers are respected.

Second, be fair in administering law, policies and administrative decisions. The biggest strength of civil servants is people’s faith in their impartial and fair actions and transparent functioning. Do make positive efforts to ensure that your decisions appear fair and transparent in people’s eyes as well. It is worth several battalions of paramilitary forces.

Third, people respect you for your knowledge and skills. Acquire thorough knowledge and develop an analytical ability to fully assess and understand issues which need to be addressed with adequate attention to details. Decisions arrived at, after full understanding of issues, are likely to be implementable and deliver expected results.

Fourth, field jobs, on which civil service often has to spend time, provide an opportunity for change in the system. Your motto should be to deliver results and work as an effective field officer. This may require taking tough and unpopular decisions. It often requires “out of the box” thinking and taking action against the corrupt. Don’t hesitate while taking the right action. But be fair and just in your decisions. You may have to face difficult times in some cases.

Fifth, Good Governance is a Fundamental Right of the citizen. Identify gaps in public service delivery and implementation of schemes. Identify rules and regulations which are hampering progress and suggest changes to Government. Use innovation and adoption of best practices in implementation and encourage its development in your team. Be openminded and mentally receptive to new ideas. Delivery of public services, if done efficiently, leads to consumer satisfaction, optimum use of financial resources, economic betterment and lower corruption.

Sixth, the biggest disservice to the governance structure is to hesitate in taking decisions or deliberately avoiding it. Do not hesitate to take decisions. If you have reservations on your ability or are worried about being responsible for its consequence, don’t join the civil service. The entire career in civil service is about taking decisions and making clear policy recommendations for decision taking. Acts of omission often may go unnoticed or not punished. These are, however, extremely harmful for good governance.

Seventh, in civil service you may invariably be the leader of the pack. Assume full responsibility for achieving the targets and key performance parameters of the organization which you are heading. Learn to delegate authority but ensure effective leadership. This can come if you are perceived by your organization as not prone to blaming subordinates for shortcomings in any targets. This will earn respect from subordinates, colleagues and even seniors. It is an excellent remedy for success of leadership.

Eighth, be sensitive to the needs of poor, especially marginalised groups, women, SC/ST and minorities. These are the groups which need your support the most. By effective implementation of programmes for them and your empathy for their welfare, you can help build an egalitarian society. Affirmative actions in their favour build confidence in civil service.

Ninth, the political executive makes policies in consultation with civil servants for attaining certain objectives for the welfare of people. While advising Ministers and working as senior civil servants, analyse all the reasonable policy options which can be considered on the issue under examination. Examine also whether a policy, that the government is wanting to implement, is under any political compulsion and has short-term benefits only and not in the long-term national interest. If so, put forth your views clearly and logically. Suggest quite clearly, with reasons, why you consider any policy option as the most appropriate and meeting the policy objectives.

While giving advice, do not anticipate what the Minister may like to hear. State what you consider the most appropriate course of action. You will be respected in the long run by peers, as well as the political executive.

Tenth, do not criticise Government policies in public discussions. As a civil servant, the responsibility on you is to provide support to the government to enable it to defend the policies. By criticising it, you are undermining government, as well as yourself. If the issue is really serious and you do not think that you can live with such government policies, you should consider quitting the job and undertake other assignments.

Eleventh, develop inter-personal skills. In the modern world with wide range of organisations, private sector expansion and technological explosion, it is important that you have good relations with persons from different sectors to enable you to access them when needed. It increases your effectiveness while handling difficult issues in the field.

Twelfth, adapt to IT use, new technologies and their use to ensure good governance. Information technology can help reduce delays, ensure efficient delivery of public services and cut down corruption. You must be, therefore, fully cognisant of its use and potential. Simplifying administrative procedures promotes good governance.

Thirteenth, prepare well in advance to ensure effective articulation of the view point of your Ministry. Put forward your point of view concisely and in a focused manner. It is important that you absorb fully the issues at hand and are clear in your mind about the approach which you wish to take in any inter-ministerial forum.

Fourteenth, develop the ability to listen to visitors and different points of view carefully and patiently. An enormous amount of feedback about problems in the field and different approaches can be had in this manner. This is the best learning method.

Fifteenth, develop the ability to integrate and form a consensus view point consistent with the policy objective planned. While doing so, you should be able to evaluate and assess the technical, social and political dimensions of the problem. This is extremely critical at senior policy-making levels where different approaches and points of view have to be put together. You should not be shy of taking tough decisions in the interest of effective policy implementation.

Sixteenth, make a well-informed judgement of ground realities and policies which will work. Have a feedback on the proposed policies from those working in different geographical area where the proposed policies or plans are supposed to be implemented. Ensure enough flexibility with ground realities in your plans.

Seventeenth, accept challenging assignments. Do not try to wriggle out of it. Often, these assignments involve tough decision taking and have risk of failure. Success can be assured if you have accepted the challenging job and are working diligently with all stakeholders as a team. This will give you visibility and test your ability to handle tough assignments.

Eighteenth, in face of grave provocation, stand by your principles and convictions. Do not lose your cool. The administrative challenges are varied and involve wide varieties of people and organisations with vested interests. You can handle them only if you are considering all questions coolly and objectively.

Nineteenth, civil servants are accountable to Government. There is, however, public accountability also. Identify key target areas which you must achieve during your work based on Government policy and programmes. Identify people’s felt needs and enmesh them in your programme too.

An interesting aspect, in the above context, is the relative responsibility of political executive and the civil service in improving the governance system. It has to be emphasized that onus is on civil servants to strengthen public administration and good governance. However, while working as part of policy making or field responsibilities, it may be useful to understand the nature of relationship between the political executive and the civil service. It is also necessary to appreciate the enormous inconvenience and widespread corruption faced by the people while availing public service. Following points, therefore, need special focus:

First, the corruption in governance system and delivery of public services is quite widespread. It has to be tackled initially by preventing possibility of corruption. For this, it is necessary to make public service delivery procedures simple, use of Information Technology and bringing in transparency in decision taking. Next, those guilty of corruption have to be identified and punished quickly. Second, it is useful to recall that the All India Services are creatures of the constitution (Article 312).

While the services have to follow the policies laid down by the Government headed by the political executive, they also have legal obligations under certain statutes, whenever they exercise those powers. Such exercise of power has to be done with an independent application of mind. Third, it is important that Civil Servants clearly bring out their views in writing while doing an analysis of the issues concerned when engaged in the task of policy making. If certain government policy is not in public interest and may lead to harmful results, this has to be clearly brought out in your notes and analysis. Once, however, you have clearly mentioned your view and a considered decision has been taken, it has to be implemented with full vigour.

Thus, while the civil servant is free to express his views freely, one cannot keep opposing a decision taken by the government unless there are serious intellectual differences. In such cases, one should consider quitting the job and undertake new assignments. Fourth, there may be complex situations in which Ministers and some civil servants try to push illegal orders on subordinates. This could be because of ulterior monetary interest or corruption. There could be Mafia. In all this foggy and unclear vision, the civil servants have to be clear on their course of action for handling these situations. The approach should be quite clear to  

 them while handling these situations. First, orders which are illegal or against any statutes or interfere with your exercise of authority vested in you under a law, have to be ignored. Second, administrative orders, if you find unfair or unjust, must be protested against with reasons. If reiterated, these have to be implemented. It may in some cases, cause damage to one’s career. In the long-run, however, peers and colleagues respect you for it. In many cases, colleagues and seniors come forward to undo the damage to your career caused by your not implementing unfair or unjust orders. Success has its price. It cannot be built on falsehoods, inequity and illegality.

The political executive which is responsible to the legislature has to also reconsider how the governance can be strengthened. The norms of conduct mentioned above will need a strong political consensus. They may need to discuss it across the country and their readiness to act on it as Sardar Patel had advised more than six decades back.

Author: B.K. Chaturvedi
Article Courtesy: http://yojana.gov.in/2014/eng/Yojana%20March%202014.pdf

Monday, October 9, 2017


Dear Learners,

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is a renowned Central University catering to a huge student base of over 4 Million all over the world via distance education as well as regular courses.

It also acts as a national resource centre, and serves to promote and maintain standards of distance education in India. IGNOU hosts the Secretariats of the SAARC Consortium on Open and Distance Learning (SACODiL) and the Global Mega Universities Network (GMUNET), initially supported by UNESCO.

The Ministry of HRD has entrusted the responsibility of developing Draft Policy on Open and Distance Learning and Online Courses to IGNOU.

The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) recognises IGNOU conferred degrees as on par with the degrees conferred by its members and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) recognises the Master of Computer Applications and Master of Business Administration program of IGNOU.
In 1993, IGNOU was designated by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) as its first Centre of Excellence for Distance Education empowered "to actively participate in Commonwealth co-operative endeavours to identify, nurture, and strengthen open learning institutions throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in the Third World ..

Courtesy: IGNOU Wikipedia Page
IGNOU's Study Materials are of immense use to UPSC, State PCS , NET as well as other such competitive examination aspirants and social scientists as well as researchers in India.
Therefore, it is pertinent that one has access to them in every way possible for the further understanding and development of academic pursuits in the concerned disciplines.
As our blog is dedicated to Public Administration, hence, the study material in Hindi and English medium is being uploaded here via 
IGNOU's virtual learning platform:
Bachelors in Public Administration English Medium Study Material:
Hope it serves as a useful tool to everyone accessing these resourceful links.

All the best!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The perennial generalist vs specialist debate - TSR Subramanian

Half-baked impractical ideas such as lateral entry should not be encouraged. The room for abuse is enormous

The specialist vs. generalist debate in India’s civil services resurfaces periodically. One has seen a chief of the electricity board, an excellent engineer who managed his power plants and transmission systems extremely well, totally clueless in matters relating to power policy. One has also seen a first-rate irrigation chief engineer taking over as secretary of the irrigation department and floundering from day one on administrative issues. On the other hand, there have been many scientists, long abdicating their scientific work, turn into fine administrators and policymakers. It is not uncommon to find IAS secretaries, with excellent reputation, often unable to find their feet in ‘alien’ departments. There is no hard and fast rule in such matters; the suitability and background of each officer for a post is more relevant than his label.

Having said that, it has often been found suboptimal to have a specialist to head a department – say the ministry of energy or ministry of power. By definition, all specialists focus on their own specific fields, and each technical field has a hundred branches. An expert on electrical transmission may not have better advisory capability in the field of solar or hydrogen energy than a non-engineer with an open mind; in most fields rapid development has taken place in the past decades – our expert has learnt his specialty years back, and may be out of date even in his own specialisation. The generalist is not afraid of asking questions, consults many experts before a position is taken – more often than not the specialist tends to take the view that he knows all in his field, and often shuns other opinion. 

The author of this piece had occasion recently to prepare a study for the government on two separate fields – environment, and post office reforms. In the area broadly referred to as ‘environment and climate change’, it was an eye-opener to find at least a hundred separate fields of specialisation; often experts and agencies working in one may not be aware even of the existence of many others. Thus, forestry itself has any number of branches – if you add technical, commercial and social forestry issues, the fields of specialisation get multiplied. The arena of pollution – air and water – itself accommodates hundreds of expert fields. The committee that did the study would not have really been able to take a holistic view by talking just to one expert, however renowned – they met over a hundred, to get the picture. Likewise, the issue of postal reform covered a variety of fields – telecom spectrum, optical fibre connectivity, Unique Identity issues, insurance for life / accident / crops, logistics for e-commerce, to mention a few; doubtless, each of these would open up into many more specialised fields of expertise. Thus only an officer with intimate knowledge of the system, with decades of background and experience (needless to say with some imagination, insight and innovation), could bring together different experts to tackle each element of a new strategy. These illustrate the fallacy of repeatedly referring to need to replace ‘generalists’ with ‘specialists’.

The management of public affairs, as practised in India, is a highly specialised field; practitioners have to learn this profession, by working in the field – the university or training institutions will not prepare a person to deal with politicians, crooks, public grievances, riots, floods, policy-making in hundred fields, dealing with the police and the judiciary – none of these is taught in engineering schools or in MBA courses. Robust commonsense, coupled with a sense of dedication, pride, professionalism, and experience from years of working as a field officer and in the secretariat are the key requirements to make an administrator. 

Another metaphor may be drawn to make comparison – should a senior citizen, with many ailments not unusual for his age, have only one ‘expert’ doctor as his consultant, or should he rely on a ‘generalist’ doctor? This is not a hypothetical question. A person with high BP and diabetes (standard for most Indians), a weak spine (not unusual for government servants, particularly for those who have one), and poor lung capacity (normal for Delhi citizens, indeed of any city in India) – should he take advice directly from six different experts, without the assistance of a generalist all-round doctor, to interpret, moderate and balance the frequently conflicting ‘expert advice’? This is the role that the professional generalist, with two to three decades of experience is able to play in the system.

The question then may be asked that when the minister himself is a generalist, why one needs a secretary who is also a generalist. The minister is an expert in politics, manoeuvring public opinion, making wild promises, generally shrewd but weak in comprehension of complex issues; without being overly uncharitable, his main management task is to ensure that the ruling party’s political image remains intact; that in most cases, the special interest groups (aka ‘mafias’) that he is beholden to is benefitted; and that everything he does will ensure a good chance of his re-election. Do not be fooled by appellations – our ministers, especially in the states, do not have the same IQ or probity or experience quotient displayed by their counterparts in developed countries; the minister is just not cut out to be an administrator.

The UPSC is a key institution, one of the few which has maintained pristine standards; none has seriously questioned its process of selecting the best candidates for the civil services. The IAS is selected through a competitive examination – not on pass or fail basis; the system is designed to test overall comprehension, analytical ability, and optimal approach to situations, rather than specialisation; it would not make a difference whether a ‘generalist’ or a ‘professional’ is inducted into the service.

The second administrative reforms commission had recommended ‘lateral’ recruitment at the additional secretary and secretary levels. Many, at first sight, may see this as logical. The fact is that even now, at the government of India level, the secretary-level posts are evenly divided among all-India service officers, and experts in their own fields – most of them spending their career in government, rising to the top. Having worked in the system at the secretariat, the ‘expert’ may not have field experience (so essential to any policymaker or administrator whose recommendations / decisions would have impact on the citizen); however, he has understood the governmental system, which itself is highly specialised. Thus an Abdul Kalam or a Kasturirangan, who contributed during their time to governance, were both products of the system; the likes of Montek Singh Ahluwalia also were experts in their own field, but they thrived within the environment of the governmental milieu. It is a moot question whether an outside expert brought in, so to speak cold-turkey, to a line-department like telecom or agriculture or commerce would be able to hit the deck running – he would take at least a couple of years to understand the way decisions are examined and taken within the system, the operation of various institutional factors such as party politics, the judicial system, the  parliament, the CAG and other statutory and constitutional agencies, not to speak of the impact of media or the NGOs or the social media on decision making. This is not to belittle or downplay the role of experts – they are of vital importance to provide high quality technical inputs, and raise the quality of approach to complex issues. Do not downgrade them by asking them to be ‘pen-pushing’ babus. 

Do not demean our talented experts to waste their time dealing with inconsequential parliamentary questions. Equally, do not demean the senior professional civil servant, chosen from among the best talent available in India, with two-or-three-decades of relevant experience – he is generally irreplaceable. 

One other significant point needs to be highlighted. India has borrowed its administrative structure from Whitehall – not from the US, where each minister is allowed to choose his own senior advisers, who leave their private jobs as experts to join the minister’s team for a five-year stint; in the US they are team members, and identify their personal interests solely with that of the minister. In India such a concept will have disastrous impact – will make a corrupt system infinitely worse, in most situations. In India the governance pattern is ‘adversarial’ – the secretary’s role is to render dispassionate non-partisan advice; he is also responsible, as a career functionary, for the propriety of the advice he tenders. Besides, Indian administration does not have the checks and balances that US has, where most proposals are looked at through committees at different levels. Only a person who does not understand the basics, as well as the complex nature of Indian administrative practice, would trust short-term advisers at the highest levels, who will exercise authority without responsibility. Lateral entry will spell disaster, particularly in states where methods will be found to induct persons with limited expertise but dubious integrity, to loot the system. Again, before lateral entry is considered, there needs to be a clear understanding of what the current gaps are, and how – if at all – lateral entry will fill them. 

The present system of postings and transfers is frequently irrational, especially in the states. However, it needs to be ensured that at the additional secretary/ secretary level it will be unwise and counterproductive to post a career civil servant, who does not have previous experience in that broad field. At the level of secretary, there is no time to learn the broad milieu and general features of that particular field, indeed its ‘lingo’; there is no place for people with no previous exposure. Career planning for the services should ensure that the officer posted at the secretary level should have done at least one assignment at deputy secretary / director / joint secretary levels, to give him a sense of familiarity, as also to ensure that he is fully effective from day one.

No one questions the need for reform of the civil service, which ought to be a continuous process, as in every other sphere. Politicisation of the civil services has taken roots. The level of corruption in many civil services has reached worrisome, if not alarming, levels – though miniscule compared to the political arena. The morale of the civil servants themselves is low, particularly in the states. Some, who have little understanding of Indian governance, have even asked whether the time has come to abolish the all-India services. 

Don’t throw the baby with the bath water. What is needed is reform, not scrapping the system. Civil servants should be enabled to perform with freedom, efficacy and accountability. For this, one should reach out to tackle the core problems, not just tinker with peripheral issues. The necessary political will has to be summoned, if such a thing were possible, to tone up and cleanse the civil services.

The core problems afflicting the civil services stem from larger political causes, relating to unstable state governments, rampant corruption in the states and operation of mafias, and an insecure political executive exploiting the public servant for narrow personal ends. Politics having become the most lucrative business in the country, with few checks and controls, there is compulsion for the minister or political leader to tempt or coerce civil servants to collude with him for mutual benefit. Frequent transfers, ministers hand-picking the officials to work with them and sidelining of efficient but honest officers are common now, especially in the states.  An array of weapons is used: arbitrary transfers, control over the annual character roll entry, and unleashing of departmental inquiries to keep civil servants off balance and submissive, prodding them to collusion. These are the key issues which need to be addressed, for a meaningful reform.  

The main weaknesses in our governance structure do not emanate from the civil services. Currently, the real problems lie elsewhere. The political scene is unprincipled, unscrupulous, and untrammelled – there is no effective check against excesses and delinquency of the political executive. Political reforms should be highest on the agenda. This is possible only if there is significant election reform. Judicial reform, about which much is not yet talked about, also ranks in the forefront. One should avoid the temptation to look for ‘easy’ solutions, barking up the wrong tree – since the civil servant is the easiest target to hit. Half-baked impractical ideas such as lateral entry should not be encouraged – the room for abuse is enormous. 

Subramanian is a former cabinet secretary.
(The article appears in the June 16-30, 2015 issue)
Courtesy: http://www.governancenow.com/views/columns/the-perennial-generalist-vs-specialist-debate

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Personal Memo from a Woman Teaching Public Administration in Asia - ORA-ORN POOCHAROEN

The Minnowbrook Perspective(Published Jan 2011)

I argue strongly that it is now time to once again critically rethink the field of public administration. This time it is not only about relevance to social issues—linking theory to practice, the focus of the Minnowbrook I Conference— but also about making the field truly relevant to public administration experiences around the world.Public administration theories should be built from cases with different contexts. International academics should be the core group to lead the field. And the target audience should be practitioners from around the globe. I envision the field of public administration twenty years from now as a global field that is taught in every country and that offers much greater choice in international textbooks, journals, and conferences. 

The field has been dominated by the U.S. experience for the past hundred years. Theories of public administration have been built on the U.S. experience , for a U.S. audience, by U.S.-based academics. This one-way influence of the United States’ public administration establishment has led to domination by particular mindsets in the past thirty years, such as the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm. We can only go in a new direction of global public administration by accepting that U.S.-based public administration is a subfield of public administration. The field needs to take a much broader global perspective in all areas of teaching, research, and service to the public. 

Upon graduation from university in the United States, I returned to Thailand to teach. In my course I had students read what I was taught, such as materials on politics and administration dichotomy, bureaucracy, accountability, governance, and ethics. But I soon realized the inadequacy of my knowledge about Asia’s context in public administration. In one class, a midcareer student stood up to say, “Why are we learning all of these theories? These are all thoughts from the United States. They don’t make sense in the Thai context.”

The problem was that I was not presenting my students with theories from other parts of the world. I had not included topics relevant to Thailand, such as decentralization, corruption, and development. After this, I tried to develop cases in the Thai context. However, although the cases now focused on the local context, the theories were still from the U.S. experience.

Currently, I am teaching in Singapore, where a cohort of about seventy students in the master of public administration (MPA) program represents at least twenty countries. Because there is no one dominant nationality, there is no one national context on which I am obliged to base the design of my course. Midcareer students, who come from different national settings, would not be able to relate to some debates common in the United States. For example, in China the separation between the Communist Party and the bureaucracy is not a topic of great concern, in Myanmar issues of collaboration and contracting-out make little sense under the military regime, and in Papua New Guinea the issue of total quality management might be of little use. And the list could go on.

Many academics rely on examples of course syllabi available on the internet and existing online textbooks to form course syllabi. This reliance, coupled with the long history of public administration as a field in the United States, has created an eschewed list of options available for scholars. The spread of the NPM in syllabi and courses around the world in the new millennium is a prime example. The NPM movement, which is grounded in economics , a rational approach, neoliberalism, capitalism, and market-based decision making, began with practitioners in the United States and Anglo-Saxon countries and is used in academic texts throughout the world. Most MPA courses in countries like China and Thailand would include the study of the NPM.4 And now, moreover, although the NPM movement has faded in the original countries, alarmingly many countries around the world are just about to begin their great NPM experiment. This time lag in how U.S.-based theories are transferred to practice elsewhere usually runs ten to fifteen years.

Most public administration and public policy schools have an economics orientation that focuses on the rational approach and quantitative methods, and is problem-solving oriented and aligned with the NPM movement. Not many focus on understanding problems,critical approaches, or discourse-based approaches. However,more recent debates in the field of public administration would include the perspectives of post modernism, feminist theories of public administration, social discourses and public administration,interpretative approaches, critical theory, network theory, and so on. Managerial practices have shifted to collaborative governance,networking, and building a consensus through discourse. This will probably be the next phase in public administration. In this phase one must know the development of social sciences and be able to comprehend perspectives outside the rational,positivist,and scientific approaches of public administration.

New schools of public policy and public administration are rapidly being opened around the world. For example, more than a hundred MPA programs have started in China in the last ten years. Also, many prestigious public administration or public affairs master's programs,such as Syracuse University's Maxwell School and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, have applicants with more diverse backgrounds from all around the world. many programs outside the United States are also increasingly becoming much more international. They are more international in terms of the student body,faculty members,and direction of research. However,the textbooks and case studies that are non-US based are not being produced fast enough to meet these emerging demands. This stems from the historical developments of the field, as explained above,together with the character of academic journals and conferences,which are predominantly for US audiences.

I envision the textbooks and journals of public administration in the near future as becoming highly international.We should focus on non-US based cases and theories and print more textbooks,in English, that make sense in different regions of the world,whether in Africa,Latin America,the Middle East,or Asia.These textbooks should be theoretically focused,with ample empirical studies of cases from a diverse set of contexts. Comparative work is no longer a subfield but must be mainstream public administration.For example,a student who would like to learn about public motivation theory should be able to find at least one book with studies that cut across many countries.And same principle can be applied to any other midlevel theories.

It is important to emphasize that I do not mean to enhance comparative public administration as a subfield of public administration.Instead I propose making U.S public administration a subfield replacing it with global public administration. All along, comparative public administration was seen as a subfield, because it was conceived from U.S dominated public administration perspective. This new view of the field of public administration in global perspective would have great ramifications. For example,no longer would Woodrow Wilson's paper be given so much importance, and the first textbooks and public administration would no longer be those produced in the United States in the early 1900s. The intellectual history of public administration would be taught in a global context. This would force academics to consider more historical perspectives, such as administration in different civilizations in the past and administrative practices in different political,cultural,social, and economic contexts in the present.

To realize this new view of public administration  as a global field, there would need to be major changes in the ways we teach to research. In our teaching we would need to give importance to both local and non local students. We have an obligation to provide diverse knowledge that does not rely on one context. We must be able to provide examples and thoughtful insights into different contexts for different theories. We must avoid scenarios where international students come to study public administration in our institutions and then feel taht they cannot apply the knowledge elsewhere. We must also train our doctoral to be multilingual academics who interested in different administrative systems and are comfortable doing international research.
As for research, as a community we must foster international channels of information dissemination. Journals and conferences must be designed to answer to the international public administration community. Currently,some high ranking journals are becoming more internationally oriented, but not most. many universities use rankings of journals to judge the quality of publications of their faculty members. Because many of these journals are dominated by a preference for U.S based cases,currently it is much more difficult for cases from other countries to be accepted. For example, for a study of emergency management, the case of Hurricane Katrina is easily accepted,but the cases of Nargis in Myanmar or the tsunami in Aceh,Indonesia, will not be seen as regional or comparative studies - even though, as a matter of fact, the emergency management of Nargis and the tsunami are probably more relevant to the rest of the world than Hurrican Katrina.
Hopefully, in the new global public administration,as international academic journals became ranked more highly,this would in turn force us to focus more on international research agendas, because these journals would only accept studies relevant to the global community that include cross-national cases. Similarly,international conferences would be the norm rather than the exception.Local or regional conferences would still exist but would  be considered less prestigious than international ones, which would be much more vibrant.
These ideas are difficult to implement for scholars with large domestic audience. For example,the United States has a large domestic market,which enables U.S based scholars to produce scholarly work only for the domestic market. Thus,if you are teaching human resources management to students who you know will work for the county or city where your university is based, then it would make no sense to teach the practice of other countries. You would also try to write articles that are directly linked to a practitioner audience in the area. Though this approach has value because it keeps the academician connected to the area-specific audience,it does not enhance the field as a whole. The same example can be given with scholars working in other large countries. For example,if you are a public administration specialist in Vietnam,Zambia,Hungary,Brazil,or any other country,if you only focus your research and ideas based on what is happening in this one country,you will miss the whole worldwide discourse on public administration. Your theories and cases,though of interest to your local group practitioners, might not be contributing in any way to theories in the field,because what you have written might be unique to that particular country and others might have already written extensively on the same subject.
We need to better value international journals and conferences. The themes of journals and conferences should focus on theory rather than on a particular country.We can incorporate into our academic incentive systems new ways to rank publication in journals or conference attendances for tenure and promotion criteria. By doing so,more leading academics in the field would be able to function as international scholars continuously producing globally relevant knowledge. We would be agents of knowledge transfer responsible for what we teach and how it applies globally. We would be comfortable managing research projects that cross geopolitical boundaries. We would be creating knowledge that is relevant to local audiences and at the same time connected to discourses on a global scale. We would be able to produce more diverse textbooks that would be useful around the world.Only as it does these things will the field of public administration continue to be relevant.

I am waiting for that day to come when my midcarrer MPA students are able to read and discuss cases from their own countries,are able to debate the development of the field in China versus the United States versus India, and are provided with a variety of ways to think about public administration other than U.S based approaches. This will be the day when I will never be asked again why me must study only certain histories and certain approaches,because I will then have many choices of texts to provide my students. This will be the day when the field of public administration will have become a coherent global field that has answers and can guide public administration students and practitioners in al political,social,economic,and cultural contexts.And this will be the day when we will have moved beyond the domination of specific country contexts and will have created a truly global public administration.

The Minnowbrook Perspective(Published Jan 2011)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Continuously motivating grass roots workers is the key

As DM of Badaun, Amit Gupta spearheaded a campaign against manual scavenging by replacing dry latrines with pour-flush toilets, winning the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration in 2011. With the Swachh Bharat Mission commencing, he shares his grass roots experiences in sanitation schemes with Jiby J Kattakayam.
With open defecation and manual scavenging persisting, how can a nationwide sanitation scheme be made sustainable?
Open defecation and manual scavenging are different issues. Our primary focus in Badaun was on the latter. Our work was sustainable because it was tackled from both ends: dry toilets were converted and manual scavengers were rehabilitated. By building toilets in manual scavengers’ home and training them as masons, we made them active participants. We addressed around 500 meetings to create awareness. The Valmikis badly wanted to get out of this tradition and those who have quit tell me that they will not return. Open defecation, on the other hand, also involves a behavioural aspect as a household with a toilet might still use it as a storeroom and opt for open defecation. Alongside funding and targets, what is more important in a sanitation drive is motivating stakeholders. We also found audio-visual techniques like posters and street plays effective.
Are caste practices aiding the persistence of manual scavenging?
Earlier, the manual scavengers were under pressure from the influential groups in villages who were using dry toilets. When these people shifted to pour-flush toilets, the social pressure on the Valmikis eased. They now realise that the discrimination they faced earlier was partly because of the nature of their work. Now, erstwhile scavenging households are taking up various agriculture-related or MGNREGA works which other villagers do. They have reported back to our field staff that their social status has risen after dissociating from the scavenging work. But for effective rehabilitation, a multi-pronged approach involving BPL and MGNREGA job cards, access to PDS, health, housing, skill development and social security schemes, and school enrolment is necessary.
Earlier schemes had poor allocations for building toilets and none for maintenance. How should funding be structured?
Low-cost toilet models should be popularised, which we did. Our priority was to convert as many dry toilets as possible, and, frankly, the problem of maintenance and toilet seats’ breaking was not realised. But there could be provisions of maintenance after a specified period for the poor. What many people forget is that a lot can be achieved with little effort. If we target the comparatively well-off people in villages and motivate them to construct toilets with their own money, the lower income groups are more likely to follow suit. I am a firm believer in persuading the upper strata to invest their own financial resources in constructing toilets. We persuaded lower-tier public servants, ASHA, rozgar sevaks, para teachers and anganwadi workers, who are the more educated ones and wield much influence in villages, to build toilets in their homes. This strategy has worked well as they persuade others to do the same. This frees up public funding for building toilets for the poor.
Gupta is now special secretary to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.
Article Courtesy: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-continuously-motivating-grass-roots-workers-is-the-key-2027704

Sunday, June 18, 2017

CASE STUDY: India — Tracking health and well-being in Goa's mining belt by Kevin Conway

New tools promote the sustainable development of mining

A strong mining sector can provide "good" jobs and generate much needed revenue for cash-strapped governments. But it can also ruin landscapes and transform communities. In the Indian state of Goa, researchers supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have developed a series of tools to assess the trade-offs. The goal is to ensure that the mining and mineral industry contributes equitably to the well-being of local people.
The Indian state of Goa is better known for its beaches and as a mecca for backpackers than as the backbone of India's iron ore industry. Yet, the mining belt that stretches across the middle of this tiny state accounts for 60 percent of the nation's iron ore exports. The contrast between the picture-perfect beaches of the coast and the pockmarked landscape of the interior is stark. Open pit mining operations have left an indelible mark on the region: hills have been flattened, forests razed, and fields blanketed in silt run-off from waste sites and processing plants. Look beyond the fractured landscape, however, and you will see that jobs have been created, health and education standards have improved, and money spent locally has brought a measure of material wealth.
Goa's story is one that has been repeated in mineral-rich regions the world over where economic imperatives have pushed environmental concerns aside. Where this story differs, though, is in the steps being taken to change the narrative.
The search for balance
"Closing the mines because of their environmental impact is not an option for Goa," says Dr Ligia Noronha of the Western Regional Centre of the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). "But there is a need to bring about some balance between the economic gains and the environmental losses to ensure greater sustainability for the region and local communities.
"Finding ways to achieve that balance is the driving force behind the research in which TERI is now engaged. "Mining is one of those activities that really connects issues relating to people, development, and the environment," says Dr Noronha. "But its contribution -- negative and positive -- to health and well-being is poorly understood. More important, it's not well communicated."
As a result, local communities, governments, and mining companies are often uncertain about their respective roles and responsibilities in mining development, and they are unable to act or participate effectively in decisions related to mining activities. This is the information that Dr Noronha and the team she leads have sought to provide. The team includes economists, a biologist, a biochemist, an environmental geologist, a political scientist, and a specialist in health and social research statistics. They have developed a series of tools to measure the well-being of local communities and the surrounding environment. "By allowing changes in well-being to be measured over time, these tools can enable greater participation and conflict resolution. They can also improve decision making," asserts Dr Noronha.
Building local trust
"Early on, we understood that we needed a broad perspective for understanding well-being and its determinants, as well as a means of addressing the various realities of the people living and working in mining areas," says Dr Noronha. "We chose an ecosystem approach because it places an equal emphasis on concerns related to the environment, the economy, and the community in assessing the significance of an economic activity to human well-being. For us, it seemed the best way to go."
The TERI team also recognized that the active involvement of mining companies, state and local governments, and villagers in mining communities would be critical to arriving at workable solutions. "The main challenge," says Dr Noronha," was convincing the groups that we did not have vested interests -- that we were not out to close mines, to do people out of jobs or governments out of revenue, but to arrive at the shared understanding of the trade-offs and possibilities. Fortunately, things worked well and we received the full support of the local communities, industry, and the government during this project.
To overcome early skepticism, the TERI team launched a process they refer to as "multistakeholder issue development." Mining company representatives, government officials, and community members were involved in identifying and validating critical issues associated with mining, with developing and testing tools, and in resolving problems that arose as the project progressed. "The multistakeholder process was a central feature of our work," says Dr Noronha. "It ensured that the issues were acceptable to all the stakeholders, that it reflected their priorities, and that the issues left out were less important than those that were included."
The common set of core issues to emerge from this process were:
land: its availability for mining operations and issues of compensation to farmers;
environmental quality: concerns about the degradation of air, water, lands, and forests;
post-mine closure: issues of unemployment, income potential, migration rates, alcoholism, and environmental cleanup;
human and physical investment in the region: education, basic amenities, rent-sharing with locals, training opportunities, and health care facilities;
social and community relations: nongovernmental organizations' interference, political interference, media under-reporting of problems, cosmetic attention to problems, and consultation; and
effective administration: rule enforcement, goals achieved, and accountability.
Working from this core set of issues, the TERI researchers developed three tools for measuring the impact of mining activities and their effect on well-being: (1) a set of environmental and social performance indicators to measure the economic, environmental, and social costs of mining; (2) a "quality of life" instrument to assess the well-being of people in mining areas over time; and (3) an income-accounting tool to gauge the long-term economic viability of mining activities.
Assessing change
The purpose of environmental and social performance indicators is to measure trends. "Changes in indicators over time can then point to what is happening in the mining region, whether impacts are positive or negative, whether problems are growing or decreasing, and whether or not current policies are achieving desired goals," says Dr Noronha. "They can also point out actions and areas of concern to the main stakeholders."
The TERI team developed indicators for each of the stakeholder groups. For mining companies, for example, whether wastewater was treated and tailings water was recycled served as indicators of environmental performance. In villages, water levels in wells and rivers served as indicators of environmental quality. Because monitoring was done by government agencies, they also served as indicators of good environmental governance.
A pre-pilot test of the indicators was done with a few companies and the Goa Mineral Exporters Association to see if the language used was clear and to ensure that the indicators had policy relevance. Where testing showed that data for proposed indicators did not exist or would be difficult to obtain, those indicators were dropped from the final set. Examples of indicators that were dropped include the lowest wages paid by worker category, the number of patents filed, and worker retraining expenditures as a percentage of the total spent on all human resource development. Other indicators, not captured in the first round, were added: concerns of workers, for example, were included because they were seen as important to the mining companies, governments, and the communities in which the workers lived. The revised list of indicators was then field-tested and validated.
Monitoring quality of life
n developing the quality of life (QOL) instrument, the TERI team worked with focus groups of 10 to 12 people who represented a cross-section of the community and included members of the three stakeholder groups. "The purpose of the focus groups," says Dr Norohna, "was to get comments and views on conditions that make life better or worse, and the conditions and processes that can change the life of local people and make it more positive. They also helped with the initial testing to ensure that the tool was valid and comprehensive."
Versions of the QOL tool were piloted in Goa and in Mozambique to check for consistency and validity of results. The tool was then refined on the basis of feedback from field studies.
In Goa, the QOL instrument will provide stakeholders with a snapshot of how quality of life changes over time and at different levels of economic activity depending on whether mining is new to the area, well established, or in the processof closing down. This panoramic picture of changes over time can "suggest policies and promote improved industry and government practices that will lead to improved health and well-being of people," says Dr Noronha.
A mining ecosystem
The ecosystem defined by the TERI team includes 57 villages in the Goa mining belt that the researchers grouped into four clusters. The clusters cover a continuum in the life span of mining communities from those where mining operations are new and very active to more mature sites that are closing down. Environmental and social characteristics are often correlated to where the clusters lie along this continuum. Thus, literacy levels and access to amenities, such as lighting, sanitation, water, and cooking gas, were higher where mining was the most active. These same areas also experienced the worst air quality as a result of dust from mining and trucking operations. These differences were significant for the research team. It meant that the tools they developed would have to be sensitive enough to discern these differences and allow for solutions tailored to the local reality.
Promoting sustainable development
The role of mining in sustainable development is one issue that decision makers and resource managers have wrestled with for decades. With the development of their income-accounting tool, the TERI researchers have attempted to show how mining activities, which have a finite life span, can be integrated with social and environmental concerns in a way that promotes long-term community development.
The approach adopted by the TERI team places a monetary value on the effects of mining, such as air and water pollution, loss of forests, groundwater depletion, mineral resource use, and reduced agricultural productivity. It also takes into account the direct and indirect benefits to society. In the case of forests, for example, this would include the economic benefits gained from the generation of marketable products and the indirect benefits from watershed protection and other services. These environmental costs can be seen as an additional amount that should be contributed by the mining company to finance environmental rehabilitation using the "polluter pays" principle.
The team used similar accounting practices to place values on the health and social costs of mining. To ensure the economic viability of communities after the resource has been exhausted, money would be set aside to finance human and community development. This could help offset one of the main problems associated with mine closures: the lack of skills and resources for alternate economic development.
A step forward
The tools the TERI team have developed are not a panacea. For one thing they do not address the skewed power rela-tionships so common in mining areas. "In Goa, mining is big business and mine owners are politically powerful," says Dr Noronha. "Mining is causing serious environmental problems, but few questions are asked."
She sees the development of these tools as a step forward in redressing this imbalance. "Mining companies are now aware and, more importantly, acknowledge that they have to act responsibly, that their activities are being monitored and assessed," states Dr Noronha. "Communities have information, both positive and negative, about the activity and its impact in relation to certain societal goals or standards if they want to act toward improved conditions for themselves. And government officials know there is access to information if they want to use it to improve governance in mining regions."
This, she believes, can promote increased accountability and transparency in resource development.
This Case Study was written by Kevin Conway, a writer in IDRC's Communications Division.

Article Courtesy: https://www.idrc.ca/en/article/case-study-india-tracking-health-and-well-being-goas-mining-belt