Interactive Session with Ms. Amrutha Jose Pampackal

NAKUL SHARMA

Ms. Amrutha Jose Pampackal from the first batch of Master’s Programme in Public Policy (MPP) had an interactive session with the participants of MPP on July 12th, 2017. Amrutha (in the centre of the group photo) is currently working with IFPRI based in Delhi and she can be reached at amruthajpl@nls.ac.in.

Ms. Pampackal graduated in B.A. (Honours) English from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi before joining the MPP course at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru. Being part of the first batch of MPP, she had a very unique perspective to share. She is currently working in the capacity of Research Assistant in Poverty Health Division at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Her current research work involves studying the trends of stunting, malnutrition, over-nutrition among children in Karnataka in comparison with national-level statistics. This involves research that collects quantitative information from governmental and non-governmental sources, analyzes and simplifies these numbers for a wider audience including politicians and bureaucrats.

She also discussed about her Master’s dissertation work on ‘Role of bureaucratic behavior in determining policy outcomes – A study of tribal resettlement and development mission (TRDM), Kerala’. As part of her dissertation study, she did extensive field work in the tribal region of Wayanad of Kerala. She recalled the difficulties she had in getting access to basic information on local schemes and welfare data from bureaucrats, and how only she could get the necessary data for her research only after following endless procedures for days at length. She adds that it was this experience in Kerala that influenced her decision to take up social sciences research.

She plans to do her PhD in Social Policy from the United States in near future, and briefed us about the process involved in finding the suitable university for research domains one wants to research in. She also cautioned against doing PhD without giving a proper thought on whether one is deeply and truly interested in research. Lastly, she mentioned about some important peer-reviewed journals like Economic and Political Weekly which one should continuously follow for recent developments. In addition to that, she also highlighted the importance of reading a newspaper every day to stay up-to-date. The session ended on a lighter note and a group photograph.

The students of MPP at National Law School of India University wish her good luck for her future endeavours, and look forward to many more opportunities of interaction with her.

(Nakul Sharma is pursuing the Master’s Programme in Public Policy at National Law School of India University and is in the 2017-2019 batch. He can be reached at nakulsharma@nls.ac.in)

Ecological Services, Ecological Economics: Looking at the Sustainable Development Agenda

DEVIKA SINGH

All of the seventeen SDGs have a common underlying factor – they are all dependent on natural resources. This importance finally given to the environment and natural resources comes a little late. The complete dependence of human existence on the environment and natural resources is reflected in the SDG Agenda, which places natural resources as the underlying driving factor behind all seventeen goals. The importance thus denoted to our natural environment is ‘too little too late’. The SDGs build up on the Millennium Development Goals, which also had a commendable agenda and targets set, few of which were actually met. Between 2000-2015, due to the haphazard management and implementation of the MDGs, the situation actually worsened in some areas.

An Ecological Economics Perspective

The SDGs, picking up and dusting off the failures of the MDGs reorient their agenda to urgently address the most pressing and inescapable issues. The Agenda is focused on action on climate change, sustainable production, growth and consumption so that the environment, which is our provider, is not sucked dry before the next generation of people come along. The SDGs also work on the principle that sustainable development is the responsibility of all – the developed, the developing and the least developed. While making provisions to encourage financial support from the developed to the developing, the planning and implementation of sustainable and environment friendly policies, strategies and action plans falls entirely on each individual nation. The coming of the SDGs finally marks the realisation amongst leaders of the world that the whole world is connected and must be seen as a single unit, for environmentally destructive policies or actions in one corner of the world don’t remain isolated in that corner. Their consequences spread to every other corner in a ripple effect. An earthquake with its epicentre in Indonesia can cause a tsunami of destructive proportions off the coast of India. Increasing greenhouse and carbon emissions in North America can cause the Himalayan glaciers to melt at an unprecedented rate, causing floods in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Right now, there is no proper predictability mechanism which can tell us the boundaries of and the effects a person or community’s actions can have on others. The SDGs thus finally acknowledge the fact that human existence and human action is not in isolation, but has a deep impact on other humans, other living beings, and the environment. The SDG Agenda thus works with addressing environmental concerns as the broad base sphere, intrinsically linked with social needs and economic activity (as opposed to all other agendas before this).

At the apex of this pyramid, or right at the centre of this functionality, and intrinsic to its proper and successful functioning is the basis of global partnerships, global exchange of resources – be it technology, knowledge, financial, etc. Goal 17, the final goal, aims at revitalising global partnerships for sustainable development.

The problem of climate change and environmental concerns remains a wicked problem as the trade-off appears to be between that of exclusive development and growth vs. inclusive development and environmental sustainability, between efficiency and equity. However, most policies and growth plans fail to give due credence to the value of ecological services. Ecosystem services range from providing basic life support necessary for survival, such as, the provision of fresh water on/below the ground, oxygen in the atmosphere, climate control for the planet, the regulation of water by forests, stratospheric ozone shield, etc. The value of these services is infinite, but the price attached to them is zero. Ecosystem services also contribute to the economy – sourcing of raw materials and energy from nature, basic needs (water, fuel, fiber, fodder, sanitation, waste treatment) and livelihoods (agriculture, mini industries, crafts), food and medicines, removal of waste, environmental balance. Ecosystem services also contribute to the economy through adventure sports and recreation, eco-tourism, jewellery, etc.

Quantifying Ecological Services

In 2000, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corp, Govt. of Australia estimated the annual value of pollination to be US $ 1.3 Billion. It is noteworthy that 35% of human food comes from plants pollinated by wild pollinators. The Ecological Society of America estimated the price of pollination in the USA to be $ 5.7 – 8.3 Billion and the value of crops to be $ 24 Billion. In 2000, the replacement of chemical pesticides (would save money and lives) was valued at US $ 54 Billion per annum, and this does not include the health costs saved. Forty percent of pharmaceuticals are derived from natural products, and in 2003, the sales of pharmaceuticals were valued at US $ 480 Billion. In 1999, the global value of ecological services was estimated at US $ 33 Trillion (with the range being from US $ 16 – 54 Trillion). This estimation was done by eighteen international economists from the US, Netherlands and Argentina (published by Nature). The global GDP for 1999 was approximately US $ 20 Trillion. The estimation of the value of the ecological services was taken by accounting for the value of coastal zones, open ocean, wetlands, forests, lakes/rivers and other miscellaneous. This doesn’t even cover the entire range of services provided by our ecosystem.

The Shift in Perspective

The ratification of the SDGs marks the acceptance of, if only in a limited manner, a shift in thinking. This shift is at the level of surveying, quantification and qualification of data, policy planning and strategizing and dissemination of that knowledge. This shift can be portrayed through the flowcharts below.

In conventional efforts to quantify and evaluate economic activity, the modelling and quantification took into account only the human social and economic interventions, entirely ignoring and disregarding the provision of valuable services by nature and the environment. This method of quantification is an indicator of the nature of production and consumption, as being entirely heedless of the environment which makes that activity possible. The chart below shows a shift inthis view. The shift is an inclusive one, where economic activity can’t be seen independent of the ecosystem services that provide and sustain that activity.

“A natural area will receive protection only if the value a society assigns to services provided in its natural state is higher than the value the society assigns to converting it to a more direct human use”

-Wright Environmental Science

In this approach of ecological economics, it is essential to develop local and specific indicators and targets with regard to the broader goals of the SDGs. A universal norm will not be effective and cannot account for the extremely diverse and intricately specific provisions and requirements of a country like India.

LOOKING AT INDIA

The effects of industrialisation, urbanisation and climate change are felt all the more strongly in India through fluctuations in the monsoon patterns, hotter longer summers, colder shorter winters, water stress, droughts and floods occurring simultaneously in different parts of the country. In a country which is largely dependent on the monsoon for its agricultural production and activities, these shifts have a large social, economic and political impact on the nation as a whole. The NITI Aayog is the coordinating agency for SDG Agenda in India. Since India is a diverse country with specific needs and a limited resource base, the preliminary role of the NITI Aayog is to coordinate data collection between the MoSPI and other nodal Ministries such as MoEFCC, DST and others. The coordination also extends to the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), including the ‘core of the core’, ’core’ and ‘optional’ schemes being implemented by the State Governments. This includes the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCCs) that each state has to develop based on its regional and local conditions and requirements. The Niti Aayog has presently collaborated with RIS and other organisations such as WWF to hold National Consultations with the concerned Ministries on forming targets and indicators. This is a collaborative effort on part of Niti Aayog to remove the Ministerial and Departmental silos and bring a more cohesive framework for the sustainable growth agenda. Ecosystem services are a combination of natural resource and human effort, and thus, the human social and economic domain forms an integral part of the calculation of ecosystem services.

In the model shown below, ecosystem services are placed between natural and human systems. It identifies the benefits for people following from goods and services delivered by ecosystems while separating the benefits and values. It clearly indicates that ecosystem services stem from ecological structures and processes and from their functions within ecosystems. The quantification and modelling of ecosystem services is challenging. “In assessing trade-offs between alternative uses of ecosystems, the total bundle of ecosystem services provided by different conversion and management states should be included. Economic assessment should be spatially and temporally explicit at scales meaningful for policy formation or interventions, inherently acknowledging that both ecological functioning and economic values are contextual, anthropocentric, individual-based and time specific.”

There is a very delicate balance between different services produced within an ecosystem, the inter-relations between all of them and the degree of these inter-relations interact in a complex manner. Therefore, there is a trade-off between a single ecosystem service provision and other ecosystem services. This tradeoff is illustrated by Braat and Brink (2208) in the graph.

As the figure illustrates, with increasing degradation of the ecosystem (low biodiversity), the regulatory services gradually drop. These include water, air, climate, etc. Similarly, recreational and cultural services (tourism, etc.) also decline with a degrading biodiversity. Recreation benefits can be optimised in ecosystems with light use as these also provide a basic degree of accessibility and infrastructure. With regard to provisioning services, such as agriculture, gross output is maximised through intensive land use while net output will be lower.

An Expert Panel from the GoI in 2013 valued the Nation’s forests at US $ 1.6 Trillion. Mangroves in Gujarat, in 2007, were valued at INR 7,700 crores (Hirway, I., & Goswami, S., 2007), and Gujarat is one of the weaker mangrove belts in the country. The urban and rural unit value of vultures is at INR 6.9 and 5.8 Lakhs respectively (IUCN Study) and the value of six tiger reserves in India is placed at INR 1,49,900 crores (IIFT, Bhopal, 2015). The following map shows the increase/decrease in forest cover between 2009 and 2011 in India. As per the India State of Forest Report, 2011, released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on February 7, 2011, India’s total forest cover is now at 6,92,027 sq km. There has been a loss of 367 sq km of forest cover between 2009-2011.

The Way Forward

The biggest challenges that presents itself within the Indian context are the lack of indicators and gaps in defining relevant indicators, major gaps in data, lack of statistical data, ministerial and departmental silos, lack of financial resources, lack of political will and corruption. Another roadblock that presents itself is the gap in technical skills required for data analytics and research. While the government has issued innumerable schemes, yojanas and programmes, there are no frameworks for monitoring, progress, accountability and ownership. This results in a large paper trail with nothing to show on ground. The work required to achieve the SDGs is huge, and on all scales, and it requires effort from all levels of government. In order to move forward progressively, a basic requirement is the five ‘C’s – Coherence, Convention, Coordination, Capital and Convergence. This is across Departments, Ministries, organisations and local, state and the central government. Policy making and implementation needs to be approached in a holistic inter-sectoral manner by seeing the dependencies of each aspect of human life – social and economic, as dependent on each other and largely on the environment. One cannot be addressed in isolation, and even if it is, it will not stand the test of time even in the short term. For sustainable growth, development, production and consumption, and most importantly a healthy and productive environment, for these to reach our future generations; a cohesive, inclusive, convergent and sustainable policy that is followed through is of the essence.

(Devika Singh is pursuing the Master’s Programme in Public Policy at National Law School of India University. She can be reached at devikasingh@nls.ac.in)

References

SNRD Asia: https://snrd-asia.org/joint-task-force-sustainable-development-goals-is-on-the-move/

As presented by Dr. Ashok Khosla in ’Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development: Economic Implications of SDG 15’ during the National SDG consultation at WWF – Delhi on February 8th, 2017

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/indias-forest-cover-declines-35917

Featured Image Source: Source: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/10/on-world-statistics-day-un-flags-importance-of-reliable-data-to-achieve-new-development-agenda/#prettyPhoto

 

BOOK LAUNCH: Kandhamal Introspection of Initiative for Justice by Vrinda Grover and Saumya Uma

SMITA MUTT

Kandhamal: Introspection of Initiative for Justice is an investigation into the justice process that followed an outbreak of communal violence in the Kandhamal district of Orissa in 2007-08. The initiative assesses the performance of these processes, including witness protection, rehabilitation and Fast Track courts nearly a decade later. The Bangalore launch was held at St. Josephs College for the Arts and Sciences and co-organised by Alternative Law Forum  and PUCL Karnataka. In Delhi, where this book was released at the Constitution Club, Justice AP Shah reportedly claimed that it provides a convincing overview of the “optimism of law and the depressing reality of practice”.

The purpose of writing this book now was to create visibility for the events in Kandhamal since, despite their huge scale, connectivity to the area is poor and public attention to the issue has been limited. Author Saumya Uma was introduced by Father Ajay, a priest from Kandhamal who shared stories of individuals during and immediately after the violence. Orissa was the first state in India to pass both Anti-conversion and Anti-cow slaughter Acts and he alleges that it was the complicity of the state – from the District Collector and police to those in charge of the justice process – that enabled these events to occur. Though the rioting had largely died down after August 2008, he narrated that it took nearly three years for people to return to their villages. The riots were not a sudden explosion of sentiment, he alleged, but planned and supported by the state.

The book itself is divided into sections that examine the status of relief, rehabilitation, compensation and reparations and concludes that all of them have been woefully underprovided by the State. Uma has been studying this particular issue since 2009 and has been actively involved in seeking justice for the victims. Due to her involvement in the process, this book serves not only to draw attention to the events in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008, but also to document the challenges faced by victims and their families in society, how the official records are meagre and incomplete, how witnesses are being threatened in open court by the accused and the procedural mischief of lower courts. The book is divided into six chapters that provide an introduction and overview to:

(a) the Justice Naidu Commission Report (2015), which has been submitted but not yet introduced into the public domain,

(b) White papers on conversion released in 2007, ‘08 and ‘09 that were ignored by the state,

(c) Reparative Justice and the living situation in relief camps,

(d) The role of the criminal justice system and lack of prosecutions,

(e) The lack of adequate witness protections (with one witness having been abducted from right outside her lawyer’s office) and

(f) The use of false cases to intimidate and punish those who sought justice.

Other guests who discussed and launched the book included Prof. VS Elizabeth of NLSIU, Bangalore and Mr. Shivsundar an eminent journalist and activist with Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike. The two of them discussed the wider climate of communal tensions today, addressing the process of ‘otherisation’ in contemporary politics, the recent RSS Meet in Goa and the roles played by ordinary people, neighbours and friends during any kind of communal riots. Prof. Elizabeth recalled her student days in Mangalore (the coastal region as well as Uttar and Dakshin Kannada were where the BJP first began consolidating their strength in Karnataka) and how Hindutva forces attempt to divide minority groups, arguing at various times that they are only opposed to Muslims, not Christians or evangelical groups, not the settled groups such as Baptists. Mr. Shivsundar turned his attention to how anything can eventually become accepted as normal whether “economy after Ambedkar, politics after Modi or journalism after Arnab”.

(Smita Mutt is pursuing the Master’s Programme in Public Policy at National Law School of India University. She can be reached at smitamutt@nls.ac.in)

A Participatory Integrated Urban Water Management Approach: Jakkur Lake

NAKULAN N

Jakkur is one of the largest lakes in the inter-connected grid of man-made lakes in the city of Bangalore. With a water spread of 50 Ha and a catchment area of 19.2 sq.km the lake is not only primarily responsible for recharging the groundwater in Yelahanka, Alasandra and Kogilu but also has historical and cultural significance.  Over the years, increased pace of urbanization and a transformation of land use pattern around the lake changed the lake from a scenic freshwater lake into a dump of the city’s domestic sewage and solid waste. The biodiversity around the lake was declining rapidly and lake was having a slow painful death. However, the timely intervention by the city and a concerted effort by citizen groups has not only resurrected the lake but has also opened the possibility of replicating this model in other parts of the country plagued with similar problems.

Jakkur – Participatory Approach

In 2005, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board constructed a 10 MLD (million litres per day) Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in the northern corner of the lake (Srikantaiah 2016). The STP receives wastewater from neighbouring areas and releases the treated water into an artificially constructed wasteland adjacent to the lake. The wetland has natural vegetation that absorbs excess nutrients still present in water after treatment and the water flows into the lake.

The water quality has improved over the years with biodiversity in and around the lake steadily bringing the lake back to its pristine beauty and ecological function. In order to understand how and when a participatory approach was followed in the rejuvenation of the lake, it becomes imperative to understand the regulatory structure in place and the roles performed by these regulators over the years.

Organization Role
Bangalore Development Authority Built infrastructure around the lake
Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board Owns and operates the STP
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike Owner of the Lake
Fisheries Department Regulates fishing in the lake
Forest Department Responsible for Vegetation around the lake
Groundwater Authority Supervises groundwater extraction
Karnataka Lake Development Authority Apex body for lake management
State Pollution Control Board Parent regulator of pollution and STPs

In 2005, the Bangalore Development Authority developed physical infrastructure around the lake including construction of bunds, pathway, lighting and barriers to prevent solid waste from entering the lake. In the same time, a citizen group with residents from the neighbouring areas was formed to assist and guide the authorities. The group slowly took a formal shape into ‘Jala Poshan’ and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the BBMP to manage the lake.

Amidst the network of regulators and delegated authority between institutions, the citizens group has found greater efficiency in handling the day to day management of the lake. First, they see to that the infrastructure built around the lake is not damaged and sensitize local populace on how to best use the lake. Second, they try to have maximum vigilance over miscreants who try to pollute the lake. Cases of medical waste, farm waste and poultry waste being dumped into the lake have been spotted immediately. Though said actions could not be prevented by the group, the rapport shared between the group and the authority led to the timely intervention to clean up the mess and prevent it from harming the lake in the long run. Third, they try to build awareness about their activities and involve other people viz., students, activists etc. and organize lake walks and other leisure activities around the lake. In addition to increasing their visibility, it also breaks the perceptional barrier that people towards an urban lake where alpine like attributes are expected. Fourth, the group ensures the real stakeholders which includes the fishing community and adjacent peri-urban area that derive their water from the lake (though recharge wells) are integrated into the management process and their connection to the lake is maintained.

A citizen-led approach diffuses the principal-agent problem and transfers ownership to the real stakeholders. The approach also diffuses the regulatory complexity and simplifies problems into simple variables upon which the concerned authorities can swiftly act. The reminder of ownership and the importance of the lake, helps local communities to have a strict vigil over the lake and they act as the first line of defense against miscreants. The cost of such enforcement techniques is much cheaper than centrally controlled techniques.

Integrated Urban Water Management and Jakkur Lake

“IUWM is described as the practice of managing freshwater, wastewater, and storm water as components of a basin-wide management plan. It builds on existing water supply and sanitation considerations within an urban settlement by incorporating urban water management within the scope of the entire river basin.” (Tucci and Goldenfum 2009)

In other words, integrated urban water management is an approach by which the city’s water resources are conceived as one single entity and managed towards satiating the water requirements in its entirety. The method enables a framework in which the true ecological cost of water is paid by all stakeholders who consume water.

In Jakkur, the freshwater the lake receives from rainfall, the sewage water received through BWSSB pipeline (from the STP) and the storm water received through the storm water drainage are all passed through the artificial wetland to the benefit of entire lake ecosystem. It does not differentiate between the source of water. Such an approach maintains the ecological flow of water in the lake.

Benefits

The approach has yielded rich benefits to various stakeholders over the past decade. The fish population in the lake has increased substantially with the catch reaching as high as 600 kg/day during season. In a rapidly urbanizing city, this provides direct employment to communities that have traditionally depended on the fish in the lake for livelihoods and maintains their historic connection and sense of responsibility to the lake. The recharge wells in the vicinity are regularly recharged and the peri-urban population outside the city jurisdiction are able to meet their domestic water requirements.

The increased recharge rate of groundwater around the lake has enabled the extraction of groundwater which is then transported to the city through tankers which reduces the water stress in the city. The ecological landscape around the lake has increased the usage of lake for leisure and cultural purposes which has modified the complexion of the lake. Such sustained benefits to various stakeholders has placed this model as a potential game changer to be replicated.

Problems

While the STP treats the sewage water, the storm water largely enters the artificial wetland untreated. Over time, this has eroded the capacity of the wetland to filter out nutrients and the lake is seeing an increased growth of algae with turbidity of water increasing. Unless this is corrected there is every chance that Jakkur might fade into oblivion.

The 370 MW Yelahanka Thermal Power Plant, which is currently under construction will receive 15 MLD water from the Jakkur STP (Joshi 2016). While the current capacity of the STP is 10 MLD, authorities are increasing the capacity to 15 MLD with funding from Karnataka Power Corporation Limited. In order to sustain the ecological flow and maintain its characteristic as an IUWM practice, the lake requires 7 MLD from the STP. Any reduction in this quantum will adversely affect health of the lake along with its biodiversity.

In this context, the limited role of a citizen’s group has been founded wanting as there is no resource and mobilizing capability for a citizens group to undo decisions that are taken by regulatory agencies with powers above the citizen.   

Future Prospects

As observed earlier, Jakkur is a model that has the potential to change the way we perceive the sustainability of urban water management. While there is a merit in arguments that claim replication of the model is not possible as water management cannot follow one-size-fits-all approach, there can be little doubt over the fact that there are attributes in the model that definitely warrant attention in a populous, rapidly urbanizing country.

In order to ensure the survival of the lake as well as to scale up the model, there are two immediate concerns that need to be addressed:

The proposed diversion of water from STP might have economic justification as most STPs are planned and operated as cost centers under both PPP and Government owned model. This is chiefly due to a lack of understanding of the revenue potential of waste water. The nutrient contents of the sludge and the irrigation potential of waste water is largely untapped. The moment a demand is created around them, the STPs have the potential to become ecologically-sustainable revenue generating entities. To operationalize such a scenario, the city immediately requires changes to its Waste Water Policy which can create a market around a STP.

The second concern is that participatory water management can become effective only when the movement gains traction and becomes visible to the larger population. This will not only ensure the sustainability of the movement but also place a caveat to the decision makers higher up the ladder that decisions taken against the collective interest of stakeholders cannot be sold in a democratic polity when there is a concerted voice of stakeholders.

(Nakulan is pursuing his Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at nakulan@nls.ac.in)

References

Tucci, C., & Goldenfum, J “Integrated Urban Water Managemet: Humid Tropics”,2009 .

Joshi, Bharath. “Yelahanka Power Plant Could Kill Jakkur Lake – The Economic Times“. The Economic Times. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 June 2017.

Srikantaiah, Viswanath. “Water for Sustainable and Inclusive Cities“. http://www.cseindia.org/. Web. 9 June 2017.

Featured Image Source: https://images.eventshigh.com/venues/d40cff21b203d4b82081c62b47571ee5/v__processed_original.jpg

A Legislative Framework for Accountability: The Karnataka Sakala Services Act

SMITA MUTT

Due to the consolidated strength of Karnataka’s bureaucracy, most anti-corruption and accountability mechanisms that have been established since 1956 have been institutional in nature, though some have been in response to the demands of social actors. These include the Directorate of Vigilance established in 1965 to “investigate charges of corruption against all government servants excluding the judiciary” and the Karnataka Lokayukta Act passed in 1984, which is considered to be one of the strongest Lokayuktas in the country and brought about the jailing of sitting Chief Minister Yeddyurappa under charges of mining corruption in 2011 (Aji 2012). In addition, NGOs, the media and even the formal judiciary have been active outside of these institutions, critiquing them and confronting their shortcomings.

The year 2011 saw an unprecedented push in India for greater government transparency, accountability and punishment for political corruption driven by the India Against Corruption movement and supported by some politicians. At the Centre, a ‘Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services of their Grievances Bill’ was introduced in the Lok Sabha, but lapsed without serious discussion (Kalra and Bedi 2012) while the activists’ push for an overarching Lokpal Bill was largely ignored. Despite these disappointments at the national level, a number of Indian states enacted Right to Public Services legislation, beginning with Madhya Pradesh in August 2010, that provided statutory backing for citizens’ charters, autonomous grievance redressal mechanisms and stricter punishments for defaulting public officials. Karnataka was the 10th state to introduce a similar act, which was passed unanimously by the Karnataka legislative assembly in December 2011 under BJP Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda and included 151 services under 11 major departments from its inception (The Hindu Staff Correspondent 2012). Shortly after the statewide launch in March 2012, an amendment was passed which added a further 114 services, bringing the total to 265 within the first year and making Karnataka’s the most expansive of similar state-level legislations.

Scope and Objectives of the Sakala Services Act

The Act was titled the ‘Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act and was also known as the Sakala Services Act, which follows from ‘sakala’ meaning in-time in Kannada (Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, Government of Karnataka 2013). The Act is “a bill to provide for guarantee of services to citizens in the State of Karnataka within the stipulated time limit” and its provisions are as follows:

  • Citizens have the “right to obtain service within the stipulated time limit” for the services and from the Government departments specified in the Schedule (as per S. 3),
  • For each service guaranteed by the Act, the Government must notify the designated officers (who are “required to provide the service”), competent officers (who are “empowered to impose cost on the public servant defaulting or delaying his duty”), appellate authorities (who are “invested with the power to hear appeal against the orders passed by competent officer under the Act”) and the stipulated time limit (as per S. 4 read with S. 2 (a), (c) and (d)),
  • The stipulated time period begins when the designated officer receives an application for a service to which the citizen is eligible and he must either provide (or authorise another officer to provide) the service in question or reject the application, record the reason in writing and inform the applicant of the rejection as well as the “details of the competent officer to whom the first appeal lies” (as per S. 5),
  • In order to facilitate the citizen’s ability to ensure the application is being duly processed, they “shall be provided an application number by the concerned… authority” and are entitled to monitor the status of their application online- therefore, it is the duty of every authority to maintain and update the status of all applications as per the prescribed rules (as per S. 6),
  • Therefore, the state must maintain a dedicated online portal and through e-governance, remain in communication with citizens (as per S. 7),
  • And in the case a designated officer or a subordinate public servant directed to carry out a service fails to fulfil the duty within the stipulated time period, then they are liable to pay a compensatory cost to the citizen as specified by the Act (as per S. 8).

The bulk of this Act is constituted, not of legislative sections but of Schedules that enumerate the services offered by various government departments and the relevant officers and time limits. In addition, while analysing the Sakala Act, it is important to realise that the purpose of the Act is not merely punitive but that it aims to “develop a culture to deliver services within fixed period” (S. 14). Therefore, defaults “shall not be counted towards misconduct” in the hopes that the public official will be sensitised to the concerns of the citizens they are in service to – however in the case of a “habitual and wilful defaulter without any reasonable cause” the head of the concerned Public Authority can take appropriate disciplinary action (as per S. 14(2)). On the other hand, if a designated officer does not have a single default against his name, then a letter of appreciation is to be issued and entered into his Annual Performance Report (as per S. 14(3)).

Implementation of the Sakala Services Act

Within this thin outline put forward by the Act, the Government of Karnataka took a series of bold steps to make Sakala functional, including:

  • Sakala was operationalised in Mission Mode rather being administered within DPAR. Initially, it was led by Senior IAS officer, Dr Shalini Rajneesh as Mission Director and Munish Moudgil as Assistant Mission Director along with a three-member team. Within each of Karnataka’s 30 districts, the Chief Nodal Officer is the District Magistrate, who is assisted by an IT consultant (Sakala Mission Team).
  • The e-governance component received the assistance of the National Informatics Centre, which created the online monitoring system. The monitoring number is generated by this portal as a unique 15 digit GSC or ‘Guarantee of Services to Citizen’ number (Ibid). Receipts and disposals are tracked by department and by district and the Sakala mission is supposed to release monthly reports in which they provide district, taluk and constituency level breakdowns of receipts and disposals. Further, in order to incentivise districts, they are also ranked in each report on their performance, introducing an element of competition.
  • In order to make Sakala truly accessible to Karnataka’s citizens, the website and phone lines can be accessed in both English and Kannada. A major weakness of both e-governance and mobile governance in India is a lack of functionality in Hindi and vernacular languages, which the Sakala model tries to overcome.
  • The Sakala Mission and DPAR took steps to spread the word about Sakala and what services citizens were entitled to under its purview. They conducted street plays in all districts, set up dedicated helpdesks and interacted with RWAs and consumer forums. There were also mass media commercials and efforts were made to educate school and college students on how to register Sakala applications, so they could spread awareness in their communities (Bharatiya Janata Party 2012).

This programme was designed as a way to demystify public service provision, reduce bribery, inculcate a culture of personal responsibility among public servants and was portrayed as “more important than [the] Right to Information Act” by the Karnataka State BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party 2012).

Successes and Impact of the Sakala Services Act

When it was first rolled out in 2012, Sakala was implemented sincerely and brought pride to Karnataka administrators. Not only was it an ambitious policy move, but it was motivation-driven rather than penalty-driven and treated both bureaucrats and citizens as stakeholders collaborating towards the same goal (Chandra and Bhatia 2015). In its first year, the Sakala portal received over 20 million applications of which 96.55% were disposed of within the stipulated time (KGSC). The services guaranteed under Sakala were those that citizens required to access various targeted social schemes such as Caste certificate, Income certificate, registration of birth and death, driving and learner’s licenses, copy of FIR, etc. A team from the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore was engaged to conduct field visits, analyse the performance data generated through the portal and evaluate the rollout of the programme. In 2014, the scheme was further awarded ISO certification and a survey conducted by the Indian Market Research Bureau revealed that “of the 4.38 crore applicants who sought services under the Karnataka Sakala Services Act in the last 20 months, 99 percent were satisfied with the service” (The Hindu 2014). In addition to the appreciation shown by the citizens who accessed the programme, Sakala received the 2013-14 National e-Governance Award, the 2014 Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management’s international innovation award and in 2015, there was active consideration to adopt a similar model at the Centre (Hebbar 2015).

Why did Sakala stop working?

Despite a stellar record in its first few years, problems have begun to creep into the Sakala mission. What has emerged is a form of institutional hubris in which legislators and bureaucrats thought they were creating a perfect system that blended executive autonomy, e-governance and real-time tracking. But in essence, they had built another black box of service delivery – only in this case the service that was being withheld was government accountability. Without actions initiated by the bureaucrats, citizens could not see into the box or easily invoke the levers of social accountability.

First of all, the Sakala mission mode empowered a parallel class of bureaucrats assisted by data and gave them the responsibility of oversight. This created an artificial balance of powers since the only check on their working is legislative – through the appointment of the Mission Director and in the case of approving amendments to add new services to the Schedule. Other models like RTI and the Consumer Protection Act introduce a quasi-judicial body as a final source of appeal. However, the Sakala mission breaks one of the basic tenets of administrative law and retains appellate functions within the executive itself. This meant that once necessary steps of implementation began to slow down, there was no separate authority to take action. Monthly reports were not released on time, the timeline tables that were supposed to be displayed in government offices disappeared and efforts to publicise the programme from hoardings to print, radio and televisions ads were neglected (Karnataka Sakala Watch 2016). Even more egregious, after IAS officer, M. V. Jayanthi stepped down in 2015, the position of Mission Director has been vacant for over a year.[1] While this type of administrative failure is typical for other projects, for it to plague the Sakala Mission as well is pure irony. The high standard of citizen awareness and satisfaction that had been achieved in the first few years has also suffered with a survey reporting that more than 60% of respondents were not aware of the Sakala scheme (Ibid).

Moreover, the essential provisions of the Act are not being met. By the end of 2015, there were over 20,000 overdue complaints, 15,300 overdue applications and the number of cases in which compensatory costs were awarded (a cornerstone of the Act) had dropped from 250 in 2013 to 55 in 2015 (Ibid). The Karnataka Sakala Watch raised these figures in a report published in January 2016. Despite wide coverage in the press, no action was taken on many of these fronts, with December 2016 being the last Monthly Report available on the Sakala website.

While Sakala has faded from public memory, the Centre for Media Studies’ released their annual Indian Corruption Survey for 2017 (or CMS-ICS 2017), a survey which captures citizens’ perceptions and experiences of corruption across a range of public services and ranks Indian states. According to it, 77% of households in Karnataka experienced corruption when engaging with some government department as compared to a combined state average of 31% and Karnataka was ranked as the most corrupt state in India [2] (Centre for Media Studies 2017). In this situation, Karnataka’s welfare state has been compromised, which can have electoral repercussions.

[1] The Sakala website’s Contact page lists the Principal Secretary DPAR (AR), the Additional Mission Director and the Administration Officer.
[2] This is how a number of news organisations reported on the survey. It is worth pointing out that only 20 out of 28 states were actually surveyed in the Report.

REFERENCES

Aji, Sowmya. 2012. “Toothless Watch Dogs.” India Today, February 11.

Bharatiya Janata Party. 2012. ““Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act 2011 (Sakala Services Act)”.” BJP.org. Accessed May 5, 2017. http://www.bjp.org/images/pdf_2012_h/sakala_introduction_shri%20suresh%20kumar.pdf

Centre for Media Studies. 2017. “CMS-India Corruption Study 2017.” Delhi.

Chandra, Amit, and Surbhi Bhatia. 2015. The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011: Origin, Need, and Analysis. Research Paper, Delhi: Centre for Civil Society.

Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, Government of Karnataka. 2013. “The Karnataka Sakala Services Act, 2011.” DPAR website. November 29. Accessed May 14, 2017. http://www.dpar.kar.nic.in/dparar/English/docs/Sakala%20Service%20Act/SakalaAct&Rules447Engservices.pdf

Kalra, Harsimran, and Pallavi Bedi. 2012. “Legislative Brief: The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011.” PRS Legislative Research. September 27. Accessed May 15, 2017. http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Citizen%20charter/Legislative%20Brief%20Citizens%20Charter%2027%20Sep.pdf

Karnataka Sakala Watch. 2016. “A Mission in Jeopardy: A Status Paper on the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act, 2011 (Sakala).” Status Paper.

KGSC. n.d. “Guarantee of Services to Citizens: A case study of Karnataka.”

PTI. 2013. “240 more govt services to come under Sakala in Karnataka.” The Hindu Business Line. September 16. Accessed May 15, 2017. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/240-more-govt-services-to-come-under-sakala-in-karnataka/article5134526.ece

Sakala Mission Team. n.d. “How does Sakala Work?” Government of Karnataka. Accessed May 13, 2017. http://ctax.kar.nic.in/latestupdates/howdoessakala0001.pdf

The Hindu. 2014. “99 p.c. applicants satisfied with Sakala: IMRB survey.” March 5.

The Hindu Staff Correspondent. 2012. “Sakala launched in Mysore.” The Hindu, April 3.

Public Policy Blog, NLSIU, Bangalore