Changing the face of development… One SMS at a time

Posted on:19-07-13

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

At the turn of the millennium, Manuel Castells had come out with an argument in his ‘Theory of the Network Society’[1] that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will have strengthened the flow of information- so much so, that it would alter the intensity, velocity and scale of the structural processes in society.  Today, the explosion of ICT for Development (ICT4D) mobile technology, network hardware and software, and the various services that accompany them, have led to a variety of exploratory approaches to bridge the development[2] gap.  At the heart of this ICT4D concept, the dominant debate is focused on whether it can lead to concrete development goals or whether it, in fact intensifies the digital divide. This blog will look at the ICT4D paradigm in India and the challenges that it faces in its current form.

Read more »

A house for the homeless

Posted on:01-07-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

This article was published in One India One People magazine, June 2013 issue, available at:

After the Right to Education and the Right to Food, a new right is being sought to be tabled in Parliament – the Right to Housing.  The Draft Homestead Bill 2013 aims at providing a homestead[1] of not less than 10 cents (0.1 acres or 4,356 sq. ft) to every landless and homeless poor family in rural areas. 

Given that India is home to close to 8 million homeless rural families the demand for the right to housing is not surprising. In fact, the Twelfth Plan working group on rural housing estimates the shortage in the Plan period (2012-17) at around 40 million.

However, the main question arises is – how will this “right” differ in its implementation from the existing scheme on rural housing – the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY). Read more »

Trends in Maternal Mortality

Posted on:26-06-13

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

India has been one of the worst performers as far as maternal mortality is concerned. The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), which measures the number of female deaths between ages 15-49 years , due to maternal causes per 1,00,000 live births, stood at 398 in 1997-98[1]. This figure came down to 212 for the period 2007-09, as per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS Bulletin, June 2011)[2]. Yet, this is nowhere close to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had set the target of MMR of 200 by 2007 and 109 by 2015. Unfortunately, the next round of SRS results has not yet been published and the latest MMR figures are not known[3].

This blog attempts to understand the trends in maternal mortality across the low and high performing States from 1997-98 to 2007-09 and assess whether the gap between the low and the high performing States has narrowed down during this period[4]. Read more »

Panel Discussion at the Launch of the fourth PAISA National Report

Posted on:17-06-13

Dr. Karthik Muralidharan, Dr. M. Govinda Rao, and Mr. Ashish Dhawan, share their views in a panel moderated by Mr.Michael Walton at the launch of the annual PAISA report 'Do Schools Get Their Money?' (PAISA 2012) Read more »

Community participation and School functioning- Evidence from DRC Survey data

Posted on:13-06-13

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

Community participation is deeply interwoven in the implementation of the The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Every school has to have a School Management Committee (SMC) which consists of members from the local community and in theory; this SMC approves plans, signs cheques and monitors the school performance[1].  The SMC (and the local community as a whole) form an important part of the accountability chain as they supplement inspections by higher rung officials, with their regular monitoring. However, anecdotal evidence, based on my field visits, suggests that most teachers do not come to school regularly as parents and community members are not concerned about the school’s functioning. Read more »

Data in the dark

Posted on:06-06-13

Saamia Ibrahim, Accountability Initiative

If government offices could exist virtually, they would be remarkably similar to government websites, waiting/loading time included. Most information is available but not easily accessible, like a cabinet full of files stacked somewhere.

Moreover, accessibility to government data does not ensure accuracy; in fact too much information can also lead to a misrepresentation of facts. This blog post seeks to highlight the various obstacles faced while researching Government of India (GOI) schemes purely using government data available online. For an insightful account of missing records in government offices, have a look at this AI post (Link). Read more »

Highlights from the CAG Performance Audit of MGNREGA

Posted on:31-05-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative Read more »

Placing public back in public procurement

Posted on:27-05-13

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

The disproportionate diversion of public funds that have taken public attention by storm, calls for an immediate adoption of preventive measures and strengthening of regulatory foundations. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Coal recently asked for a screening of the decision making process in the coal block allocation (see their report ‘Review of allotment, development and performance of coal/lignite blocks’ here). With the political and business links in this particular scam becoming more apparent when looking at the layers of individuals involved, as well as more elusive, in terms of its widespread implications, there is a larger, darker cloud that is set above this particular situation- to what extent does our legal system account for a mechanism which allows for concrete preventive action against this type of malfeasance? Read more »

Why decentralization matters

Posted on:21-05-13

Yamini Aiyar, Accountability Initiative

This article was also published in the Financial Express on May 11, 2013.

On the 24th of April 2013, India celebrated the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments mandating the creation of a third tier of elected government -Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in rural areas and municipal councils in urban India. When passed, these amendments embodied the aspiration of transforming India’s top-down, District Magistrate Raj babu culture through greater decentralization. However, 20 years on, there is little argument that this aspiration remains unfulfilled and efforts to decentralize government, despite the constitutional provisions have been halfhearted at best. Very few powers and responsibilities have been actually devolved -  local government expenditure in India accounts for just about 7% of total government spending in India. And even when monies have been devolved, such as in the MGNREGA which mandates that 50% of the total district expenditure be undertaken through the Gram Panchayat, implementation continues to be the domain of the local bureaucracy which is accountable to the district administration and not to Panchayats. Read more »

Increasing transparency in aid delivery

Posted on:13-05-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

As part of the PAISA project that tracks expenditure in elementary education in India, we collect information from state and district offices, over and above our school-level surveys. While we do face roadblocks when collecting this information, headmasters, as well as block and district and state-level officials, are usually forthcoming with their opinions and open about sharing their documents with us. I would attribute this to the assumption one makes, that if the government is spending public money to provide a public good, one can ask questions about how and when this money was spent and what the outcome was. Read more »