All for One and None for Another? Linking Entitlements and Attendance in Bihar: Part I

Posted on:05-02-13

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

Picture this: a sunny winter morning, bright yellow mustard fields in full bloom, children in assorted uniforms making their way to school in rural Bihar. As the rest of the Delhi team continued working on the PAISA-MDM report, I’d arrived in Bihar last month to learn more about a much-publicised government campaign to distribute entitlements to government school children through cash transfers. The entitlements include uniforms, scholarship, financial incentives (protsahan), and cycles (for high school students), to be distributed through various educational schemes of the Government of Bihar (GoB).[1] But these entitlements are already given out each year; so what was different this year? As it turns out, quite a lot. In this two-part blog, I first discuss the norms of these schemes, then how the campaign is being implemented on the ground in Bihar. Read more »

Demystifying Cash Transfers

Posted on:18-01-13

Uthara Ganesh, Accountability Initiative

In his 2011 Budget Speech, the Finance Minister announced the replacement of the Public Distribution System with the direct transfer of subsidies to individuals living below the poverty line[1].  What has ensued since is a disparate range of opinions on the issue in the mainstream media and policy and academic circles. The conversation around cash transfers is progressing at a very rapid rate, (take a look at Accountability Initiative’s compendium of resources on D.C.T.s here),so much so that the popular opinion on the subject has been obscured. Understanding cash transfers as a tool for governance would require that we distill the political discourse from its policy implications. Read more »

Of Dolphins, Transparency and TABridge

Posted on:07-01-13

Laina Emmanuel, Accountability Initiative

“We policy people are like dolphins – extremely intelligent, but it looks like nobody knows how to communicate with us.” This quote, by Matt from Indigo Trust is by far my favourite quote from the TABridge session a few weeks ago at Glen Cove, New York. It beautifully sets the context of why this conference was held: to help foster conversation between technology experts and groups working on transparency and accountability (T&A) issues. The term T&A was left loose to encourage participation. Participants ranged from organizations working on natural resource governance, budget transparency, open governments, and data transparency, as well as technology experts on mobiles, visualization and so on. Accountability Initiative was invited to share its experiences, both for its work on budget transparency and for its experience in facilitating similar conversations between policy wonks and technology experts within India (at the bar-camp we held in 2010). Read more »

The Data Explosion: Big Data and Development

Posted on:26-12-12

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

Velocity of data. Quantity of data. Big Data. These were some of the terms that caught my attention after reading Laina’s blog on Data Governance. I was particularly surprised by the figure that showed the varied skills that a data scientist is supposed to possess. I wondered what it is about the new kinds of data that are being created that make them so complex and difficult to analyse? While exploring this question, I was exposed to a variety of literature regarding the new types of data and in particular Big data. In fact if you look at the Google trends image below, you can see that the term Big Data has captured the popular imagination in the past couple of years1. However, till recently most of the applications of Big data have remained within the business realm. Only now are Governments beginning to see the possibilities Big Data could hold for policy making. In this blog, I will try and summarise what big data is and how it can make policies more effective.

Read more »

Land Woes: LARR Act and The Missing Link

Posted on:20-12-12

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

Land has been a controversial subject area and has consistently been regarded as a principal source of inequality. This article from The Pioneer last year sums up the situation- “land (has) become amongst the most commonly violated of Indian liberties”. Problems relating to voluntary vs. forced acquisitions, murky land records, illegal usage of agricultural land and under the table transactions by and large fill this contentious space. Read more »

Right to Public Service Acts

Posted on:10-12-12

Nick Robinson, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

I recently wrote this report for Accountability Initiative. It's based off some research I did in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar on the implementation of the relatively newly passed right to public service acts in those states. I find the development of these Acts - in over a dozen states in the past couple years - fascinating for several reasons.  First, it's an example of a state-led legislative movement. There have certainly been proponents of a similar act in the center, such as Anna Hazare/IAC and NCPRI, but it's the states - usually led by their Chief Ministers - that have gotten this rolling (the center still hasn't passed anything similar). The implementation and political commitment to these acts certainly varies by state, but it's something that the states seem to be proudly owning and working to be innovators in. The first movers tended to be NDA states, but now the states that are passing such acts encompass a much broader political spectrum. Read more »

For RTE grievances dial 1

Posted on:04-12-12

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative 

An essential pre-requisite to any rights-based approach is the necessity of ensuring its enforceability. What does a citizen do in case their rights are violated or not adhered to? Who does one complain to if the right is not being implemented? Despite two and a half years since the passing of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the state is still struggling to come up with effective grievance redressal mechanisms (GRMs) for the Act. Read more »

A note from India’s book: on Pakistan’s Right to Education

Posted on:29-11-12

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill1earlier this November. Like in India, education features on the concurrent list in Pakistan -with the Federal government and provinces sharing responsibilities. Pakistan’s RTE Bill is a step towards making education free and compulsory for 5 to 16 year olds in those schools established by the federal government and local government in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), and an attempt to urge all provinces towards uniformly enforcing the implementation of this right. Read more »

Sending Money Down the Leaky Pipe: What Does District-level Data Tell Us?

Posted on:16-11-12

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

I was reading Ajay Shah’s blog the other day where he made the point that merely sending money down the pipe is problematic because the pipe leaks and we have no idea about what happens at the other end.

That’s true. Mere increased investments may not translate into improved outcomes in the presence of administrative inefficiencies, high administrative costs, and leakages which make accountability for outcomes nearly impossible. This is quite well known, and yet there is surprisingly little empirical data or analysis on the specific processes by which outlays translate into action on the ground. Not much is known in the public domain about planning processes and mechanisms through which expenditure priorities are determined, particularly at the district level. Information on fund flows is even scarcer. Read more »

Mid-Day Meal Scheme: The Story So Far

Posted on:06-11-12

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

Upon completion of our survey of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) in two states a few months ago – the names of which shall be revealed in due course of time! – my colleagues Ambrish and Mehjabeen shared their thoughts on how monitoring of the MDMS can be improved (see here and here). Since we’re now immersed in the analysis of our survey data, let me take some time to share with you what the literature available on the scheme tells us so far. Read more »