|Postcards of change|
|Saturday, 24 September 2016 00:00|
Niti Aayog catalogues state-level best practices
When he came to power, prime minister Narendra Modi talked of fashioning NITI Aayog as a repository of best practices, so that one state could learn from another and, if need be, seek the other’s active assistance. A smartly brought out State Forward compendium, on thick art paper, compiles over 80 such case-studies across the country, from areas as diverse as Aadhaar-enabled services to fixing education and transport woes—very helpfully, the name and e-mail of the official overseeing the project has been given at the end of each one- to two-page summary. By their very nature, such summaries do not go into the detail of how the project was conceived/executed, but their outcomes are inspiring. So, in the case of the Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, using of a Point of Sale device which captured the biometrics of those availing of PDS rations—and cross-verified these in real time from the Aadhaar database—resulted in a saving of R70 crore over a period of 18 months. Were the same levels of savings to take place across the country—the NITI Aayog book does not do this—total savings could well be over R18,000 crore; they could even be more if the proportion of fake ration-card-holders weeded out are much higher. Similarly, while it is true the e-mandi is no substitute for freeing up physical mandis across the country, the experiment in Karnataka showed a significant increase in market prices for a few crops.
In the case of micro-irrigation, the Gujarat study shows a 34% saving in water usage in cotton and 35% in sugarcane along with significant energy saving and production levels—while the payback is as low as 1.3 cropping seasons in the case of bananas, it is not clear from the study whether that is pre- or post-subsidy. In the case of education, where most bemoan the quality of government teaching, the Pratham example talks of how, after the intervention period, more than 70% of children were reading fluently and doing basic arithmetic.
None of this is to say that these examples can be scaled up equally successfully, or that a solution in one state can easily be transplanted into another—if it were that simple, states like West Bengal would have learned from the likes of Gujarat and had high industrial growth and low labour disputes. The point, however, is that when successful examples like this are showcased, they have more impact than, for instance, a World Bank report talking about solutions that worked in a Latin American setting you are not familiar with. Now that NITI Aayog has done this first step—a team of over 60 people put together the case-studies—it would be interesting to see how different states reach out to others to learn from their examples; indeed, part of NITI’s job must be an effective outreach programme which helps states discuss their learnings with one another.