Defending the Defenders

ON Wednesday, in Nagaur district of Rajasthan, an angry crowd had captured some of the constables from GRP (Government Railway Police). The Superintendent of Police (SP), Nagaur learnt about this and reached Sanwarad GRP police station, the spot of incident, along with young lady IPS officer. On reaching they learned that the mob was attempting to burn the police station down. “We saw some people trying to burn GRP constables alive. When we intervened, the mob attacked us. SP was injured in the attack and I took shelter in a house”, this is what that lady officer said later on. There were reports that the mob manhandled, molested and disrobed her. Thankfully, this was not so, a fact that she later clarified.

Attacks like this have become a common place. Only recently, District Magistrate of Mandsaur district in MP was attacked by the agitating farmers when he went to pacify them. In my own home district, a lady IAS officer posted as Chief Executive Officer of district panchayat was saved by the police from a crowd that had entered her own office and was threatening to heckle her. All three organs of administration at the district level – the District Magistracy, the Panchayats and the Police – are increasingly under attack by anti-social elements of the society.

Being a young officer in such is situation is very disheartening. The lady IPS officer, whom I mentioned earlier, happens to be my batch-mate. Reading about what had happened to her, imagining myself or anyone of my kin in that situation, makes me cringe. It makes me to think, ‘What is the reason for the current state of affairs, in which, the officers of the state, who are supposed to exude and represent the authority of the state, are coming increasingly under attack?’

I have been in service for less than three years. In this time, I have realised that the positions that we, as officers, hold are immensely powerful and influential, and using that, we actually can get a lot of things done. But I have also learnt that it is not about how much power you possess; the only thing that matters is how powerful you are seen by the people. In other words, perception matters more than the substance. An individual or an institution which is able to inspire awe in everyone coming in contact with it is the one which can get work done, and get it done smoothly. Power vested in them can only help for damage control. Somehow, I think, state authorities have lost their ‘awe’, and consequently, are perceived to be as weak – a situation which is exploited by muscle men as well as collection of individuals in a mob.

But how did this come about? How did we lose this ‘awe’? While awe in one sense means admiration, it also means fear. It does not matter how powerful is the position that you are holding; if people don’t see you as a powerful person, and/or are not respectful towards that power, and/or refuse to submit to your authority, you are only a paper-king and you have no real authority. While in an ideal society, people would respect and submit to legally established authority without any force or compulsions, in reality, people submit to law only due to fear of the consequences of not doing so. For example, while some might not mind parting with 30% of their hard earned money as taxes because of their love for their country, majority of us pay taxes because we are scared of spooks in the Income Tax department. So, fear creates awe which gets work done, and power is only then used to discipline bad apples who need an extra-serving of authority.

In recent times, however, this ‘fear’ is on the wane. There is an increasing section of society which thinks that they can do wrongs, derive profits out of it, and not get punished. Our slow, and sometimes defective, justice delivery system reinforces this belief. Every time a person breaks a traffic signal and is not punished for it, he gets bolder; every time a person mugs another person and gets away with it, he gets bolder; slowly and steadily, people who used to break signals start breaking curfews; and those mugging people, start mugging members of the establishment.

Then again, it is the responsibility of the very same state, and thereby responsibility of the very same officers under attack, to make sure that every transgression of law is punished. But this is easier said than done. Unlike ordinary people, officers and agents of state, are held to much higher standards, as they should be. While a mob trying to burn constables finds passing mention in media, a lathi charge by police on a violent crowd gets cover to cover coverage, as an attack on society. While an injury suffered by policemen in a law and order situation is dismissed as an occupational hazard, something similar happening to a civilian opens a series of inquiries and investigations, which consumes and destroys several bright careers. While crowd and mob get organised around a single point agenda, and are not handicapped by niceties and boundaries of ‘laws and rules’, state officials have to care of myriad permutations and combinations. All this, and much more, contribute to erosion of authority.

Even the intellectual class is against a strong state. Recently, in an essay in the periodical Frontline, a member of “the thinking class” compared our present Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, with the perpetrator of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, General Dyer. The reason? Gen. Bipin Rawat told PTI, “[Your] Adversaries must be afraid of you… and at the same time, your people must be afraid of you… we are a friendly Army, but when we are called in to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us”. This intellectual I am referring to, found these comments preposterous. Can anyone say, that in a law and order situation, which has deteriorated so much that Army has been called to intervene, people should not be afraid and keep on rampaging? Absolutely not!!! People who create such law and order problems should even be afraid of my beat constable, leave alone the mighty Army. It can be nobody’s case that such people should behave as daredevils and not be afraid of hands of the state.

So, in conclusion, unless the fear of state authorities is injected in everyone who dares to think of doing anything illegal, it is very difficult to arrest the trend which has set in light of the examples mentioned in the beginning of this article. Comments of the Home Minister of Rajasthan, following the attack in Nagaur is something which builds confidence in members of the administration (click here to see those comments). Support of political class is sine qua non for revival and reestablishment of state authority. People need to remember that those serving in organs of administration are humans too and possess same rights, and are affected by same fears, which affect everyone else.

Reforms in disbursal of grains from FPS shops

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Public Distribution System, a set up through which heavily subsidised food grains are distributed to the poor and the needy across the country is easily among the most important, and most beneficial, scheme the government has ever adopted. Recently passed National Food Security Act too uses this pre-existing set up with minor changes. It can be unequivocally said that PDS is the most widely recognized, most popular, and the most appreciated face of the government at grass-root level.

However, it is widely known that PDS pipeline is leaky and a significant, if not large, proportion of grains find their way into the pockets of those other than the intended beneficiaries. Introduction of GPS tracking of delivery vehicles, use of Information and Communication Technology tools for monitoring and supervision and use of biometrics for last mile delivery of grains has reduced such leakages to a large extent. By linking Aadhar number of beneficiaries with their ration cards, a process which is currently underway, this process will get further streamlined.

Despite all this, there is one link which the existing set up is yet to address – How to ensure that the owner of fair price shop measures the entitlement properly and gives it to the beneficiary? How to ensure that the beneficiary is not duped by saying that “there was less grain this month” or “you are not entitled to this”? It is neither cost-effective nor efficient to have an army of people to keep continuous vigilance on shop owners, to make sure that they do not dupe their customers. It is equally, if not more, difficult to bring people taking benefits from these shops, especially those belonging to depressed sections of society, out from the influence of shopkeeper. It is difficult to imbibe in them the strength to question the shopkeeper, and if still not satisfied, contact appropriate authorities. Retailing of grains at the shop level is an area yet to be addressed.

When initially this problem came to my notice, I was overwhelmed. How in the world do I make sure that every customer coming to the shop is getting his/her fair weight of food grains? From my study of behavioural economics, I knew better than to blame everything on “cunning and corrupt” shopkeepers. Let me explain what I mean. If you happened to be the owner of such a shop, working with motive of making profit, you will be careful not to give more than what your customer is paying for. So, to be on the safer side and to make sure that he at least makes no loss, he issues grain less than what the customer is entitled to. Further, this gets aggravated during rush times when there are ten customers screaming at him to grab his attention. Even if we assume a 5% variation, it means that for every 40 kg, 2 kg gets “pocketed” by the shopkeeper. This is not to say that all shopkeepers are saints. While a small variation can be considered bona fide, we have found several who use ignorance of their customers and issue, in several cases, even less than 50% of their genuine entitlement. So, in this last retail transaction between ultimate beneficiary and the shopkeeper, leakages do happen, willingly and unwillingly.

So, posed with this challenge, we wanted an elegant solution not needing much manual intervention or supervision which could help in plugging leakages in this last transaction. We narrowed down the problem to the act of measurement. Grains are provided from godowns to these shopkeepers in bags of 50 and 100 kg, which are then opened in the shops and quotas are issued to people based on their entitlements. It is in this act of opening and measuring that the leakages take place. So, we decided to change this default option. Instead of giving grains in bags of 50 and 100 kg, we decided to give grains in bags of customised sizes which will not have to be opened in shops and will have to be handed over to the customers as it is. However, this was easier said than done.

Foodgrains are issued from such shops under two schemes: National Food Security Act and Antyodaya Anna Yojana. While under the former scheme, every eligible ration card holder is entitled to 5 kg of food grains per member registered in their ration card (3.5 kg wheat and 1.5 kg rice), the quantity issued in the latter scheme is fixed – 25 kg wheat, 10 kg rice – irrespective of how many names are registered in card of that beneficiary. As you can imagine, providing food-grains in bags of sizes customised as per needs of beneficiaries in the former scheme is difficult (as the quantity varies from beneficiary to beneficiary), in the latter case it is quite straight forward. For beneficiaries of AAY, instead of providing wheat and rice in bags of 50 and 100 kg, we will now provide wheat in bags of 25 kg and rice in bags of 10 kg. Shopkeeper will simply have to pick one bag of each and give it to the beneficiary, without having to open and measure. For us, we will now have to monitor a single packing location rather than keeping an eye on every shopkeeper who is measuring and issuing grains. Further, on these packing bags, we write a set of instruction which would educate beneficiaries regarding their rights and entitlements along with instructions for how they can register and get their grievances redressed.

We have opted to start with AAY as it is easier to implement and based on lessons learnt from this, we can expand in future to NFSA. In order to conduct pilot for the project, we selected 13 villages having a total of 670 AAY beneficiaries. If everything goes as per plan, we are sure, that for these beneficiaries at least, we will be able to ensure 100% delivery of benefits without any notable leakages.

The Difficulty of Being Mad

In his book titled The Difficulty of Being Good, the author Gurcharan Das turns to Mahabharata to answer the question ‘why be good?’ While doing so, he relates the world of moral haziness and uncertainty, depicted in the epic, with day to day experiences of modern human beings. And ever since I read the book Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho, I have been tempted to ask a similar question – ‘why be mad?’ – especially in my position as a serving bureaucrat. But before that, let us discuss what does it mean to be ‘mad’?

Any person who behaves in a manner considered to be ‘abnormal’ can potentially be labelled as a ‘mad’ person. However, in order to understand what is ‘abnormal’, it is important to understand what is ‘normal’. A set of beliefs and patterns of behaviors subscribed and prescribed by majority in any social grouping is a ‘normal’ for that grouping. It may not be the best or the most logical, but it is the one most adapted to the desires of society as a whole. Anyone who does not conform to these set of beliefs and patterns of behaviours can potentially be labelled as a ‘mad’ person. So, in summary, a person who is different from the majority is potentially a mad person.

If an undergraduate decides to skip college and risk a bright career in an MNC for a more uncertain career path, he can be called ‘mad’; if an employee of an MNC earning a seven figure per month salary decides to give up his comfort to take up a six figure per year salary job in public service, he can be called ‘mad’; if an officer walks into a restless crowd, armed with a lathi, his attitude and nothing else and that too without any protection, he can be called ‘mad’; if an officer working in a deeply conservative society decides to educate about menstruation and anything remotely related to sex, he can be called ‘mad’. These people may very well be nut-jobs and might screw-up too. They might end up spoiling their careers, getting physically harmed or morally broken in their endeavours; but they might also give birth to Microsoft and Apple, become outstanding officers, provide environment of peace and tranquillity and bring about transformation in people’s quality of life. It may very well be that such people are mad; but they are also brave. As the cliche goes, the boundary line between madness and bravery is very thin.

Society, however, has a huge inertia. It works to bring every abnormality towards “normal”. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of bureaucracy. Handicapped by the non-maneuverable web of rules and regulations, whenever a ‘mad’ officer tries to innovate beyond “permissible limits”, and deviates from the acceptable tenets of work and behaviour, claws of the system start working with coordination to bring the ‘madness’ under control. Anything that the ‘mad’ person says in such a system is dismissed as a nonsense borne of inexperience. Those who are used to hearing big and complex words find simple words of simple-minded ‘mad’ person as incomprehensible and dismiss them as gibberish. Then, the system, like a mental asylum, starts teaching that ‘mad’ person ‘correct’ patterns of behaviour. It starts a treatment to restore normality to the corrupted minds. Give a few years in a strict mental asylum as this, where one’s every move is watched and commented upon, and it can straighten out even the crooked-most of the crooked-most. But even in this mental asylum, there are some people, who never lose their madness (They suffer from extreme and incurable traits of ‘madness’). Like shrewd people, they reserve it from the outside world, behaving ‘normally’ with them, and disclose it only to within their groupings to those who are mad like them. Had it not been for these lighthouses of ‘madness’ in the dark ocean of normality, innovation in administration would have died a slow death long ago. Only a mad person can see true intelligence in another mad person. Alas! The world is dominated by the normal. It might be difficult to stay ‘mad’ in such an environment; then again, madness can never be de-hyphenated from bravery.

Sustainable Development Goals – Agenda 2030 – explained

The 193-member United Nations in its 70th General Assembly adopted “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which consists of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. These goals are also known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are successors of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were adopted in 1990 and expired this year. While MDGs, which had 8 goals and 18 targets only, were mainly focused on Human Development, SDGs have a wider spectrum. Before discussing features of SDGs let us understand what Sustainable Development means.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It consists of three dimensions

  1. Social
  2. Economic
  3. Environmental

Illustration in figure below summarises role of these three dimensions. As it can be seen, balanced social, economic and environmental deveopment is known as sustainable development. United Nations while adopting SDGs committed itself to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions — economic, social and environmental — in a balanced and integrated manner.

dev

Sustainable development contains within it two key concepts:

  1. The concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  2. The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

It is with objective of balancing all these dimensions that SDGs were formulated and adopted by UNGA.

Millennium Development Goals – Achievements

The United Nations says the MDGs led to achievements that include

  1. The number of people living in extreme poverty has been more than halved to 836 million in 2015 from 1.9 billion in 1990
  2. Gender parity in primary schools in the majority of countries
  3. Reducing the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births from 90
  4. A fall of 45 percent in the maternal mortality ratio worldwide
  5. Some 37 million lives saved by tuberculosis prevention and treatment
  6. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths averted
  7. New HIV infection rates down by around 40 percent
  8. Access to improved sanitation for 2.1 billion people
  9. Official Development Assistance from developed countries up 66 percent in real terms to $135.2 billion

These achievements while commendable were insufficient to ensure balanced sustainable development of the world. Hence, new set of goals were required to succeed them. These new goals were shaped to form SDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets

The document adopted by UN “Transforming our world: the 20130 Agenda for Sustainable Development lists 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These 17 goals together contain 169 targets and will come into effect on 1 Jan, 2016. They are very comprehensive and can be classified into social, economic, environmental and one “others” category (refer Table 1).

Sustainable Development Goals
Social Economic Environmental Others
1.      No Poverty

2.      Zero Hunger

3.      Good Health and Well being

4.      Quality Education

5.      Gender Equality

6.      Clean Water and Sanitation

7.      Affordable and Clean Energy

8.      Decent work and Economic Growth

9.      Industry, innovation and infrastructure

10.  Reduced inequalities

11.  Sustainable cities and Communities

12.  Responsible consumption and production

13.  Climate action

14.  Life below water

15.  Life on land

16.  Peace, justice and strong institutions

17.  Partnership for the goals

These goals seek to address needs of 5Ps

  1. Person: Determination to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
  2. Planet: determination to protect the planet from degradation so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.
  3. Prosperity: determination to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
  4. Peace: determination to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are
    free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
  5. Partnership: determination to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

All the 17 goals under SDGs are listed in figure below. (For detailed description of targets under each goal visit https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics)

sdgs

The document reaffirms the principles of Rio Declaration on Environment and Development including Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) principle for achieving these goals and targets.

MDGs vs. SDGs

  1. SDGs are more collaborative than MDGs

While MDGs became popular in public realm in most of the countries towards end of its 15 year period (2000-2015), SDGs have been in public discussion right from inception. This is because while MDGs were largely determined by the OECD countries and international donor agencies SDGs have been produced after detailed international negotiations which also included middle and low income countries.

  1. SDGs are more holistic

6 out of 8 goals in MDGs were related to health. There was one related to environment and another to foster international partnership. In comparison SDGs have much wider scope. They are holistic in sense that they cover poverty reduction and inequality, sustainability and economic growth with job creation. For the first time we have goals which have specific economic indicators as targets. UN says that SDGs go much further than previous goals as they address the root causes of poverty and pledge to leave no one behind, including the vulnerable groups.

  1. SDGs are universal

SDGs are universal in sense that they are applicable for all countries – developed as well as developing. It is first such agenda of UN since Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. Against this, MDGs were i most part applicable only to the developing countries or least developed countries.

  1. Resource mobilisation

Resource mobilisation for achievement of SDGs is based on nation’s capacities. It acknowledges that current north-south divide may change over next 15 years and hence the traditional categorisation of developing and developed countries for the purpose of resource mobilisation has been done away with,

  1. Involvement of private sector

Scope for involvement of private sector and other non-state bodies is much larger in SDGs as compared to MDGs. Private Sector has started getting involved in SDGs through their mechanisms like Impact2030 or through UN led initiatives like UN Global Compact.

  1. SDGs are more firmly rooted in Human Rights

List of goals under SDGs indicate that all socio-economic dimensions necessary for good quality life have been included besides environmental concerns to make them sustainable. Thus, fulfilment of basic human rights of people is sought to be achieved through SDGs. MDGs, due to its focus on health alone, was ill-equipped on this aspect.

  1. SDGs are more inclusive

Seven SDG targets explicitly refer to persons with disabilities; an additional six targets refer to people in vulnerable situations, while seven targets are universal and two refer to non-discrimination. Thus, SDGs provide attention to the vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society so that they too are not left behind in growth and development.

  1. Balancing economic growth with labour rights

While SDGs agree that industrialisation is a way forward and hence facilitation of smooth functioning must be done, there are also targets to insure that labour is not exploited by the industries.

  1. SDGs supports domestic and international migration of population

The agenda acknowledges the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development accepting that such migration is essential for development of countries of origin. Agenda determines to enable international cooperation to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, of refugees and of displaced persons. Such cooperation would also strengthen the resilience of communities hosting refugees, particularly in developing countries.

  1. UNFCCC has been affirmed as the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
  2. Pitch made for peace and security

Sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security; and
peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development. The new Agenda recognizes the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development), on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions. Factors which give rise to violence, insecurity and injustice, such as inequality, corruption, poor governance and illicit financial and arms flows, are addressed in the Agenda.

  1. SDGs are more democratic than MDGs

The agenda acknowledges that it is “We the peoples”, as mentioned in UN Charter, who are embarking on this journey towards 2030 with unprecedented goals and targets. This journey will involve Governments as well as parliaments, the United Nations system and other international institutions, local authorities, indigenous peoples, civil society, business and the private sector, the scientific and academic community — and all people. It is an Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people — and this, UN believes, will ensure its success.

  1. SDGs Agenda document includes part for “Means of Implementation”

One of the most controversial points in SDGs negotiation was inclusion of this part in the Agenda document with developed countries opposing the inclusion. MoI includes transfer of financial resources, technology, capacity building etc. between countries for attainment of SDGs. There are MoI targets under each goal besides their being overall Goal 17 for partnership between nations. The Agenda document recognises need of a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development that brings together governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources.

For providing international finance, the countries that give Official Development Assistance (ODA) have reaffirmed their commitment of providing 0.7% of their GNI as ODA to developing countries and 0.15-0.2% of GNI as ODA to least developed countries. International financial institutions will have further important role to play in this matter. National governments will further raise domestic resources to this end.

Indicators are being developed to facilitate monitoring of SDGs at regional, national and global levels. For technology transfer, UN has established a global Technology Facilitation Mechanism under Addis Ababa Action Agenda to enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation through existing mechanisms, in particular at the UN level. The technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries will be operationalized by 2017.

  1. SDGs will be more difficult to monitor

Consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets, monitoring of SDGs will be much difficult than monitoring of MDGs which consisted of 8 goals and 18 targets only. This is especially challenging in context of developing and least developed countries where the quality of data is not good and in many cases, there is no data at all. Hence, if this vacuum is not filled, it will be impossible to implement SDGs.

Conclusion:

No doubt that the targets that we have set for ourselves through SDGs are aspirational. If the success that we have had in implementing MDGs is anything to go by then the task at hand is not easy. However, since SDGs have wider support base and more awareness is present today in governments that 15 years ago, the result may indeed turn out to be different. World will be better place if we succeed in achieving these targets by 2030. It remains to be seen how national governments incorporate these goals into their national plans and programmes.

Plugging the last mile leakages in kerosene PDS: transparent measuring cans

Needy families are given varying quantities of Kerosene under PDS. However, at the Fair Price Shop (FPS), point of delivery to the actual beneficiaries, they frequently get tricked due to the metallic conical measuring cans used for measuring kerosene. This is done in the following way

  1. Base is tampered and pushed in so that actual volume of can reduces
  2. When Kerosene is filled in can with high speed, due to narrow neck the froth created fills the can before full amount of liquid is filled. The beneficiary, who also is many times illiterate, is unable to realize that he/she has not been given adequate quantity.

Use of transparent fiber-made measuring cans with a broader neck can help address these problems.

  1. Since it is fiber-made, it is very difficult to disfigure the base without breaking the can thus maintaining actual volume to a better extent.
  2. Broad neck prevents froth from falsely filling the can when speed of filling is high
  3. Transparent body allows even an illiterate person standing few feet away from the shopkeeper to see that the can is being filled without tampering to its full capacity. To make this easy marking can be made on base and neck with red color indicating the levels between which fuel has to be filled.

can

Varunkumar Baranwal

IAS (2014 batch), Gujarat cadre

Inverted Borewells

Rain water harvesting is sine qua non if we want to salvage increasingly accentuating problem of ground water level depletion. While there are several structures that harvest rain water to recharge ground water, the one I found most appealing and hope to be most effective is the inverted borewells.

I came across this idea from one of the links shared by my batchmate in Bangalore. In every village there are defunct hand pumps or bore wells which directly connect ground level with the underground water table. Using these for rain water harvesting, maximum amount of running water can be captured in underground aquifers. A similar concept was implemented in Hassan district of Karnataka and Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. They can be further modified and built upon. Project cost for one inverted bore well is Rs. 6000/- and can be easily done under MGNREGA as it satisfies 60:40 (labour : material) criteria.

Design of inverted bore well as implemented in Hassan and Sabarkantha is given in Fig 1

I also suggest enhancement as in Fig 2 in order to enhance effectiveness of design in Fig 1 as a single channel of hand pump/bore well gets recharged by multiple dugs in the modified version.

During my district training when I was Taluka (Block) Development Officer of Vijaynagar in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat, I took up construction of around a thousand such structure. I hope that coming monsoon, these structure will boost ground water benefiting not only the villages in Vijayanagar but also those surround the taluka.

Everytime in thoughts…

(I wrote this poem when I was in second year of engineering at MIT, Pune)

stock-photo-77613081-couple-holding-hands-at-the-lake

Walking by the road in an early sun,

Watching birds on trees and dogs having fun,

I got a thought, that made me smile,

Dreaming in day, I walked more than a mile.

Why am I happy? I am not sure,

The sky is so blue, breeze is so pure.

There is a face that makes me think,

Eyes neither see, nor do they wink.

Ears are open, but they can’t hear,

Suddenly my life has changed its gear.

Every time in thoughts, when we meet,

For those moments, I feel complete.

Every time in thoughts, gazing in her eyes,

I fly in air, my heart full of butterflies.

Every time in thoughts, when I touch her skin,

I for real, feel pricked by a pin.

Every time in thoughts when I touch her hair,

I smell its erotic aroma in the air.

Every time in thoughts her lips when I see,

I feel so much peace that I am not me.

Holding her hands on bench when I sit,

The Sun goes down and the moon is lit.

The time stands still, winds blow and hiss

I keep looking, thinking shall I kiss

What she will say, will it be wise

At this very moment out of dreams I rise

Laughing at self for what a stupid I have been

I recall every instant of what all I have seen

Giving a look to my desperate hand

And feeling every moment slipping like sand

With all my love I utter the spell

May for eternity together we dwell.

 

Written by

Varun Baranwal

IAS, 2014 batch

आज का आम नागरिक…

(I wrote this poem after Nirbhaya case in 2012. At that time I was preparing for the Civil services)

india-protests-6

बरसो से थी जो चिंगारी, बन गयी आज वह शोला है,

बरसो से मौन जिसे धारण था, मुख  उस जनता ने खोला है,

जाग गया है आम नागरिक, मत समझो यह भोला है,

जब जब दहाड़ लगायी है उसने, आसन हर राजा का डोला है|

 

नही झुकेगा सर अब उसका, अब छाती उसकी चौडी है,

अपनी ताकत वह जान गया है, हर कीमत उसकी अब कौड़ी है,

दीवार जो उसको रोक रही थी, दीवार वो उसने तोड़ी है,

होकर निराश अपनी हालत से, हर हया शरम भी छोड़ी है|

 

हो नारी या हो कोई बालक, सहेगा किसीका अपमान नहीं,

हर अपराधी सावधान हो, न समझना कि उसका ध्यान नही,

संघर्ष करेगा तब तक जब तक, होगा सबका सन्मान नहीं,

नारी बिना समाज है हारा, इस सत्य से वह अनजान नहीं|

 

आज खड़ा है देश का युवा, जिसमे पुरा अब जोश भरा है,

नहीं जन्म से मिला कुछ उसको अपनी जंग वह खुद लड़ा है,

जीवन से युद्ध करके भी, आज  वह बेकाम पड़ा है,

है निराश फिर भी उत्साह से, अपने अधिकार के लिये खड़ा है|

 

आंख अपनी बंद करके जब, सोचे अपना देश हो कैसा,

याद आते है शहीदों के सपने, लगता है फिर देश हो वैसा,

पर उसको और बदलना होगा, सामने रस्ता कठिन है एसा,

बाकी है अभी बहुत लड़ाई, सावधान रहना होगा हमेशा|

 

Written by

Varunkumar Baranwal

IAS, 2014 Batch

 

#IASatWork: Transforming lives with e-governance

m-nagarajan1IAS Officers are known for their creativity in using technology for solving problems which society suffers from at the very grass root levels. In Mr. M. Nagarajan, an IAS officer of 2009 batch in Gujarat cadre, we have one such officer, who with his e-governance initiatives has touched lakhs of lives Sabarkantha district in Gujarat where he served as District Development Officer (DDO) from 2013 to 2016. The initiatives described below show how in right hands, technology can change lives.

E-Governance initiatives in Sabarkantha

  1. Cyber Kitley – Village Cyber Cafe

Access to internet connectivity is increasingly being recognised as one of the fundamental rights across the world. India too has realised the importance of access to the internet for development of the society as a whole. However, while doing this care has to be taken for bridging the digital divide that exists between the rural and the urban areas due to non-availability of the internet connectivity. It was from desire to bridge this gap that the concept of Cyber Kitley was born.

Cyber cafes under this brand name were opened at two villages one of which was operated by an SHG which was trained for the purpose. The main objective was providing internet facilities to the villagers. At the same time computer training was given to willing villagers at these centres.

Youth of these villages took full benefit of these facilities as they were able to apply for various competitive exams, most of which have online application procedure, right from their villages without needing to go to the cities.

While access to internet was one of the main pull factors, people gathering at these points could get tea served as well as snacks and also benefit from collection of books and magazines kept at these centres for benefit of the youth.

  1. Khedbramha – first Wi-Fi block in India

The desire to bridge the digital divide which was manifested in a small way in advent of the concept of Cyber Kitley took a better shape in an initiative through which one of the tribal blocks of Sabarkantha – Khedbramha – was made fully Wi-Fi taluka. Under this project one public building in every panchayat was converted into a hotspot which can be accessed by a paying user through login ID and password. Local Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE), who is appointed under eGram scheme of the government of Gujarat was made a vendor for selling recharge coupons by buying which the users could access internet services through these hotspots. By doing this Khedbramha became first Wi-Fi block in the entire country in the year 2014.

While introduction of these facilities did help quench some of the demands, connectivity and bandwidth remained erratic. In order to correct this situation, and further extend services to other blocks an MoU was signed between the district administration and RailTel – a Central Public Sector Undertaking – which engages itself in laying of the fibre optic cable. By complementing this network with National Fibre Optic Network being laid through Central Government scheme a plan was prepared to cover most of the district by connecting panchayats with fibre optic. In Sonasan village, where a pilot for this arrangement was done, downloading speed of up to 250 kbps is received on mobile devices. Coupons to access these services are still to be bought from VCE cost Rs. 96 for 1 GB data – much cheaper than other 3G service providers without compromising on the quality.

  1. Akkodara – first digital village in the country

Akkodara village in Sabarkantha was adopted by ICICI bank under CSR initiative to convert village into a completely digital village. It is a proud thing for me to admit that as our country is struggling to move towards a cashless society, Akkodara shows the way. All transactions inside the village are cashless as every shop is equipped with debit/credit card payment facility and every family in the village has at least one bank account and Debit card.

  1. Mobile Inspection System for Rural Development Works

Also known as District Flying Squad (DFS), the initiative had helped reduce leakage in the development schemes of the central and the state government. Using this system progress of projects can be tracked. As each and every measurement is geo-tagged and system does de-duplication on its own, it is ensured that double benefit is not paid for the same task. For example, payment for Indira Awas Yojana is paid only after a person visits the site where the house is being built and takes a photograph through DFS app, which will then be printed and attached with the application before the next instalment is given to the beneficiary. And since these photos are geo-tagged, the system cannot be cheated by passing the same photograph for multiple houses under construction.

Same system has been used to monitor construction of toilets on a large scale under Swach Bharat Mission to make sure that payment is made only when toilet has been constructed. The system is scalable and can be extended to other schemes like MGNREGA, PMAY etc. easily. It is also replicable and can be easily implemented in other districts too. For example, this system was replicated in Ahmedabad District after viewing its success in Sabarkantha.

  1. Mata Yashoda – Empowering the Aanganwadi workers

Under this programme the district administration has provided Aanganwadi workers with tablets loaded with videos regarding precautions to be taken during pregnancy, in the period immediately after birth. How nutrition supplements are to be administered to the children to get maximum results and other videos of the kind. The main objective of the initiative was to reduce the level of malnutrition among children of age less than 6 years.

An app named Mata Yashoda was also developed to be used by Aanganwadi workers. Aim was to reduce reporting time of malnutrition cases, to enable workers to focus on their work by reducing their administrative load, to provide a dashboard to the supervisory cadre for real time monitoring of the cases. AWW has to do one time data entry. Attendance is taken by the system on basis of head count in the photograph; growth chart of child is automatically prepared as AWW makes data entry in the app; and all the 11 registers to be maintained at AW level are automatically generated thus making job of AWW relatively easy.

  1. Swasthya Samvedana Sena – to improve health services

Main objective of SSS was reduction of Infant Mortality rate and Maternal Mortality Rate. Objectives of this programme were to increase skill of health worker in imparting health related information; facilitation of use of latest technology by AWW and ASHA; to increase awareness in pregnant and lactating mothers; to monitor IEC activities at district level.

Tablets loaded with health education related videos were given to ASHAs and AWWs which were to be showed individually to the target mother. After each video there was a quiz to be answered by the mother who has seen the video. Videos and other information on tablet could easily be uploaded by visiting one of the PHCs nearby.

Use of tablets in this way had horizontal benefits too. By using social media apps like Whatsapp, AWW and ASHAs started communicating with each other sharing best practices and thus improving their understanding as well.

  1. Green Mini Data Centre

By establishing a data centre at district level, Sabarkantha district of Gujarat became first district in the country to have a data centre at the district level. It works as backbone of all the ICT and e-governance initiatives taken by the district administration in the district. It has been equipped with latest technology and 20 TB of hard drive. It consumes less electricity as compared to the conventional data centre and hence is called “Green” data centre. All the mobile application described above have their data stored in this data centre. A separate data centre allows the district administration to provide Software as a Service to other districts who are willing to use the applications developed by the administration of Sabarkantha. Other services like online coaching, remote health consultation and video conferencing can be done

Written by

Varunkumar Baranwal

IAS, 2014 batch.