Free Cell Phones is not a bad idea!!

Posted on:21-09-12

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

Days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech, there was a strong rumour that he would announce a scheme to provide free mobile phones and talk-time worth Rs 200 for households below the poverty line. Though the announcement never came, the media reports focused on the political motives behind the scheme and the fiscal burden it’d impose on the already resource-strapped Treasury. Interestingly, not much was said about possible gains from making access to cell phones universal. This blog-post highlights some of thes Read more »e potential benefits.

Malnutrition: A response to the Gujarat Chief Minister Based on the Data

Posted on:19-09-12

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative.

Malnutrition in Gujarat has been in the news owing to the Chief Ministers’ comments in a recent newspaper interview. (Full transcript of the particular question is available here). The comments reaffirm widespread public perceptions about malnutrition – that it is primarily a consequence of lack of access to adequate food. Moreover, the comments also suggest that in more developed states like Gujarat, malnutrition is a middle class phenomenon rather than a serious consequence of poverty. Does the data on malnutrition support these assumptions? This blog analyses the data to share some facts and figures about malnutrition in Gujarat. Read more »

Money, Money, Money: Monitoring and Evaluation of SSA Expenditures

Posted on:14-09-12

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

In my previous blog, I had focused on a framework aimed at improving the governance of elementary education in India. One key aspect of this framework is budget and resource management, which serves as an important route to strengthening social accountability: the more efficient and transparent public education expenditure, the better the delivery of education services to beneficiaries. As readers of this blog are already aware, the PAISA survey is a method of tracking public expenditure and resources in the education sector, down through the various levels of bureaucracy, aiming to pin-point exactly where there are leakages and hurdles. In this blog, I highlight some of the ways in which I’ve seen states and districts monitor their own expenditures within the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and suggest complementary methods of monitoring and evaluation to enhance financial management within the programme. Read more »

Financial Inclusion in India

Posted on:13-09-12

Uthara Ganesh, Accountability Initiative

The need for creating equitable access to basic financial services has been widely acknowledged by several studies in recent years. A lot of the literature on the banking sector points to a close relation between the development of financial architecture and economic growth, income equality and reduction in poverty. This post, the first of a two-part blog-post on financial inclusion, talks briefly about the idea of financial inclusion, scopes the extent of financial exclusion in India and also delineates some of the first efforts of the Government of India (GOI) with regard to addressing this issue. Read more »

Empowering communities through data and supporting them with technology

Posted on:04-09-12

Laina Emmanuel, Accountability Initiative

The PAISA project since its inception in 2009, has been tracking the flow of funds of social sector schemes as well as studying the decision-making mechanisms involved in their implementation. From the very beginning, we were clear that our research should not be an entity by itself, where we simply collect data for the sake of research. Rather, we were interested in trying to understand how data can be used to enable and empower communities and individuals. Thus, our concerted focus (or rather, comprehension) has not been on the data itself, but rather how to use data and associated technologies in evolving communities. Read more »

Decentralised Education Delivery: Do GPs hold lessons for SMCs, Part 2

Posted on:31-08-12

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

In my previous blog post (which can be found here) I made the argument that a community which is directly contributing to the school’s functioning, in some way or the other, would be more likely to hold School Monitoring Committees (henceforth SMCs) accountable. This would lead to better functioning SMCs, and therefore better overall school planning, in terms of utilization of funds, and school performance, in terms of teacher and student attendance and total enrolments. To analyse if such a relationship exists, we would need data on SMCs functioning and community participation. In the PAISA survey conducted in 2011[1], we had collected data on community contribution and how often the SMCs meet (among many other things). Using the frequency of SMC meetings as a proxy for its functioning, I carried out some basic data analysis with the two variables. Read more »

Closing the MDM feedback loop: in response to 'Food for Thought'

Posted on:28-08-12

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

I am following up from Ambrish’s blog that suggests involving parents in monitoring the Mid Day Meals (MDM) Scheme in India, via the relatively new Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) launched in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Having participated in the same survey, I too came across instances where meals had not been served in schools for weeks, sometimes months. Reasons ranged from grains going bad due to inadequate storage containers, lack of cooking vessels as they had been stolen from the school premises, to insufficient receipt of grants required to convert grains to meals. Sporadic monitoring through MDM registers will not be able to record these discrepancies, but if data is recorded every day, amends can be made in time. Read more »

Food for thought

Posted on:24-08-12

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

For the last couple of months, majority of us at AI, including me, were busy with a survey of around 450 government schools spread across 4 districts in 2 states. The objective of the survey was to track the flow of food grain and flow of funds to schools under the Cooked Mid Day Meal (CMDM) scheme. The fieldwork is now complete, and the survey sheets are in the process of being readied for data entry. Read more »

Juvenile Justice?

Posted on:22-08-12

Avantika Ranjan, Accountability Initiaitive

Numerous schemes on education are rolled out with much fan-fare, with the most well-known being the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA), and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) which aim to universalise elementary education in India. Numerous reports however highlight that child labour is still rampant in India.1  Here, I am going to highlight how sometimes certain actions taken by the state in the child’s “best” interest can become counter-productive. Read more »

Too little, too late?

Posted on:16-08-12

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

In the few months that I have been assessing the relationship between government and businesses, several grey areas have emerged that have often left me wondering, wandering, and wanting, to dig deeper. Information is power, it is said. Information, however, presents a deep paradox. In one sense, it empowers people to demand their rights, to access the services promised by the state and to hold their elected leaders accountable for any mishaps in service delivery.  On the other hand, for some, information may lead to more vulnerability and greater insecurity.   The intensity and the degree with which horrific incidents against civil society members and even prominent government officials (for knowing too much and for taking action against those in power) have increased is mindboggling.  If you have been following the news in the last few weeks, you may have read of at least one such incident (At the end of this post, you will find a list of some not-so-well known incidents that have been captured by the media).  A central theme that runs through these incidents is the occurrence of inept or in most cases, refusal of action (a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights captures this theme). Read more »