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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

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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


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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.

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The political economy of Nehruvian Science

Sukhbeer Tej Pratap Singh



‘Vanity, ambition and eagerness for certainty are the greatest sources of hazards to scientific knowledge’   -Francis Bacon

The concept of planning in the sphere of scientific research is said to reduce the risk of fragmented efforts, minimising possibilities of duplication & making resources more efficient but the idea of planning science for economic advancement has been considered seriously only since the mid-sixties (Bhaneja, 1976). The political economy of the science & technology policy of India in the Nehruvian era involves a complex interplay between the various elements of the Indian society such as the political executive, the scientific community and educationists. This interplay must be seen in the context of post-independence India’s national & international aspirations. Since pre- independence India’s material base was weak after deindustrialisation under colonial rule, there was a major thrust on increasing the material base of Indian society through the application of technology. The fundamental belief underlying this initiative was the belief in the capacity of scientific innovation to accelerate the process of improving India’s socio-economic status. These aspirations had to be balanced with the resource crunch faced by the Indian state since investment in science & technology is a long term investment.

This paper is an attempt to analyse the modalities of post-independence India’s science & technology policy and trace the reasons for suboptimal performance of India’s pure science research and corrective initiatives in the field.

The Historical Context: Science Policy in the Colonial Period

In the pre-independence period, the desire to promote science was limited to a few scientists at universities and research centres. The British organised Indian universities deliberately to limit scientific research to mere examination oriented bodies. (Desiraju, 2008:38)

The initiatives to promote scientific temper and research, however, picked up the pace in the late 1930’s. Meghnad Saha (1893–1956) inspired by soviet planning proposed a series of hydroelectric dams in his native Bengal through state funds to generate power for industrial development, in the process addressing the problems of poverty & flood control(Anderson, 1975, pp. 24-29). Through his journal Science & Culture he expounded these ideas and they later came to be associated with Nehru (Arnold, 2013, p. 365). In 1938, Saha impressed upon Subhash Chandra Bose, then the president of Indian National Congress, his scheme for the regeneration of India which came to be reflected in Bose’s speeches at the time.  (Vasu, Reddi, & Ayer, 1990, pp. 72-99)  The rudimentary framework of science policy planning that existed in India consisted of Board of Scientific & Industrial Research created in 1938 and replaced by the Council of  Scientific & Industrial Research created out of a military necessity in 1942 (Bhaneja, 1979, pp. 70-97) In 1945, prior to the election of the new national government, the Congress party resolution declared:

Science, in its instrumental field of activity, has played an ever increasing part in influencing and moulding human life and will do so in even greater measure in the future. Industrial, agricultural and cultural advance, as well as national defence, depends upon it. Scientific research is, therefore, a basic and essential activity of the State and should be organised and encouraged on the widest scale.(Congress Party Manifesto,11th December 1945, 1969)

In the colonial period, science establishments were largely state-owned, located in specialist research institutes rather than in public universities (Arnold, 2013, p. 365).This was carried over after independence.  The reasoning put forth was that modern science technology was too fundamental yet also too specialist to be left to poorly funded universities. Also, defence and self-sufficiency needs seemed to favour state control. Another aspect of the reasoning behind pushing for a comprehensive science policy was the foreign policy angle of keeping India out of the cold war countries and the cold war out of India and  to establish India’s primacy in south Asia. (Kapur, 1976, pp. 72-99)

Parliamentary and administrative influence on science policy in the post-independence period

Our primary aims after independence were developing a large industrial base for the economic advancement of the country. This goal necessitated the development of a sound science and technology base. From the very outset, there existed two divergent schools of thoughts in the scientific planning community, with one school advocating the creation of government administered research institutions where substantive research would happen with universities to be focussed solely on the creation of a pool of scientific practitioners. Essentially, government research bodies were to serve as the centres of research.

The other school, championed by Meghnad Saha, himself a parliamentarian and physicist, wanted universities to continue as centres of scientific research, and be administered by scientists with minimal role of government officials with a non-science background, even in programmes with major funding from the government. The government chose to go ahead with the former plan.  

As patron and mentor of Indian science in the post-colonial period, Nehru assembled around himself like-minded scientists like S.S. Bhatnagar, P. C. Mahalanobis, and notably Homi K. Bhabha, chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission. The Department of Atomic Energy remained under Nehru’s control. Thus, the funding for a particular branch of scientific research depended upon the proximity of the top scientists of that field to the politico-administrative system. The National Committee on Science & Technology was created under Department of Science & Technology as a body to advise the government on preparation and evaluation of national science plans.

The demand and growth of science and technology lead to the emergence of a new configuration of “institutional and social complex”, which reciprocates the influence of the larger social order. It is this anachronistic connection between the social-institutional complex which was responsible for most of the problems faced by the Indian science policy in the past and needs to be redefined. (Sharma, 1976)

The Indian parliament on 4th march, 1958 passed the Science Policy resolution under the leadership of Jawaharlal Lal Nehru. The successful implementation of the Science Policy resolution mandated the adoption of a new scientific outlook by the entire population.

Under the direction of Nehru, the government of India held the first national conference of scientists, technologists and educationists for getting inputs on the implementation of the science resolution. The second national conference was held in August 1963. The Third conference was held in November 1970. It concluded in the formation of four working groups, viz. (1) Science Policy at the National Level, (2) Management of Scientific and Technological Institutions, (3) Research and Industrial Development, and (4) Higher Education and Manpower.

The conference criticised the process of education for ”diffusing the concepts and methodology of science”. It observed that science had remained confined to the periphery of our society. It also emphasised the (i) lack of inter-disciplinary approach & most importantly (ii) “the absence of a component dealing with the role of a scientist or a technologist as the agent of change in a developing society”. (The Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists & Educationists, 1970). The conference also emphasised on the “urgency for close collaboration between universities,  research bodies and other scientific bodies”. The consensus within the scientific community was that the cleavage between the research institutions and universities was producing sub-optimal results. The conference argued that for the development of a cohesive National Science Plan, it was imperative that working scientists be involved in the decision-making in public policy as put forward in the Science Policy resolution of 1958. Despite such recommendations, the third conference noted “though decision-making on important national issues involves political, administrative and technical components, at present, only the politicians and administrators participate in decision-making. This situation prevails even in areas where the policy issues involved have high scientific and technological content.” (Ibid:p.46)

In the proceedings of the 3rd conference it was noted that the feudal mindset was the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the Science Policy Resolution for betterment of the socio-economic system, but in praxis the scientific policy and polity remained disjointed in terms of implementation & organisational dynamics (Sharma, 1976) As Alexander King said, “Science is in disarray because society itself was in disarray”. It was also observed that some top scientists used public relations and management techniques to further their own ambition, – for instance to secure financial funding for research programmes of their choice, the building of institutions and laboratories. This was a drawback of the reduction in the significance of universities as centres of research and increasing centralisation of decision making in scientific planning at the highest level of government. The foundation of India’s atomic energy edifice was laid through Homi Bhabha’s personal relationship with Nehru (Sondhi, 1990, p. 510)(Arnold,2013:p23)

The programming methods and  techniques such as critical path methods, network analysis, programming budgeting systems and  critical path methods, have been considered favourably in the western countries (Bhaneja, 1976, p. 1) although their application to science  has been limited because most of the Research & development in these countries has been in the private sector. In contrast, 90 percent of the research in developing countries takes place in the government scientific institutions. (ibid.) Armed conflicts with China and  Pakistan and  two droughts gradually eroded the enthusiasm of parliamentarians leading them to  questioning the substantial quantitative expenditure on science in India, with Indira Gandhi remarking, “the nation had not secured sufficient returns from the quantitative expansion of scientific research” (Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists,p.5)In this context it is important to examine the  Science & Technology plan 1974-79 arrived at by NCST in consultation with 1800 scientists & technologists.

After 1965, different demands began to be made of the scientific research institutions. For the first time in 1971, the national expenditure on research & development in agriculture exceeded that on atomic energy. The declining agricultural productivity created pressure on the government to act in this line. In 1972 and under the fifth plan allocation, the expenditure rose higher than that on defence and atomic energy. However, agriculture was distinct from rural and there was yet to emerge a definitive idea of necessary rural bias in science policy in India.

This makes a case for research in universities in localised environments with greater devolution of funds to universities & decentralisation in decision-making processes in terms of the research focus areas. In every country with a significant scientific research base, fundamental research takes place in universities.  The reason why the SPR 1958 failed to create a cultural revolution in terms of inculcating scientific temper in the population was because of perceived distance from the outcomes of these centralised research institutions. The funding into these elite institutions for industrial and energy science research had little to show in terms of impact on rural socio-economic life except in terms of agriculture. This led to further questions being asked in the polity of the country on the money being funnelled into scientific research. In this sense the Chinese experience must be considered, China has invested in 100 universities with each a budget of Rs.100 crores per annum. This would have a budgetary outlay of 10000 crores which contrasts with DAE annual allowance of Rs. 7000 crores per annum. (Desiraju, 2008) Aspects of rural life such as sanitation, modernisation of rural cottage industries could have been better served by research in localised universities. The National Knowledge commission report, 2006 has criticised this approach of centralised research bodies and argued in favour of making universities the pre-eminent centres of fundamental research. It is argued that government ministries like Department of Biotechnology & Department of Science & Technology should not be running research centres. There is also the need to resuscitate state universities since they can have a broader social outreach than centralised research laboratories and also achieve the goal of interdisciplinarity in scientific research expounded by 3rd Science Conference, 1971.

In this sense the view of the Kothari commission on education that talks about the ill effects of bureaucratisation of higher education are also of relevance. The setting up of research centres outside of universities led to the divorce between teaching & research leading to undergraduate education in the sciences becoming static. Huge investments were made in these institutes was made at the cost of funding and reform in the universities.  (Shah, 2005, p. 2239)

Evolution of Current Policy & Possible solutions:

The latest science policy looks at the convergence between pure science research, technology and innovation. The 2013 policy reiterates the important aim of inter-disciplinarity necessary for the inclusive growth of the country It is through this convergence that we seek to evolve a scientific research base with a pronounced socio-economic orientation. The encouragement given to inter-university centres for research based on their success is recognising the importance of universities as the centres of research. The current policy document fails to analyse the shortcomings of the previous policies and fails to address the fundamental structural shortcomings of the research institutions. The disparity in terms of numbers is that in India 75 percent of the science & technology funds come from the government yet from the 1960s – the 1990s only 10 percent of the Research & Development funds went to universities The cleavage between the research institutions & universities has broken the organic linkage between talent which could be harvested in-house in a university environment

(Sukhbeer Tej Pratap Singh is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Arnold, D. (2013). Nehruvian Science and Postcolonial India. Isis, Vol. 104, No. 2, 360-370.

Anderson, R. S. (1975). Building scientific institutions in India: Saha and Bhabha (No. 11). Centre for Developing-Area Studies, McGill University.

Bhaneja, B. (1976). India’s Science and Technology Plan, 1974-79. Social Studies of Science, Vol. 6, No. 1, 99-104.

Bhaneja, B. (1979). Parliamentary Influence on Science Policy in India. Minerva, Vol. 17, No. 1, 70-97.

Congress Party Manifesto,11th December 1945. (1969). In Appendix in  P. Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress (Vol. II). Delhi: S. Chand.

Desiraju, G. R. (2008). Science Education and Research in India. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 24, 37-43.

Kapur, A. (1976). India’s Nuclear Option. New York: Praeger.

Shah, A. M. (2005). Higher Education and Research: Roots of Mediocrity. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 22/23, 2234-2242.

Sharma, D. (1976). Growth and Failures of India’s Science Policy. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 11, No. 51, 1969-1971.

Sondhi, S. (1990). SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICAL CHANGE. The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, No. 4, 507-517.

The Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists & Educationists, New Delhi, The Committee on Science & Technology, Government of India,1970)

Vasu, S. C., Reddi, B. G., & Ayer, S. A. (1965). Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose. Publications division ministry of information and broadcasting government of India.

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Policy Brief | Literacy Without Learning

Sakshi Mehra


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Executive Summary

India has made significant progress in boosting school enrolment rates and increasing access to primary education as evident from the fact that enrollments have reached 96 percent since 2009 and 56 percent of new students enrolled between 2007 and 2009 have been girls. However the same has not reflected positively in dropout rates and levels of learning. Nationally 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school. Increase in school enrolment is not translating into higher learning outcomes and cognitive skills as measured by several studies.  

Reasons to be Worried

  • Annual Survey of Educational Research (ASER 2013) found that only 54 percent of class V children were able to do simple 2 digit subtraction.

  • In 2005, 50 per cent of children in Grade V were unable to read a simple Grade II level text. The number is virtually unchanged 10 years later in 2014.

policybriefloknitiTable 1: Grade 9 completion rates of children by their reading levels at age 8-11
Source: IHDS data for 2004-5 and 2011-12.

Policy Options

India’s education system has many challenges at all levels, but all of them will fail if children don’t emerge from their early years of school reading fluently. The current discourse on education reforms have been discussing the following alternatives

  • There is an active national debate to scrap the No Detention Policy (NDP), a policy that prohibits failing children in classes 1 to 8. It is believed that in the absence of a proper regulatory framework, this has unfortunately led to ‘no learning’ in many cases.
  • Another approach involves a detailed look at the financing structure of school development plans. Currently, all budgetary plans are made using DISE (District Information System for Education) data, which has no component for learning outcomes. A specific amount that can be used as a learning grant should be given to the states, which should be linked to clearly determine learning goals. School committees based on learning outcome plans should take expenditure decisions regarding this grant.
  •  I believe we need to look at investing our time and resources in an approach that is neither too myopic and shortsighted, nor so broad and long-term that the millions already in school remain excluded from its benefits. In this context, we must begin from correcting the deficiencies in the classroom. It has already been established by researchers over the past decade that the teacher is the most influential factor for achieving quality education. Unfortunately, despite Teachers’ salaries accounting for 90 percent of education expenditure, One in four government primary school teachers are absent and only one in two is actually teaching.

Influencing learning outcomes by improving the teacher’s performance may further be adopted in two different ways: –

  1. Financial incentives and sanctions for teacher motivation: It is the intangible factors such as enthusiasm and passion that are likely to account for a majority of the variation in value added by the teacher and students’ learning outcomes. Evaluation of teachers based on their contribution to students’ achievement or their true value addition should be made the basis for financial rewards and promotion decisions. Performance based incentives could prove to be an effective way to keep the teachers motivated and deliver optimally. A UNICEF paper on teacher absenteeism in India also talks about the scope to effectively enforce sanctions on erring teachers. (Saihjee 2011) Guarantee of a salary, accompanied by weak sanctions actually creates an incentive to be absent. Thus, addressing the moral hazard problem will provide a solution to the problem of academic underperformance.
  2.  A Teacher empowerment program: This approach delves into the root causes of underperformance of teachers by addressing the hindrances to perform to potential. Thus, empowering the teacher through institutional changes for a more conducive teaching environment is the key. The program aims to place power in their hands and facilitate its responsible use. Of all these options, I recommend that teacher empowerment be pursued.

Why Teacher Empowerment?

It has already been established by researchers over the past decade that the teacher is the most influential factor for achieving quality education. Addressing teacher motivation through sanctions or financial incentives will not be as effective as desired as proven in several studies.

A study by National Bureau Of Economic Research conducted on New York City Public Schools suggests that there is no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance. (G. Fryer, Jr, 2011) Similar studies conducted in the Indian States reveal the same trend. If anything, this may adversely affect learning levels by increasing stress levels on teachers and students, encourage a narrowed curriculum of teaching to the test and propel student exclusion. Despite the opportunity and incentive to be absent, the fact that 3 out of every 4 teachers opts to be present indicates that there is clearly more to the issue than merely a “free-rider” problem. Thus, the root problem does not stem from the teacher’s motivation level, but from the lack of institutional support that is necessary for the teacher to perform to his or her potential and these are what need to be fixed so as to empower the teacher to deliver better in the classroom.

Scrapping the no detention policy is likely to be counter-productive by increasing the chances of early dropouts.  Moreover, the decline in learning levels is erroneously being attributed to this policy, whereas data from 2005 to 2010 (before implementation of RTE that introduced NDP) shows the same poor results.

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What Needs to be done?

An insight into the following challenges substantiates the need for institutional changes for a more conducive learning environment that enhances teacher performance and thus reiterates the need for a teacher empowerment program.

  • A study by Sipahimalani-Rao highlights unauthorised leave in Government schools is actually a mere 3-4 percent of total teacher absenteeism as against an inflated projected figure of 24-25 per cent (Priyam 2015). The latter per cent is because teachers are sent on formal chores outside the school during working hours. These non-teaching tasks include management of mid-day meals, organising construction work in the school, maintaining data and so on. During elections, government schoolteachers are posted as booth-level officers on voting days, and they have to prepare, check and maintain electoral rolls prior to voting. Distraction from core responsibilities of teaching could not be more obvious.

Action item: Raising the amount of time teachers spend on the core job needs serious attention and a minimum benchmark for the same must be clearly demarcated.

  • To exacerbate the problem, there are huge teacher shortages (Rajasthan has close to 20percent single-teacher schools) and this further overburdens the teachers.

Action item: Filling the staffing gaps should be made a priority.

  • Despite 16,000 teacher training institutes, the passing rates of the 2015 Teacher eligibility Test (TET) was a mere 17 percent, which is an alarming indication of the underperformance of the teacher education system. The 2012 Justice Verma Commission has made remarks including lack of training in training institutes and exam results being manipulated (MHRD 2011) Low-cost private schools barely spend anything on teacher training.

Action items:

Making teacher training institutes more accountable

Teacher unions need to act as institutions of value to produce well-informed teachers with an enhanced capacity for consensual action for the common good.

Teachers also must be given special training to deal with the diversity amongst students, especially students from underprivileged backgrounds as social class also impacts learning abilities. 21 per cent of children from economically stronger backgrounds who could not read or recognise letters in the age group of 8-11 managed to complete Grade 9 as against 7 per cent of their counterparts belonging to economically weaker and poorer sections

  • A significant number of Indian teachers, especially government teachers are expected to miraculously teach in multi-grade classrooms in remote locations with few amenities. This is a clear Violation of the 1986 Policy Operation Blackboard norms, which mandates at least one teacher for each class/section and at least one room for each class.

Action item: Strict adherence to Operation Blackboard norms, of at least one teacher for each class/section and at least one room for each class. Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) of 40:1 and 35:1 at primary and upper primary level respectively, as prescribed in the RTE, should be enforced.

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(Sakshi Mehra is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at


Paper by Aarti Saihjee, Education Specialist, New York UNICEF-Penn Learning Programme on Social Norms July 2011

Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City Public Schools Roland G. Fryer, Jr. Harvard University and NBER, November 2011

Manisha Priyam 2015 Contested Politics of Educational Reform in India: Aligning Opportunities with Interests: Oxford University Press

Justice Verma Commission on Teacher Education, Volume 3, 2012


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Climate Change in India: Challenges and Solutions

Sai Charan Bandaru

To begin with, India is the fourth largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHG) and has the obligation to take a proactive stance since it is going to be one of the worst victims of climate change as mentioned in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5). The estimated countrywide agricultural loss in 2030 will be over $7 billion. It could severely affect the livelihoods of at least 10 percent of the population. Wheat yields in the Gangetic plains are expected to experience a 51 percent reduction in the most high-yielding areas due to heat stress. This region currently produces 14 to 15 percent of the world’s wheat and feeds around 200 million people of the region. Extreme temperatures are expected to increase by 1-4°C, with a maximum increase in coastal regions.

If the impact of climate change is felt at local levels then adaptation measures should also focus on the same instead of imposing it from the top. The need of the hour is not to wait for global aid or wait for the negotiations to be successful, but to act intelligently at the local levels since small, consistent efforts bring about lasting change. The AR5 suggests that about 80 percent of the agricultural losses could be reduced if climate resilient and cost effective agricultural practices are followed. For example, simple measures like rainwater harvesting can prevent intensive groundwater usage and the need for constructing large dams which will eventually harm the ecology. However, the real challenge lies in implementing the same across India. Constitutional challenges like division of powers between the Centre and the States – agriculture belonging to the state list, lack of political incentives for the policy makers to take far-reaching steps, non-homogeneity of geographical features etc (e.g. rain water harvesting measures for the plains of Uttar Pradesh and the dry land regions like Vidarbha in Maharashtra are entirely different) are major hurdles. Most importantly, we should take into account people’s reaction to any changes in their agricultural practices. Particularly in India, where more than 80 percent are small and marginal farmers, their willingness to adopt a new practice is fraught with difficulties and it compounds when it is taken for the entire country. Under such circumstances, the optimal policy level solution is to tweak the existing programs instead of framing a new program altogether.

One alternative is to create a separate component in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) that includes climate change adaptation measures like rainwater harvesting and climate-resilient agricultural practices in the dry land. NREGS is well penetrated in all the states where dry land agriculture is practised, namely Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand (constitutes nearly 60 percent of the net area under cultivation). The awareness regarding the harmful effects of climate change and adaptation measures must be penetrated to the local levels and demand for sustainable agriculture must come from the people. Once the demand is created it will be easier for the climate resilient crop varieties to enter the market. Moreover, the process involves participation which is a necessary prerequisite to enhance the people’s capacity to handle climate change.

In the energy sector, the obvious solutions are to increase the energy efficiency of coal plants and to promote the renewable sector. In the former, India is investing in supercritical and ultra-supercritical technologies to improve the efficiency of power generation in coal plants and phase out the older generation power plants. Such measures are necessary but not sufficient in cutting the GHG emissions. Moreover, coal continues to have a major share in power generation since we still have 30 crore people who do not have access to electricity and coal is still the cheapest option. The real challenge lies in the augmentation of solar energy since compared to biomass, wind, and other renewable sources India has a geographical advantage of receiving 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per on an average. Presently, India is running the largest renewable energy capacity addition program in the world with the target of 1,75,000 MW of renewable energy by 2022 of which solar itself constitutes about 1,00,000 MW. In the year 2014-15, it witnessed 42 percent increase in the solar capacity. Funding mechanisms like diverting additional revenues from coal cess increase ($6/ton, which is the highest clean energy cess among developing countries) to fund renewable energy projects have been initiated. But such momentum can only be sustained if it is backed by indigenous R&D, innovation, and manufacturing capability. Solar systems are dependent on local conditions and need to be optimised for specific applications and geographical factors. Therefore, a flourishing R&D base in the country is critical if India wants to convert this solar energy vision into a reality. Such an innovation ecosystem requires close collaboration between the research community and the industry. India can be a laboratory for the global R&D institutions and industry to collaborate with their Indian counterparts to come up with innovative solutions. The innovations should also focus on utilising solar power to low-cost home appliances especially in rural areas where more than 60 percent of the energy needs are met through traditional biomass-based fuels. These innovations in solar energy also need a consistent demand to make them viable in the long run. Online platforms like e-commerce sites can be incentivized by the government to market them with competitive pricing. By virtue of its geographical advantage, it can actually be a focus point for research in solar energy provided right incentives are given from the policy side.

Another area where creative solutions are required is the creation of carbon sinks. They are necessary to trap the emissions in the atmosphere and bring them back to the carbon cycle. India is following the afforestation program to increase its carbon intake capacity. For the past 27 years, India has been trying to increase its forest cover from the present 23 percent to 33 percent, which still remains a pipe dream due to increasing pressures to achieve rapid industrial development. The problem lies in the poor implementation of the afforestation program. Afforestation is often seen in India as a compensatory mechanism for the forests destroyed and not as a source of revenue generation for the timber products and other forest produce, particularly for the local communities. Sufficient studies in this area are required to market afforestation as an innovative tool for climate change adaptation. Nearly 40 percent of the forest cover in the country is degraded and the trick lies in increasing the productivity of this land instead of searching for new barren lands through mapping using satellite data already available for these lands. The administration becomes easier if the local communities were made a part of this process. If they are allowed to sell the forest produce it becomes an incentive to protect them. Also, agroforestry can be coupled with it to augment their revenues. Research focus should be on promotion of those species of plants that have high carbon sequestration potential.

Innovations are also required for a sustainable habitat through energy efficiency and smart urban management. More than 30 percent of the emissions are from the urban areas. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (one of the eight missions under NAPCC) talks about improvements in waste management, recycling of waste water, sewage utilisation, sludge management and extensive increase in public transport like Rapid Bus Transit, Metro Rail improving the energy efficiency of buildings etc. in urban areas. Each of these problems requires separate attention and they are much bigger issues even if we do not consider the climate change aspect. For example, urban waste management is a vexing issue with problems ranging from bureaucratic apathy to lack of appropriate technologies suited for local needs. Even more is the increasing vehicular pollution. Before we see the complete effects of climate change, India needs to address its homegrown pollution which has more immediate and direct impact on its people. For example, the Uttarakhand floods in 2012 were caused by poor urban management meddling with the sensitive Himalayan ecology.

To achieve that target of limiting the temperature rise to below 2ᴼC by 2100, the world can emit only 2900 Giga ton (Gt) of Carbon dioxide. Till 2011 the world has emitted 1900 Gt, meaning the carbon budget is highly constrained and the remaining 1000 Gt has to be used judiciously for the next 80 years through the means of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Although it requires collective action, India cannot wait for anyone. The focus of the mitigation and adaptation measures in India should be to find innovative indigenous solutions which will complement foreign-funded programs like Clean Development Mechanism. After all, we are living in a time borrowed from our future generations and it is never too late to act.



This essay was submitted for the European Union-The Hindu Centre Essay Competition

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


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IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

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Ujjwal Bharat (2015), Ministry of Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, GoI. Available at 



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