Category Archives: Governance and Development

A Legislative Framework for Accountability: The Karnataka Sakala Services Act


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). After IAS officer, M. V. Jayanthi stepped down in 2015, the position of Mission Director has not been updated on the website.[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.


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)”.” Accessed May 5, 2017.

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.

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.

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.

Sakala Mission Team. n.d. “How does Sakala Work?” Government of Karnataka. Accessed May 13, 2017.

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.

A milestone in the political history of Karnataka – The SAKALA Mission


Sharada S (University of Pennsylvania, alumnus of National Law School of India University), Apoorva S and Mansi Sharma (National Law School of India University)

The SAKALA Mission, made possible through the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act 2011 (amended in 2014), has been a shining example of success in time-bound service delivery to citizens. Administered by the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Karnataka, the program is run in mission mode and deploys e-governance mechanisms effectively for service delivery by over 50 departments across all 30 districts of the state.

Sakala’s vision envisages citizen-friendly governance with a time-bound service guarantee as well as a transparent working culture within the government. The purpose of the mission was, therefore, to institutionalize the implementation of a Citizen’s Charter through a single, integrated citizen-government interface that leverages tools of e-governance and ensures timely service delivery. Sakala’s slogan reads ‘No Today or Tomorrow henceforth; Delivery Promise Shall be Honoured.’ (“Indu nale innila, helida samaya tappolla.”)

The objectives of the mission were therefore to reform the administrative set-up for ensuring good governance, create a single and easy-to-access monitoring system for service delivery, fix timelines for provisioning of services, fix accountability, reduce human interface by the use of information technology, prevent corrupt practices and empower citizens to avail services as a right.

With these objectives in mind, a pilot launched on 01 March 2012 in northern most backward taluk of Aurad in Bidar district as well as in three other Taluks of Chitradurga, Dharwad and Dakshina Kannada districts. The program was rolled out to all districts of the State in April, covering 151 services in 11 departments.  Ever since then, Sakala has constantly expanded the number of services that can be offered: a second phase of the project added 114 additional services; 110 services were added in the third phase in August 2013; 44 additional services in September 2013; 28 services in end-2013 and a sixth phase added an additional 32 services taking the total to 478 services across 47 departments with 135 services offered online. As of June 2016, over 50 departments were covered by Sakala, with 669 services being offered to citizens.  This is the highest number of services among the states across the country that have implemented similar legislation following in the footsteps of Karnataka.

The program was rolled out under the visionary leadership of Dr. Shalini Rajneesh, who was Secretary, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms for the first three years after the launch of the mission. Mrs. Shalini Rajneesh initiated corporate social responsibility outreach initiatives by sponsoring Sakala awareness campaigns through corporate partnerships. She has remarked, “The best mode to reach the public is to deliver the services effectively. One satisfied customer is equal to 10 future clients. If we provide services within the timeframe, beneficiaries will spread the word about the Sakala scheme. Dr. Rajneesh also maintained a blog during her tenure which constantly updated improvements made to the mission as well as the feedback it received from various corners, including from academia, businesses and common citizens.

The Sakala Mission has a number of strengths compared to its weaknesses. It operates in mission mode and has identified the district magistrate as the chief nodal officer in each of the thirty districts. Further, it has a dedicated IT consultants as well as exclusive data entry operators as it relies on a comprehensive IT solution which provides a transparent online monitoring mechanism for the processing of service requests. An acknowledgement slip with a unique 15 digit number called the Guarantee of Services to Citizen (GSC) number is accorded to every service request, which enhances transparency. The bilingual portal is available to citizens in both English as well as Kannada. There is also an SMS-based monitoring facility wherein the system sends message updates every time the status of an application changes. Further, a dedicated helpline assists applicants via a call centre set up at each Taluk. An in-person help desk is run by consumer forums, former government officials and NGOs at the Taluk level. A grievance redressal mechanism is built into the Sakala Services Act, which entitles citizens to compensation in case pre-fixed timelines have not been adhered to.

Weaknesses are primarily in relation to inadequate infrastructure especially in remote parts of the state for effective deployment of e-governance schemes, which makes expansion hard. Low levels of digital literacy, lack of continuous electricity and functioning the internet in some areas are hurdles. Some key challenges persist. Despite the availability of information in public domain, some citizens remain unaware of the true scope of the Act and are thus unable to avail of its benefits. This growing mass of unaware citizens continues to utilise existent structures of bureaucratic procedure, which often traps them in prolonged cycles of red tape and at the mercy of middlemen. Besides, training of officials continuously to keep pace with rapid technological progress proves to be a challenge, especially as the distribution of these competencies was uneven amongst various departments of the government at the launch of the program. Emerging threats to the project are not merely technological but relate to the attitudes of employees to learn to adapt to a new system.

Perceptions of Case Authors

Before the launch of Sakala, service delivery was through an outmoded and largely bureaucratic system which left citizens at the mercy of middlemen and a lot of red tape which was hard to navigate. The mission is heralded as an effective solution to a system that was often infamous for being unaccountable, inefficient, and corrupt. Sakala’s success in bridging this divide can be analytically pinned to four drivers of success, each of which is tied to a decision that was taken during the evolution of this mission.

Exclusive Personnel, Individual Accountability and Systemic Transparency

Sakala operates in mission mode and has dedicated exclusively trained personnel who are in-charge of service provisioning, grievance redressal, and information facilitation. As opposed to other Citizen’s Charter implementation modes that are integrated into the functioning of a department, or are a result of grassroots-led movements for change, the decision taken to implement an institutional structure that emphasises service delivery in a cross-functional setup across different departments of the state, and provides the manpower and infrastructure required to achieve that goal, has proven effective in ensuring successful outcomes.

This institutional structure also pinpoints individuals accountable for the provisioning of a service, known as designated officers. The implementation of Sakala in this manner has led to a deeper understanding of the workflow of each service being provided by these departments, which enhances accountability as the designated officer is held directly liable for the mishandling of a request or a high rate of pendency. Transparency at every stage, facilitated by the online monitoring system as well as the information and facilitation centre, aids this goal by providing citizens timely updates and reducing their overhead costs in receiving services, which improves adoption.

Effective Incentive Structures for Time-Bound Service Delivery

Drafting legislation that accounts for correcting lethargic behaviour within an existing bureaucratic structure can be identified as an important driver of achieving the targets at a scale that Sakala has. The decision to incorporate positive as well as appropriately punitive measures is laudable. The scheme encourages good work done through performance-based annual ‘Sarvottam Seva’ cash awards given to exemplary officials who did not default, with an appreciation letter addressed to them entered in the Annual Confidential Report. Furthermore, it effectively penalises bad behaviour through the compensation mechanism, where delays are directly pinned to the official responsible and the compensation is paid out of their salaries.

Innovative Outreach Strategy for Greater Awareness Generation

Innovative methods of awareness generation are necessary when rolling out a paradigm shifting scheme such as Sakala. Decisions to involve the public right from the roll out of the mission has played a critical role in the program’s success. The logo was designed by a contest held for citizens with a prize. Traditional media outreach in the form of newspaper and television advertisements, posters and hoardings at important locations were complemented by a social media strategy, as well as by capitalising on schemes by other departments such as theming the Education Department’s ‘Prathiba Karanji’ around Sakala. Street plays were staged in all districts in order to create awareness as well, which enabled the mission to reach out to a larger audience. Further, corporate social responsibility initiatives have been leveraged to aid in awareness creation, and outreach events in academic institutions as well as among youth have been prioritised.

Sakala, therefore, marks a milestone in the political history of Karnataka as an administrative reform that has bridged the yawning divide between a large bureaucracy and citizens in need of service provisioning. It provides lessons to other such similar endeavours in other states across the country with the aim of achieving good governance.

(Apoorva and Mansi are pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. They can be reached at and

Sharada S is currently working as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Competition [CTIC] at the University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

Featured Image Source:

The Dilemma of Land Acquisition



For a developing country like India, managing the interests of a heterogeneous population at home, whilst simultaneously accommodating the interests of the global capital was a challenge posed at the dawn of the new century. The Indian experiment with the changing processes of production and the changing nature of the factors of the production is a unique one. The most crucial factor of production, land, is a resource that is both valuable and scarce. This resource becomes the harbinger of growth and development in the economic sense of the term, but also holds deep cultural and social value in rural hinterlands of India, that are largely untouched by discourses of development. The neoliberal model of development is dependent upon the clear definition of property rights and places a great deal of importance on private property. (Harvey 2005) For development i.e. taking up of infrastructure projects, building dams and laying down of national highways, the state often has to step into the realm of private property of the individual and take it over for the larger interest of the public. This is essentially the eminent domain principle. The property taken often belongs to farmers, tribal communities or hamlets of fishermen (if the land under question is near a water source) etc. These henceforth will be referred to as the ‘marginalised landed communities’. However, the land acquisition legislations can and do impact them differently. These communities are often unwilling to give up rights to their land and move to newer pastures to pave way for developmental projects. This unwillingness is often traced back to their backwardness and lack of faith in the developmental initiatives, however, it has got far more to do with the unfair compensation packages they are offered in return for their land and less with the neoliberal model initiating the project.

It is essential to understand the conflict over land as a consequence of the inefficient management of the interests of the marginalised landed communities by the State. It probes the possible position of a developing neoliberal state in negotiating with various stakeholders, reconstructing concepts like private property rights and continuing on the path of development not necessarily set at home but abroad.


One of the most recent successful examples of land acquisition has been in the state of Andhra Pradesh, with a mass of land being bought from farmers and other occupants alike for the ambitious capital city of Amravati. Some 33,000 acres of land have been sourced for various developmental projects without much protest, in the post-bifurcation state of Andhra Pradesh. The land has been acquired based on a land pooling system in which the farmers will get back entirely developed “residential and commercial plots ranging from 900 to 1700 square yards for every one acre (4840 square yards) of land surrendered. Farmers will further receive an annual compensation of Rs 30,000 to 50,000 per acre — with a 10% yearly increase —for a ten-year period.” (Express 2015). Under this system, the agencies of the government develop the city by laying down electricity connections and sewage lines, building roads etc. and once that is done a substantial portion of the land is returned to the original inhabitants. The new portion is smaller than the portion initially handed over by the farmer, but the justification of it lies in the provision of amenities and a subsequent rise in the value of the plot of land. The Chandrababu Naidu government managed to not only get on board investors and industrialists for starting developmental projects in Amravati but also brought on board farmers by accruing due importance to their interest and identifying them as participants in the mainstream development paradigm. Similarly, farmers in other parts of the country, such as Punjab, Maharashtra and Haryana have been willing to part with their land when offered lucrative compensatory packages from the government. (Sathe 2016)

Land acquition

The example of Amravati and others helps ascertain a fundamental idea that the resolution or minimization of conflicts around land lies in the assessment of stakeholders’ interests and a reasonable negotiation of those by the state. This can be done by exercising the eminent domain principle, but by also recognising private property rights of even the marginalised landed communities. This not only guarantees limited intervention by the neoliberal state in the market exchange but also ensures a participatory framework for the development of the neoliberal kind.


Rule of law and components therein must be understood as per the state’s development model for conceptual relevance in contemporary times. In this regard, private property as a means and component of rule of law is one of the principal tenets of neo-liberalist theory. The protection of it is therefore one of the primary duties of the neoliberal state. The rule of law with a clear understanding of property rights ensures development for stakeholders across the board. The property rights of the marginalised landed communities need to be recognised and compensation packages given to them should be in tune with the market value of land.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (also Land Acquisition Act, 2013) is a move in this direction. One of the key provisions that the act lays down is that the consent of 80 percent landowners is required for private projects and the consent of 70% land owners is required in Public Private Partnership projects. This gives communities a chance to negotiate with the government and the industry their demands for a compensatory package. The act however exempts five categories of land use namely: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors, and (v) infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land. The two provisions when read in consonance with each other reflect a protection of the state’s interest, consideration of the interests of the industry and a fair view of the concerns of the marginalised landed communities. (PRS legislative research 2015)


The model of development debate from liberal, to neoliberal, to socialist-liberal to other combinations of political colours and ideologies cannot deny the shift in the world order towards a more market-friendly view of development and societal organisation. Now, neoliberal states juggle to accommodate the interest of all sorts of classes in the developmental agenda and when they fail to do so, it leads to societal backlash and uproar. The neoliberal state, therefore, needs to ensure a better management of interests of its various stakeholders through minimalist government interventions and progressive legislations to ensure participatory development.

(Divya is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at



Express, Indian. 2015. “Land acquisition: A new capital city in farmland.” Indian Express. December 25.

Harvey, David. 2005. A brief History of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press.

PRS legislative research. December 2015.

Sathe, Dhanmanjiri. 2016. “Land Acquisition: A need for a shift in discourse .” Economic and Political Weekly 1-7.

Featured Image Source:

Diminishing Ratnas in India




After attaining independence in the year 1947, it was all left to the national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and a few others, to frame an economic roadmap for the development of India. Nehru, who is undisputedly the architect of the economy after independence, always advocated industrialisation of the economy.

Even though agriculture was given importance in the initial few five-year plans, the Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR) of 1956 changed it and induction of public sector units was advocated. Hence, Nehru decided to incorporate a number of PSUs (Public Sector Units) in order to provide employment and economic growth with the major sectors of the economy mainly held by the government until 1991.

Why are we taking the particular time frame of 1991? The answer to that would be that the process of privatisation in India was a result of a worldwide movement towards privatisation as a result of Reagan-Thatcher policy of minimal State control on the economy. The fall of USSR was inferred as a big defeat of socialism and also of the policy of increased State control on the economic drivers in the form of PSUs. This article tries to look at the political and the economic dimension of the policy of privatisation and how each passing government since 1991 has dealt with it.

The year 1991-92: Budget speech by Chandra Shekhar government (1990-91)

The initial stage of privatisation was started in the year 1991-92 by the Chandra Shekhar government. Chandra Shekhar Singh joined politics through Praja Socialist Party and has always been an avid advocate of socialism. In a desperate attempt to fill up the government coffers during his term, the economic condition then made privatisation inevitable. Therefore, a socialist PM like Chandra Shekhar had to announce the first string of privatisation of several public manufacturing units.

The year 1991-96: PV Narasimha Rao government (1991-96)

After the fall of the Chandra Shekhar government, the general election which followed it saw INC (Indian National Congress) winning most seats. It formed a minority government, with PV Narasimha Rao being elected as the PM. Rao’s policy from the start itself saw a major shift from the mixed economy of Nehru to a market driven one.

Then in the historic financial budget by then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced the privatisation of PSEs, but with a few changes from the earlier Industrial Statement. There was a cap of twenty per cent imposed to the extent of disinvestment and the umbrella of investors was also restricted to only mutual funds and other institutional investors.

The year 1996-1998: United Front Government

The United Front Alliance headed by Janata Dal party was a self-proclaimed socialist party. So, under the United Front government, led by HD Deve Gowda and then later by IK Gujral, and with the support of other left-leaning parties like CPI (M), privatisation took a big hit. The left parties have a few apprehensions about the process of privatisation as they feel that the transfer of ownership and management rights to private players would lead to a monopolisation of market, and instead of competition in the market it would lead to concentration of market power. As a result of the concentration of market power, there would be an inefficient allocation of resources and this would result in a concentration of wealth and increase in inequality.

Total amount of privatisation during the period: Rs 1289.67 Crores

The year 1998-2004: BJP led NDA Government

The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government was a pro-free market government. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed Yashwant Sinha as the Finance Minister. Mr Yashwant Sinha, a former IAS officer and a former Janata Party member, took several decisions to open up the markets. He is credited with opening up the telecommunication sector, and deregulation of petrochemicals.

It was considered a radical move by the political analysts then. It was proposed that the government share in almost all the Public Sector Enterprises be transferred. Major privatisation processes were undertaken during this time. VSNL was totally privatised and it led to the opening up of the telecommunication sector. The strategic sale of BALCO, a PSU which was a profit-making manufacturing unit, created several controversies. The sale of BALCO to Vedanta resources was questioned and protested by the employees and the anti-privatisation groups. In a challenge to the sale of a profitable PSU, BALCO to Sterlite, the Supreme Court in December 2002 handed down a landmark verdict against opponents of privatisation. The court legitimised the privatisation procedures and refused to second-guess the government with respect to its privatisation policy.

The major string of privatisation happened after the budget presented by Jaswant Singh for the year 2003-2004. A staggering amount of Rs 15,547.41 Crores was raised as a result of privatisation, an amount way higher than previous years.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 33,655.59 Crores

The year 2004-2009: UPA-I

In the general elections of 2004, INC was the single largest party with 145 seats. INC in alliance with other parties mostly left-leaning parties managed to form an alliance under the umbrella name of UPA (United Progressive Alliance). The second biggest party in the alliance was the Communist Party of India (Marxist). This was more of a Centre-Left alliance. Due to this alliance, many watershed schemes like MNREGA and acts like RTI were passed. The left-leaning policies had an impact on privatisation.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 8515.94 Crores

The year 2009-2014: UPA II

The exit of CPI (M) in 2008 saw a UPA-II in 2009 with INC winning 206 votes, and the major coalition party being DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). This era saw a lot of privatisation happening and this also had the uncovering of many scams. 2G spectrum scam revealed the deep-rooted nepotism and corruption which ran in the government. The coal allocation scam later revealed the absence of fair allocation of the nation’s resources. CAG found a lot of misappropriations and irregularity in the auctioning of nation’s resources, including the public sector units.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 99,367.46 Crores

The year 2014-present: NDA government

BJP won the 2014 general elections with a thumping majority. BJP single-handedly won 282 seats and the coalition of NDA won 335 seats in total. Narendra Modi was elected as the leader of BJP. Modi, as evident from the policies he implemented as the Gujarat CM is pro-business and pro-market. As soon as they were elected, the NDA government discontinued the Planning Commission which was the backbone of the mixed planning economy and was replaced with NITI (National Institution for Transformation of India) Aayog. NITI Aayog is headed by the Prime Minister as its Chairman, with Arvind Panagaria (from Chicago University, a big proponent of Neo-Liberalism) as its Vice-Chairman. Arvind Subramanian is appointed as the Chief Economic advisor of India, who also is pro-market.

Total amount of privatisation in this period (2 years): Rs 59,680.33 Crores


The incorporation of Public Sector Enterprises was done with several objectives like providing employment, equitable development across all the regions and for the sustainable growth of the industrial sector in India. After the introduction of the economic reforms of 1991, the privatisation process got underway. Pre-economic reform, the government’s believed that the Public Sector Enterprises comprise and form the pillars of the economy and the government’s believed that it was of vital importance that PSEs be managed and controlled by the government. We could see that the INC only cautiously privatised after the economic reforms. But the same party, which claims to be pro-poor and one with a political alignment of centre-left, went ahead with outright privatisation of the PSEs in the late 2000s and early 2010s. This was clearly the result of the political parties’ shift towards neo-liberalism after the 1991 economic reforms. The process of privatisation has come under the scrutiny of CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) and many financial irregularities were found in the CAG’s reports. Many instances of crony capitalism being practised were also seen, with the CAG reports stating instances of undervaluation and sale of PSUs which were performing well and were making a good margin of profits. The NDA which had publicly promoted privatisation in the year 1998 maintained its stance on it after coming back to power in 2014. The BJP led NDA has been the biggest implementers of privatisation and the principle of neo-liberalism which supports minimal governmental interference in the economy is clearly seen in their regime. The process of privatisation is a necessary step in the development of a nation and its economy, but it can turn out to be against the interests of the public when it is done without fairness and by pandering to vested interests.

(Rohith is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Bhattacharya, Dipankar. 1999. “Political Economy of Reforms in India”. Economic And Political Weekly 34 (23): 1408-1410.

Chandrashekar, C.P. 2014. “An Obsession To Sell”. Frontline.

“Government On A “Selling Spree” Of Profit-Making PSUs: CPI (M)”. 2016. The Financial Express.

“Home Page – DIPAM”. 2016. Dipam.Gov.In.

Makhija, Anil. 2006. “Privatisation In India”. Economic And Political Weekly41 (20): 1947-1949.

Mathur, B.P. 2006. “Audit Reports On Disinvestment”. Economic And Political Weekly 41 (50): 5114-5118.

Mohan, T. T. Ram. 2005. Privatisation In India. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

R. Iyer, Ramaswamy. 1988. “The Privatisation Argument”. Economic And Political Weekly 23 (11): 554-555



Featured image source:


Trajectory of Land Reforms in J&K and its Outcomes

Tushar Gupta


Land reforms in Jammu & Kashmir did not prove to be effective in addressing poverty mitigation and the removal of inequality emerging from land ownership. The reforms ended up becoming little more than a political gimmick. The analysis in this paper has been divided into three trajectories and development within each has been elaborated. The paper attempts to analyse the geopolitical situation at the national and international level and its relation to land reforms in the state. The impact of the Separatist movement on state economy in light of the land reforms has also been addressed.

A. Background

A1. National Land Reform Debate

The National land reform debate was based on the assumption that if the land is redistributed it will lead to more equity and alleviate poverty which emerged from landlessness (Besley, 2000). The debate followed from the pre-independence debates in All India Congress Committee (AICC).

A2. Land Reform Trajectory in J&K
A2.1. Pre 1947

Land was part of common property resource before the 12th century in J&K. With the end of the 12th century came monarchy in the state, meaning land was thus owned by the successive kings or the state. The state-owned land was termed as “Khalsa”. King was the supreme authority and land was allotted to the peasants on request after a payment of fixed rent. The remaining land was with army chiefs, subedars and taluqdars (Bhat, 2000).

 With the beginning of the 19th century, rulers tried to marginalise the landed autocracy and dealt directly with the cultivator.  This effort was thwarted by the powerful chieftains, leading to the creation of Jagirs, Munafiqs, Mukarraries.

Post 19th century with the British coming into the picture of modern India, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu signed the “Treaty of Amritsar” with them and paid a sum of Rs 75 lakh (Nanak Shahi) for purchasing the state of J&K.  Now the ownership of the land vested with the Maharaja of Jammu. Residents of the Kashmir valley were called “Assamis” who had to pay besides land revenue, Malikaana in recognition of his being the owner of the land. The state-appointed the exploitative land agents called “kardars” who dealt directly with the peasants.

The exploitative process continued till the entry of Sheikh Abdullah who fought for the rights of Assamis. In 1931 Abdullah started a movement against the Raja for recognition of the land rights with popular support of the masses. Raja was thus forced to set up a Commission under Englishman BJ Glancy to look into the matter.  The main suggestion of the report was to transfer land to the cultivators who were till then tenants at the will of government-owned lands (Galancy, 1933). The success of the movement comes from the point that the then PM of J&K Colonel Colvin asked for the acceptance of the recommendations.

A2.2. Post 1947

1947 called for the need to look into the land reform question again. Though the recommendations of the Glancy commission were accepted, the jaghirdars and chakdars who till then had the status of tenants-at-will acquired vast areas of land by exploiting the poor villagers. They manipulated the poor farmers and accumulated a lot of lands. The condition of farmers in J&K was still of a “serf” in the medieval world. Sheikh Abdullah came in with the demand of reorganisation of agriculture on modern lines to raise the consciousness of these peasants so that the society could shift from medieval to modern.

Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession in 1947 and Sheikh Abdullah became the PM of the state in 1948. He was determined to abolish landed aristocracy along the lines of his “New Kashmir manifesto (1944)” which was a blueprint for a futuristic welfare state. He came up with the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 to supplement the success achieved in 1931 and to undo the ills of the system. This act provided for the ceiling on property at 22.75 acres (182 kanals), surplus land to be transferred to the tiller without payment, fixation of the ceiling at 160 kanals and land in possession of no one, to be taken by the state (Saxena, 2007).

Enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 led to the dispossession of 4.5 lakh acres of land which was concentrated in only 9000 landowners (Aslam, 1977). To further reinforce the reform process and focus on the tiller, the Government of J&K set up a Land Commission in 1963. The report of the commission formed the basis of the J&K Agrarian Reform Act of 1972. This Act ended the rights in the land of those who personally never cultivated, and also reduced the ceiling limit to 12.5 acres which ended the Tenant-Landlord relationship completely. It was not in consonance with some landlords who depended heavily on income from the land and wanted to cultivate personally but couldn’t. Hence the act was replaced by the Reforms Act 1976 which fixed a ceiling of 12.5 standard acres including orchards with certain conditions. It kept the option for the petty landlord to resume for his personal cultivation on that fraction of his holdings which is equal to the fraction of that produce which he was recovering as rent from the tenant.

Table: Land Transferred to the Tillers in J&K from 1951-52 to 1980-85

Sl. no. Year No of Tillers Land transferred (in Acres) No of beneficiaries
1 1951-52 30,418 92,927 2,98,922
2 1952-53 50,189 66,755 1,70,165
3 1953-54 32,260 36,915 1,15,831
4 1980-85 3,08,000 1,06,000 5,38,000
Total 4,20,867 3,02,301 11,22,918

Source: Rekhi, 1993

A2.3. Post 2000

“The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act” was enacted by the government in 2001. This Act, commonly known as the Roshni Act aimed at generating Rs. 25,000 crore by transferring ownership rights of ‘Nazool land’ or in other words, state land. The idea was to sell the state land at market rates to the people who had illegally encroached upon it. The idea, however, couldn’t be carried forward due to political reasons. Later in 2007, the Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Congress government with an eye on 2008 assembly elections reformed the bill which now provided free ownership of 16.6 lakh kanals, land worth Rs. 20,000 crores targeting 19 lakh cultivators. Land occupying farmers were to pay a nominal fee of Rs 100 per kanal to get the land transferred in their name. The land was given at a rate of 10 percent of the existing market rate. However, the land was also given for residential and commercial use under the act which led to various irregularities. The irregularities and the Roshni Scam have been discussed separately in section-D of the paper.

B. Geopolitics of J&K and its Impact on land Reform

Korbel (1954) brings about the basic reason for exhaustive land reforms in J&K. According to him, these reforms were introduced to counter the demand of plebiscite made by Pakistan. Hence ending the feudal aristocracy and giving land to the landless at that particular point of time would ensure winning the hearts of the people of Kashmir. The question attached is, why, the elite responsible for the implementation of reforms in the state chose India over Pakistan? He answers the question by saying that the elite was sure of the fact that their radical agenda of bringing about reorganisation in the agricultural structure will not be possible in feudal Pakistan.

Ankit (2010) brings about the transition of the Kashmir issue from a regional conflict to a national question to an international concern. The year 1948 was crucial in changing the entire nature of J&K. Indirectly both the superpowers during the cold war era were interested in the Kashmir question. Americans wanted to control the Kashmir area indirectly to tackle the Soviet Union and their control from Turkey to Tibet. The Soviet Union never wanted to let go of the area as it would then act as a standstill to the spread of Communism down towards South East Asia. This argument explains the international importance the area got. The question was thus never of development but of geopolitical influence. Hence the State got entangled between national, regional and international questions and land reforms were never capitalised.

B1. Role of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah [Divergence of J&K’s Land Reform Approach from National Approach]

As brought about by Korbel (1954), the idea of land reform in Kashmir was to deviate from the demand of plebiscite by Pakistan. From his argument, I infer that there was Indian National machinery involved during the process. Motilal Nehru, father of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was himself from Kashmir. Pt. Nehru knew all about the political dynamics in the state. The man of the moment who could implement the cause was Sheikh Abdullah himself. Prasad (2014) talks about the bent of mind people had during that time, ‘people were neither pro-Pakistan nor pro-India they were just pro Shiekh because of his untiring implementation of radical agrarian reforms’. The sole legal reason why land reforms were successful was a special status J&K enjoyed under Article 370.

Nehru-Abdullah Agreement was signed in July 1952 which is also known as the Delhi agreement after his speech in the Lok Sabha on 26 June 1952 which confirmed that “the residuary powers of legislation” (on matters not mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List), which Article 248 and Entry 97 (Union List) confer on the Union, will not apply to Kashmir. This addresses the question of the role played by Nehru and Sheikh in the implementation of the land reform.

One major point where Sheikh’s role is seen of critical importance is that the protest against the land reform in the state came only from the Dogra ruler and people. Surprisingly Kashmiri pandits who formed just 5 percent of the population of Kashmir but had 30 percent of the land with them never protested.  Pandits were suppressed by giving them 10 percent reservation in the administrative jobs (Rai, 2004).

Addressing the question of how the land reforms in J&K were different from that in the nation was in terms of the question of Article 370. Article 370 gave the state of J&K interim provision of not granting fundamental rights to the citizens in order to bring about the vision of New Kashmir Manifesto. Hence when Benami transfers and locking of property in courtrooms was taking place in the rest of the country, Kashmir land reforms became a success story. “The success of the Act of 1950 can be very well appreciated from the fact that out of 9.5 lakh acres of land distributed throughout the country till 1970, about half (i e, 4.5 lakh acres) was distributed in J&K alone” (Verma, 1994).

B2. Water Treaties

Alleviation of poverty was one of the main aims of land reform at the national level. Land reforms were of drastic success in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. One state which was comparable to that of J&K was Kerala. The human development index figure of 2007-08 Kerala is at 0.790 while J&K lags behind at 0.529. Two main reasons why the first phase of land reforms in the state couldn’t take off are political issues of the occupation of land and restrictions on the use of state water use (Government of Jammu & Kashmir, 2006).

One of the main factors to supplement the land reforms and to achieve its goal of poverty alleviation is the creation of necessary infrastructure, for example, irrigation which requires water. By signing Indus water treaty in 1960 with Pakistan, India could use only 20 percent water of the Indus basin. Most of this water is used for irrigation in Punjab and its agricultural production is a hit. Here there was a compromise on the Nehruvian and Sheikh vision of land reform in J&K and the international pressure. All the three rivers which drain the state of J&K (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) were handed over in the treaty and the states right as Upper Riparian party were not protected as the treaty places a restriction on both the use of water for irrigation and for harnessing power. According to the treaty, the flow of water cannot be interrupted or reduced by building a reservoir (Navlakha, 2007).

The first phase of the land reform would have had an altogether different impact had the Indus Treaty not been signed and some amount of political willpower been shown.

B3. Role of Separatist Movements

The Separatist movement was a result of chaos and confusion. Poverty and Landlessness which land reforms were to address, when couldn’t be taken care of, manifested itself in the movement. Masses with no education were mobilised by the elite in a different direction altogether and thus the debate shifted from land reforms and development. Post-1987 which was the start of the separatist movement in Kashmir, people on call resorted to the politics of boycotting elections, which was undemocratic as in a democracy elections are regarded as one of the main steps towards social change. The entire idea of land reforms which is to increase self-sufficiency and efficiency somehow got lost. Chapter V (Planning Commission of India, 2014) on state finances tells that the state government for the year 2000-01 had a revenue deficit of Rs. 961 crore which is an increase of 77 percent over previous year. The chapter clearly states that the state has suffered a lot financially during the years of turmoil and revenue collecting authorities were unable to work efficiently. The state has really never recovered from the damage to the infrastructure and lack of investment post movement. The data shows the financial condition of J&K post movement period:

Year Total Income Total Expenditure Revenue Expenditure Revenue Surplus/Deficit Fiscal Surplus/Deficit
1996-97 3226 4180 3129 +94 -954
1997-98 4646 5147 4191 +451 -501
1998-99 4513 5567 4909 -400 -1054
1999-2000 5519 6857 6055 -541 -1338
2000-01 5674 7547 6621 -961 -1873

Source: Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2001-2002

The movement addressed the cause of secession from the Indian state and never focussed on the development agenda and capitalisation of land reforms. Now people have realised that the democratic process is the only way forward to address social problems. Chowdhary & Rao (2006) bring about the shift from the politics of ‘Boycott of election’ to ‘Bring change with the election’ by supplementing it with the voter turnout. They bank on the people’s urge to go back to the normal situation and their desire to exercise choice.

C. Marginalisation of Social needs and Social Reality

The marginalisation between the needs and reality post-2000 as pre-1947 and post-1947 have been addressed to in different sections of the paper. Roshni bill which formed one of the major land reform policies post-2000 was supposed to streamline the land holdings, empower the farmers and regulate land mafias but the picture looked different when CAG came up with irregularities in the scheme. On 24th January 2015, the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) filed a FIR against several officers of the revenue department for their involvement in the irregularities committed under Roshni scam. According to CAG performance report (Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2013) after approving the transfer of lands measuring 3,48,160 kanals only Rs.76.24 crore has been realised against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore. Scam figuring in a land reform scheme being mooted as pro-poor and farmer clearly bring about the paralysis our political machinery is going through. Roshni scam has shown that there is a clear divergence of social reality from social needs in the state of J&K.

D. Conclusion

Land reform did not achieve its goal. It got hijacked by International bindings at the first stage, national politics at the second and state politics at the third stage. Every successive state government found it difficult to match development planning with social reality because of various personal benefits attached. It is up to the people of the state to realise what is happening and elect their representatives sensibly. Good representation in the assembly can only put forth the cause and thus reduce the gap between social needs and social reality.

(Tushar Gupta is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Ankit, R. (2010). 1948: Crucial Year In The History Of J&K. Economic and Political Weekly, XLV (11), 49-58.

Aslam, M. (1977). Land Reforms in Jammu and Kashmir. Social Scientist, 6 (4), 59-64.

Bhat, M. (2000). “Land Distribution in Rural Jammu and Kashmir: An inter-temporal Analysis. In Pushpendra, & B. Sinha, Land Reforms in India: An Unfinished Agenda (pp. 139-169). New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Besley, Timothy, and Robin Burgess. “Land reform, poverty reduction, and growth: Evidence from India.” Quarterly journal of Economics (2000): 389-430.

Chowdhary, R., & Rao, N. V. (2006). Changed Political Scenario. Economic and Political Weekly, 11963-65.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India. (2001-2002). Audit Report (Civil), Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi: Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India. (2013). Performance Report. New Delhi: CAG of India.

Glancy, B. J. “Report of the Commission appointed under the order of His Highness, the Maharaja Bahadur, dated 12th November 1931 to enquire into Grievances and Complaints, Jammu.” (1933).

The government of Jammu and Kashmir. (2006). Economic Survey. Jammu: Government of Jammu & Kashmir.

Korbel, J. (1954). Danger in Kashmir. New Jersy: Princeton University Press.

Navlakha, G. (2007). State of Jammu and Kashmir Economy. Economic and Political Weekly, 4034-38.

Nehru, J. (2006). Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. Oxford New Delhi University Press.

Planning Commission of India. (2014). Jammu And Kashmir Development Report. New Delhi: Government of India.

Prasad, A. K. (2014). Sheikh Abdullah and Land Reforms. Economic And Political weekly , 131-137.

Rai, M. (2004). Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir . Delhi: Permanent Black.

Rekhi, T. S. (1993). Socio-Economic Justice in Jammu and  kashmir: A Critical Study. Delhi: Ideal Publications.

Saxena, A. (2007, September 26). ANOTHER LEAP TOWARDS LAND REFORMS IN J&K. Mainstream Weekly , XLV (40).

Saxena, A. (2007, september 26). ANOTHER LEAP TOWARDS LAND REFORMS IN J&K. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from Mainstream weekly website:

Verma, P. S. (1994). Jammu and Kashmir at the political crossroads. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.


Featured image source: