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Policy Watch No. 16

Credible Data for the Public Good: Constraints, Challenges, and the Way Ahead [HTML and PDF]

Bits and bytes of information propel today’s knowledge society. This Data Revolution is as transformational as it is multi-dimensional. India, however, remains a laggard and is yet to harness the full potential of data for the public good. In this Policy Watch, P. C. Mohanan, former Acting Chairman, National Statistical Commission (NSC), takes the reader through the data collection, analysis, and dissemination process in India. In particular, he points out the deficiencies in the institutional, implementational, and procedural elements of the country’s official statistics machinery. For a country endowed with a multiplicity of resources that are matched by the problems that confront it, the scientific use of data to address peoples’ issues has often been subverted for either political reasons or because of the inability of the structures that are in place to deliver timely and credible data for decision-makers.As the rest of the world races ahead by adapting newer technologies and creating independent bodies that ensure credibility of data, India appears to not only stagnate but regress as well. The way out, Mohanan says, is to harness the available technologies in a meaningful manner, improve statistical literacy, and insulate the statistical system from political vested interests. HTML Version [PDF 549 KB]

Policy Watch No.15

Policy Shortfalls Leave India’s Elderly to Fend for Themselves

One of independent India’s successes, improving life expectancy at birth from about 30 years in the 1950s to the 70s in the 2000s, has also exposed a major flaw in the country’s policymaking process: an abject neglect of state support for the elderly. Barring a few token measures, India’s elders languish in the blind spot of its policymakers. A mix of factors are at play. For all practical purposes, the country’s public healthcare facilities do not inspire the confidence of the people despite experienced professionals and the nearly free services that they deliver. At the other end of this spectrum of healthcare providers are expensive privately run hospitals that can push patients and their families into poverty. Societal changes, including the rising number of nuclear families, smaller family sizes, and migration for employment by the economically active population, have also had their effect on the provision of care for the elderly. In this Policy Watch, Tulika Tripathi, Economist, Centre for Studies in Economics and Planning, Central University of Gujarat , analyses the causes behind the neglect of the elderly by the state. Drawing from studies in Gujarat and other parts of India, she proposes that India’s public policy should be designed to cater to multiple levels, including correcting the rural-urban biases in health infrastructure, creating elderly friendly facilities, and providing support for caregivers. HTML version [PDF 602 KB]

Policy Watch No.14

The Supreme Court of India's Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service

Disruptions, at times, become catalysts for initiating change. Although India’s journey to create digital infrastructure to deliver justice commenced before the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic hastened the pace of the country’s judicial system going online. In this Policy Watch, legal researchers, Siddharth Peter de Souza , Varsha Aithala and Srishti John , discuss some fundamental issues that emerge from India’s plans to move towards e-Courts. This digitalised mode of delivering justice enabled courts to function with some capacity during the multiple lockdowns in India since March 2020. While the authors recognise the value of e-Courts, they argue that unless the digitalisation efforts factor in considerations of equity and inclusion for users, the outcomes would remain hollow and divorced from India’s socio-political reality. The Supreme Court of India recently placed a draft of its Vision Document for e-Courts for public discussion until May 31, 2021. Drawing from this document, the authors critically evaluate India’s approach towards electronic dispensation of justice, highlight conceptual issues relating to delivery of justice as a service that need to be addressed. They call for a fundamental rethink of the vision for e-Courts to ensure that the delivery of justice remains in the domain of public service. The aim of this Policy Watch is to highlight the implications of widening the range of players involved in the process of justice delivery by commodifying it without adequate scrutiny or accountability. Understanding these implications is important to bring about corrective action that will ensure that the administration of justice remains equally accessible and accountable to all. HTML version Related Resources : 1. Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. 2015 . Evaluation Study of eCourts Integrated Mission Mode Project , National Council of Applied Economic Research. [https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/Report-of-Evaluation-eCourts.pdf]. 2. e-Committee, Supreme Court of India . Rules on Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings . [https://tinyurl.com/3rphrrvw]. Related Articles Published in The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy: 1. Priya, R. et al., 2022 . COVID-19: Urban Middle Class Survey Highlights Need for People’s Agency in Policy Making , February 18. 2. Subramanian, S. 2021 . Pandemic-induced Poverty in India after the First Wave of COVID-19: An Elaboration of Two Earlier Estimates , August 19. 3. Shankar, G and Kiumari, R. 2020 . The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar , December 10. 4. Jacob, N. 2020 . Sewage Testing as a Pandemic Monitoring Tool , September 10. [PDF 474 KB]

Policy Watch No.13

The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar

Migration from India’s villages is linked to poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities and, in some States, feudal structures that dominate rural societies. COVID-19 and the lockdown implemented on March 24, 2020, to contain the spread of the pandemic resulted in traumatic conditions for migrant workers stranded across India. Bihar is second only to Uttar Pradesh in the number of out-migrants. In this Policy Watch, Girija Shankar and Rakhi Kumari discuss the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in Baisi, a block (sub-district) in Bihar, from where workers move to 17 States and Nepal as short-term migrants. In an exploratory study conducted in April 2020, they find that the lockdown resulted in drastic changes in villages: the rural economy was disrupted, spending priorities had changed, and savings and investments fell. Interventions by the Union and State governments appeared to have a minimal effect on boosting demand and providing sustainable income support opportunities. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 634 KB] Related Articles Published in The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy: 1. Priya, R. et al., 2022 . COVID-19: Urban Middle Class Survey Highlights Need for People’s Agency in Policy Making , February 18. 2. Subramanian, S. 2021 . Pandemic-induced Poverty in India after the First Wave of COVID-19: An Elaboration of Two Earlier Estimates , August 19. 3. Souza, P. D. S., et al., 2021 . The Supreme Court of India’s Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service , July 10. 4. Jacob, N. 2020 . Sewage Testing as a Pandemic Monitoring Tool , September 10.

Policy Watch No.12

COVID-19: Crisis-hit Rural India Needs Effective Farm Policy Implementation

India's farm sector, which is still the country’s largest employment provider, suffered heavy losses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector, which is socio-economically both diverse and complex, has always faced institutional constraints ranging from debt-dependency to exploitative marketing intermediaries and left the Indian farmer vulnerable to both monsoon and markets. When COVID-19 struck, the Government of India was quick to exempt agriculture from the restrictive lockdown. It also announced sector-specific relief packages and promulgated three ordinances to reform the agricultural sector. In this Policy Watch, Sangeeta Shroff, Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune , writes on the impact of COVID-19 on the farm sector, specifically horticulture and floriculture, which were directly affected as the lockdown coincided with their harvest season. Issues that have long-afflicted the Indian agricultural sector—transport bottlenecks, inadequate storage and cold chain facilities, poor marketing networks, economies of scale, and the absence of efficient linkage mechanisms, to name a few—aggravated the adverse fallout of the lockdown. She concludes with a discussion of government policies, relief packages for farmers during COVID-19 and the possible trajectory of these reforms. Shroff advocates the use of technology as a game changer for Indian agriculture. She concludes on a note that the real answer, however, lies in strengthening rural infrastructure in the form of roads, electricity, schools, sanitation, healthcare, and telecommunications to generate employment, prevent distress migration and ensure that the benefits of growth are not concentrated only in urban centres but are also reaped by rural India. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) Click here for PDF [476 KB] .   Related Resource COVID-19: Press Releases and Updates by the Government of India and WHO [HTML and PDF] . Source : Press Information Bureau, Government of India.   Related Articles Chaturvedi, S. 2020 . Pandemic Exposes Weaknesses in India’s Disaster Management Responses , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, September 3. Mudliar, P. 2020 . A Reality Check on India’s Search for Digital Utopia , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, August 28. Ebenezer, R. 2020. Ensuring Zero Tolerance for all Forms of Forced Labour , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, July 14. Ngullie, O. G.  and  Ansari, A. A. 2020 . India’s Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi’s Beneficiaries , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, June 26. Vijay, G. and Gudavarthy, A. 2020 . A Pandemic as a Political Reality Check , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, April 15.   [PDF 476 KB]