Winsight Series

Winsight is a series of openSource intelligence for the human rights and development community.
It provides analytical insights for proactive interventions.
It is an occasional paper series of OpenSpace
It is for free distribution, and is copyleft.

The India Report: State of the Nation 2013

This page has the latest reports and statistics about the development indicators for India. By definition it is work in progress and will be continuously updated as data comes in. It will be consolidated and finalised at the end of the year as the 'State of the Nation Report'


The economy
India's economy continued on its low trajectory. The bravado of 10% growth is replaced with a more sober 5%. India's economy grew by 5% in the 2012-13 financial year, the slowest pace for a decade. The World Bank India Development Update) expects real GDP to expand by 4.7% (at factor cost) in fiscal year 2014 before accelerating to 6.2% in FY2015. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its World Economic Outlook, projected a growth rate of 3.75% for India in 2013-14, and 5.1% in 2014-15. You can read more here.

This is at a time when there is high inflation (over 6.4% in September). Core inflation remains low, though that of food and household necessities remains high. The inflation situation now resembles what India experienced in early 2010, when accelerating food prices combined with rapidly falling core inflation. The September price data showed that food prices have been rapidly rising since May. Food inflation is now at its highest level since July 2010. The main reason: vegetable prices, which may have shot up because heavy rains have hurt production as well as dislocated supply chains. Meanwhile, core, or non-food, non-fuel manufacturing inflation, has been falling because weak demand has hurt the pricing power of companies. You can read more here.

The public sector banks have silently written off over 1 lakh crore (Rs 1 trillion)-95% of it to large corporations--in the past 13 years according to the Reserve Bank deputy governor KC Chakrabarty even as India Ratings & Research estimates that Rs 2 trillion worth of bank loans for India's top 100 corporate houses are coming up for refinancing--about half of it potential default. Read more here.

... and India was ranked the fifth largest exporter of black money between 2002-2011 with over 343 billion sent abroad, and it was placed third when nearly USD 85 billion was exported within a year in 2011 according to a report Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries, 2002-2011 by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research and advocacy organisation.

Female labour participation

Female labour participation
A report by the International Labor Organization in February found that women’s participation in the workforce is dropping in India. According to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends 2013 report, India’s labour force participation rate for women fell from just over 37% in 2004-05 to 29% in 2009-10.

Out of 131 countries with available data, India ranks 11th from the bottom in female labour force participation.

The trend can be partly explained by the fact that increasing numbers of women of working age are enrolling in secondary schools and by rising household incomes, as women in wealthier households tend to have lower participation rates. Other potential causes include measurement issues, whereby women’s employment may be undercounted, as well as a general decline in employment opportunities for women, as they face increased competition with men for scarce jobs.

In terms of declining employment opportunities, occupational segregation appears to play an important role in holding women back: Women in India tend to be grouped in certain industries and occupations (such as basic agriculture) that have not seen employment growth in recent years, which has put a brake on female employment growth. Female employment in India grew by 9 million between 1994 and 2010, but the ILO estimates that it could have increased by almost double that figure if women had equal access to employment in the same industries and occupations as their male counterparts.

Strengthening anti-discrimination legislation in employment across all occupations will be essential for expanding employment opportunities for women. In addition, reducing the large gaps in wages and working conditions, often observed between women and men, could help provide a boost to the number of women seeking employment.

You can read more here and here.

Gender Gap

India is ranked 101 of 136 countries in the eighth annual Global Gender Gap Index. India remains the lowest-ranked of the BRICS economies, even after gaining four places.

The Global Gender Gap Report’s index assesses 136 countries, representing more than 93% of the world’s population, on how well resources and opportunities are divided among male and female populations. The Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and highly skilled employment
Educational attainment – access to basic and higher levels of education
Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures
Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

You can download the full report, covering 136 economies including rankings, video and an interactive map, or read a brief summary here.

Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men. Of these, 110 have been covered since the first edition of the Report in 2006. Of the 14 variables used to create the index, 13 are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organizations such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization.

The magnitude and particulars of gender gaps in countries around the world are the combined result of various socio-economic and cultural variables. The closure or continuation of these gaps is intrinsically connected to the framework of national policies in place. For the third consecutive year, the Report includes new data from a survey of various national ministries analysing the use of policies designed to facilitate female workforce participation in 87 countries.

The Global Gender Gap Index introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006, is a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time. The rankings are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.

The Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries. We do this in order to make the Global Gender Gap Index independent from countries’ the levels of development. In other words, the Index is constructed to rank countries on their gender gaps not on their development level. For example, rich countries have more education and health opportunities for all members of society and measures of education levels thus mainly reflect this well-known fact, although it is quite independent of the gender-related issues faced by each country at its own level of income. The Global Gender Gap Index, however, rewards countries for smaller gaps in access to these resources, regardless of the overall level of resources. Thus the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrolment rates, but not for the overall levels of education in the country.

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India has been ranked 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Last year, India was ranked 95 out of 183 countries that were studied. In this year’s CPI, India earned a very low score of 36 on a scale from 0 (most corrupt) to 100 (least corrupt). You can read more here.

In the Failed States Index 2013, India is ranked 79 of 178 countries (with a score of 77.5, max. 120), up from 78 with score 78.0 in 2012. (The lower the score the more stable the country is). The problem areas (where India has got a high score) are vengeance seeking group grievance (8.2), uneven economic development (8.1) and the security apparatus (7.8) and mounting demographic pressure (7.5).

In absolute terms, India has the highest number of kidnapping for ranson, second only to Mexico, according to a new report from Control Risks. You can read more here.

Hunger and malnutrition

Hunger and malnutrition
India moved from 65 to 63 in the Global Hunger Index. The score improved from 22.9 in 2012 to 21.3. India continued to trail behind Pakistan and Bangladesh on the index. India is one of the three countries outside Sub-saharan Africa to have 'alarming levels' of hunger. The other two are Haiti and Timor-Leste. India continued to record one of the highest prevalence of children under five who are underweight, at more than 40%– one of the three criteria that the index is built on. The report said South Asia continued to have the maximum number of hungry people in the world, followed by sub-Saharan Africa. The report cites social inequality and low nutritional, educational, and social status of women as the major causes of child under-nutrition in South Asia. You can read more here.

India ranks 102 out of 132 nations on social development index

India ranks 102nd among the 132 countries on the Social Progress Index, a measure of human wellbeing that goes beyond traditional economic measures such as GDP or per capita income.

Of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — only India ranked lower than the 100th position on the list of the Social Progress Index 2014 compiled by US-based non-profit group Social Progress Imperative.

India ranks 102nd on social progress with challenges across all three dimensions with particularly low scores on shelter (39.77) in the basic human needs dimension, access to information (39.87) in the foundations of wellbeing dimension, and tolerance and inclusion (21.54) in the opportunity dimension.

The basic human needs dimension comprises parametres of nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety.

The foundations of wellbeing includes parametres of access to basic knowledge, information and communications, health and wellness and ecosystem sustainability, while opportunity dimension includes personal rights, freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion and access to education.

The report said that while the BRICS are generally seen as areas of great economic growth potential, social progress performance is mixed at best.

"The Social Progress Index provides evidence that extreme poverty and poor social performance often go hand-in-hand," it said.

You can read more here.

Labour and employment (April 2014)

Since 2004-05, for the first time in the history of India, more workers have left agriculture for productive work in industry and services. Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, non-agricultural employment grew rapidly.

Between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, National Sample Survey (NSS) data reveal that nearly 12 million joined the labour force. However, the number of non-agricultural jobs created per annum was much lower — 7.5 million. Non-agricultural employment increased between 1999-2000 and 2004-05 (which coincides with the time the National Democratic Alliance was in power) by 37.5 million over the five-year period, i.e., 7.5 million new jobs in industry (manufacturing and construction) and services per annum.

Growth of non-agricultural jobs
The number of non-agricultural jobs between 2004-05 and 2011-12 increased by 52 million over seven years, i.e., by 7.5 million per annum again. However, since 2004-05 fewer people joined the labour force. 37 million persons left agriculture during the periods 2004-05 and 2011-12, they found work in non-agricultural activities, both rural and urban. In comparison, 20 million new workers joined agriculture between 1999-2004.

Since 2004-05, this transformation has been happening for the first time in the history of India. Of the 60 million additions to the workforce between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, a third (20 million) joining agriculture indicated growing rural distress, on account of the slow growth in agriculture between 1996 and 2005.

Agriculture has grown much faster since 2005. During the 11th Plan, agricultural output grew at 3.2 per cent per annum (2007-12) on average, despite crippling drought in 2009-10. The share of agriculture in the workforce has been in decline for decades (falling to 49 per cent in 2001-12).

Unskilled workers who left agriculture flocked to construction employment. Such employment increased by only eight million (17 to 25.6 million) during 1999-2000 to 2004-05. But it grew sharply to 50 million by 2011-12. This was an increase from under two million a year to seven million a year. While a part of this increase in construction employment was in housing real estate, it was infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, ports, energy projects) investment which drove most of the employment growth.

Increasing employment was accompanied by rising wages. Wages were stagnant between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, especially rural wages. MGNREGA created a floor wage in the rural areas. This led to a knock-on effect on urban unskilled wages as well.

Growth in service jobs
Most importantly, services jobs grew by 11 million, and manufacturing employment increased by a remarkable nine million in two years alone (2009-10 and 2011-12), although manufacturing employment fell in absolute terms by three million between 2004-05 and 2009-10.

You can read more here.

Labour and employment

Labour and employment
The total employment in India is 465 million. Of this, about 28 million are in the organized sector and 437 million in the unorganized sector. In the unorganized sector, 246 million are in agriculture, 44 million in construction, and remaining in manufacturing and services. Many are home based in occupations such as beedi rolling, agarbatti making, papad making, tailoring, and embroidery work (Minister of State for Labour & Employment Shri Kodikunnil Suresh in the Rajya Sabha, based on National Sample Survey Organization in the year 2009-2010). PIB, 13 March 2013.

At the all India level, 48.2% are estimated to be self employed (usual principal status approach, UPS), 17.4% wage/salary earners and 34.4% are contract worker & casual labourers. The major source of income in rural India is self employment as the under agricultural and non-agricultural activities (51.2% of the households) followed by regular/wage salary (12.9% households). In urban areas it is regular wage/salary earnings (42.1%) followed by self employment (35.6%).

Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 50.9% (UPS approach). LFPR is 52.8% rural and 46.1% urban. All India female LFPR is estimated to be 22.6% and male is 76.6% (principal status approach). Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 48.5% (UPS approach). Rural WPR is 50.5% and urban 43.5%. Female WPR is 20.9% and male WPR is 73.5%.

The unemployment rate is estimated to be 4.7 per cent at All India level (UPS approach). Rural unemployment rate is 4.4% and urban is 5.7%. Female unemployment rate is 7.2% and male unemployment rate is 4.0%. Urban female unemployment rate is 12.8%.

For age group 15-29 years LFPR is 39.5% and Unemployment Rate is 13.3% (UPS approach).

The All India unemployment rate is estimated to be 4.7%. The unemployment rate per 1000 persons aged more than 15 years is highest in Sikkim (136), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (130), Tripura (126), Goa (107) and Kerala (104). The lowest unemployment rate was in Chhattisgarh (14), Karnataka (20), Madhya Pradesh (22), Andhra Pradesh (25) and Gujarat (27).

In unemployment rate per 1000 persons in young people (aged 15 to 29), the highest was Sikkim (372), Arunachal Pradesh (327), Kerala (315), Tripura (306) and Jammu and Kashmir (241). The lowest are Chhattisgarh (33), followed by Karnataka (52), Gujarat (59), Madhya Pradesh (60) and Mizoram (78).

The Report of the Third Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey is available on the Labour Bureau website.

3rd Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey Report 2012-13
Press note (summary).

Non-farm jobs could fall drop by as much as 25% during the FY13-19 period, and non-farm employment could plunge to 38 million in FY13-19 from 52 million in FY05-12 according to CRISIL Research. In 2018-19, India’s working age population would be over 85 million with 51 million of them seeking employment.

CRISIL estimates that the problem is compounded by the increasingly ‘jobless’ nature of growth in recent years due to two factors: first, GDP growth is now mostly driven by the less labour-intensive services sectors such as IT/ITES, and business and financial services and second, the labour dependency of the manufacturing sector - which once used to be the most labour-intensive sector barring agriculture - has diminished considerably as complicated restrictive labour laws and technological progress have encouraged automation. At present agriculture has only a 14% share in GDP, but around 49%.

Crisil estimates India’s economy will grow at an average 6% between fiscal years 2013 and 2019, with 50 million new jobs being created. The Indian economy grew at an average 8.5% between fiscal years 2005 and 2012. But growth fell to 5% in 2012-13, the slowest in a decade, and is expected to be at similar levels this fiscal year as well.

According to NSSO data, 14 million jobs were added between 2009-10 and 2011-12 as against only a million in the five years to 2009-10, labelled by many as a period of jobless growth. In the five-year period ended 2004-05, 60 million jobs were added.

You can read more here and here.

Mobile phones and internet

Mobile phones and internet
The new norms for spectrum allocation has brought about more realistic reporting on the number of mobile phones--that still continue to outpace the number of toilets in the country. There are 554.8 million actual mobile users in the country and 143.2 million internet users, according to a study India Mobile Landscape (IML) 2013 by research firm Juxt. More than 298 million, about 54%, of these device owners are in rural areas. There are total 773.9 million functional SIMs but only 643.4 million SIMs are being used by 554.8 million mobile devices. You can read more here.

Out of the total 874.87 million wireless subscribers of India, 731.40 million were active on the date of Peak VLR for the month of July 2013. As per the latest telecom subscription data (as on 31st July 2013) released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the proportion of VLR subscribers is approximately 83.60% of the total wireless subscriber base reported by the service providers.

Service Provider wise, Idea leads the tally with 97.58% followed by Vodafone(95.17%) and Bharti (95.16%). Circle-wise, West Bengal has the highest proportion of VLR subscribers with 88.74% followed by Maharashtra (88.22%) and Madhya Pradesh (87.64%).TN (incl. Chennai) has the lowest proportion with 73.33%.

The government plans to provide mobile phones to about 25 million below poverty line (BPL) families through the Bharat Mobile scheme, to households where at least one member has completed 100 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in 2012. Women will be given preference and the scheme is proposed to be completed in three years. You can read more here.

There are 21 million active mobile internet users in Rural India in June 2013 – a huge 5.3 times growth in 2013 over 2012 and nearly 47 times over 2010. It is estimated that there will be 27 million active mobile internet users by December 2013.
The i-Cube report titled, ‘Internet in Rural India’ by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB, which estimates that by December 2013, there will be 72 million claimed Internet users and 49 million active Internet users in rural India. By June 2014, claimed internet users in rural India will rise to 85 million and active internet users to 56 million. The report also finds that nearly 42% of the internet users prefer to access Internet only in Local languages. The majority of the rural internet population is not comfortable in accessing Internet in English and this is holding them back from using internet fully for other purposes than online entertainment. You can read more on the i-Cube report ‘Internet in Rural India’ here.

India moved down from 39 in 2012 to 47 in 2013 in the annual survey of internet freedom in various countries of the world, Freedom House. India ranks below countries such as Kenya, Ukraine, Armenia, Tunisia, Malawi and even Libya. You can read more of Freedom on the Net 2013: Despite Pushback, Internet Freedom Deteriorates here.


For the first time in the history of India, there was a decline in the absolute numbers of the poor after 2004-05; until then for nearly 30 years (1973-74 to 2004-5), there was a fall in the percentage, but not in the absolute numbers of the poor (322 million poor in 1973-74 and 302 million poor in 2004-05, by the Lakdawala poverty line).

The decline in poverty was driven by a rise in real wages. This rise in real wages and an increase in consumption expenditure have driven demand for goods to the bottom of the pyramid, as poor people have emerged out of poverty.

After 2004-05, demand for a number of consumer goods has grown sharply, which is reflected in the rise in consumption expenditure to 2011-12. This rise of consumption expenditure shows that the numbers of poor fell from 407 million (Tendulkar line) in 2004-05 to 356 million in 2009-10, and further to 269 million (2011-12).

The new non-poor demand simple manufactured consumer goods: processed food (biscuits, milk), leather goods (shoes, sandals), furniture (plastic chairs/tables, wooden furniture), textiles, garments and mobiles. All these product areas and services saw a dramatic increase in employment between 2009-10 and 2011-12, primarily because these simple, low-end products (at least those consumed by the new non-poor) are produced in the unorganised sector, using labour-intensive methods.

You can read more here.

29.5% of Indians are 'poor': Poverty estimates 2014

An expert panel headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan said in a report that 29.5% of the India population lives below the poverty line, as against 21.9% according to Tendulkar. For 2009-10, Rangarajan has estimated that the share of BPL group in total population was 38.2%, translating into a decline in poverty ratio by 8.7 percentage points over a two-year period. This means that the BPL population, is estimated at 363 million in 2011-12, compared to the 270 million estimate based on the Tendulkar formula — an increase of almost 35%.

The real change is in urban areas where the BPL number is projected to have nearly doubled to 102.5 million based on Rangarajan's estimates, compared to 53 million based on the previous committee's recommendations. So, based on the new measure, in 2011-12, 26.4% of the people living in urban areas were BPL, compared to 35.1% in 2009-10.

If calculated on a daily basis, this translates into a per capita expenditure of Rs 32 per day in rural areas and Rs 47 per day in urban areas in 2011-12.

As per the Tendulkar methodology for 2011-12, the poverty line was Rs 816 in rural areas and Rs 1,000 in urban areas, which if calculated on a daily basis come out at Rs 27 per day in rural areas and Rs 33 in urban areas.

You can read more here.


In India slavery is often disguised. In popular discourse it is termed 'bonded labour'. The Global Slavery Index 2013 says India has the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery at 14 million (estimated number of slaves 13,956,010). The index is compiled by Australian-based rights organisation Walk Free Foundation using a definition of modern slavery that includes debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.

India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people enslaved. By proportional ranking India comes fourth, after Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan. The report said India's ranking was mostly due to the exploitation of Indians citizens within the country itself. The report estimates nearly 30 million people around the world are living as slaves, ranking 162 countries. The International Labour Organisation estimates that almost 21 million people in the world are victims of forced labour. (The difference in estimates are due to difference in definition). You can read more on the report here and see the entire report with interactive map here.

Wealth (Richest Indians)

The richest Indians

The total wealth of India's top 100 rich people rose to $250 billion in 2013 as compared to $221 billion in 2012 according to the second edition of Hurun India Rich List.

With personal wealth of $18.9 billion, Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani tops the country's rich list followed by London-based Arcelor Mittal's chief L.N. Mittal with assets of $15.9 billion. Others in the top 10 are: Wipro's Azim Premji (4th) with assets of $ 12 billion, HCL Technology's Shiv Nadar (5th, $ 8.6 billion), Grasim Industries' Kumar Mangalam Birla (6th, $ 8.4 billion), Godrej Group's Adi Godrej (7th, $ 8.1 billion), Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co ($ 8 billion) ranked 8th, Shashi & Ravi Ruia (Essar Energy, $ 7.6 billion) ranked 9th and Sunil Mittal ( Bharti AirtelBSE 0.56 %, $ 7.3 billion). Anil Ambani of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group occupies the 11th position with a personal fortune of $ 7.1 billion.

According to the report, 141 individuals in India have personal wealth of $300 million or more. Last year it was only 101 individuals. 101 individuals either retained or increased their wealth and only 40 of them witnessed a decrease in their assets.

Men dominate the list with just four percent of it being occupied by women. Steel baroness Savitri Jindal (62), the non-executive chairperson of OP Jindal Group, is the richest Indian woman with a personal fortune of $5.1 billion followed by Indu Jain, 77, chairperson of India's largest media group, Bennett, Coleman & Company, with $1.9 billion personal assets.

Despite a sluggish economic growth of around 5 percent, average net worth of millionaires in Hurun India Rich list 2012 increased by $100 million in 2013. Manufacturing continued to be the main source of wealth in India with 17 percent of the rich list, followed by pharmaceuticals and real estate, which have both seen their percentages drop slightly to 11 percent and 9 percent, down from 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

While Mumbai continues to be the capital for India’s super rich, its dominance has dwindled to 33 percent from 36 percent last year. Ditto with Delhi and Bangalore, whose percentage of the richest individuals reduced to 16 percent and 11 percent, respectively, down from 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

You can read more here and here. The list of India's billionaires is here.

winsight 01 Civil society in India: Characteristics, Challenges

Civil society in India: Characteristics, Challenges, Capacity
Anita and Edwin, OpenSpace

1 Characteristics of civil society in India in the current social, economic and political situation
Civil society is sometimes defined as a utopian ideal, everything that does not fit the ideal (such as gender and caste discrimination) becomes a ‘flawed part’ of civil society, as though civil society itself is perfect, though made of imperfect human beings. The traditional definition of civil society—the part of the middle class that is not in government—is a good starting point. However, that is not sufficient in a deeply stratified society. ‘Civil society’ needs to be carefully and more restrictively defined.

The middle class has a small section of active citizens, and a passive majority. It is divided on class, caste, gender, ethnic and many other identities. It is deeply hierarchical and privilege based. It shares an almost universal abhorrence for honest physical labour. All things American, and approval by America, has a large mindshare, and is neo-liberal/ neo-con in its outlook. In the past two decades, a significant section has been fed on a diet of victim-hood, and there is a significant shift to the right, re-imaging of India as a ‘Hindu’ nation, Muslims as terrorists and conversions as an issue of national security—all this with the willing complicity of the state. This affluent and dominant mind set dominates the media, public spaces and set the national agenda, but are out of touch with the 70% of Indians who live on less than Rs20 a day.

Civil society organisations range from Rotary and Lions Clubs and organisations of the reactionary right that have large networks across the country, to small fragmented grassroots groups of idealistic youngsters selflessly working for the betterment of their community. It would include the upcoming coalitions of the Residents Welfare Associations to the older established ‘Gandhians’.

There is a minuscule section of civil society that is actually connected with the masses. But they are often marginalised using religious and cultural archetypes. They are sometimes dismissed as ‘do-gooders’. However, in recent years, there have been better strategies employed by these activists for systemic change. There is better understanding of the system, more professionalism in getting to change the system itself to ensure transparency and a degree of accountability. Right to information, employment guarantee, and protection of women are examples of success. There is increasing use of instruments of state to get work done. There is sporadic use of the mass media, but media attention is fragmented when it comes to the non-middle class.

Though a vast majority of organisations would be working on a ‘reform’ agenda, those working for structural change and accountability remain few. Yet these are the civil society actors who actually work to protect and secure the rights of the poor: the poor who are overwhelmingly Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims; the women and children among them being the most affected.

In this note, therefore, we will use the more restricted definition of civil society: that part of society that works for social justice.

2 Challenges facing the civil society in its effort to protect and secure rights of poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups
The space for dissent is consistently becoming smaller and more restricted. It is becoming easier for the state and the other dominant powers to label all dissent as terrorism or anti-national. State violence has a new found legitimacy as it label anyone as a ‘anti-national and terrorists’ if required . The corporate sector both national and multinational, have the same immunity to break laws and most often negotiate their own terms of association individually, only to maximise profit.

2.1 The state of siege: preventing solidarity
Civil society solidarity with the poor has been deeply hampered by the legitimacy of coercive state action that the atmosphere or fear and siege created by the so called ‘war on terror’. (Another instance of copying USA). Those portraying themselves as hard on terror are forgiven their ‘lesser crimes’ such as mayhem on the vulnerable and ethnic cleansing due to their ‘nationalist’ credentials. Cloaking themselves in the nationalist colours, the reactionary forces are able to set the agenda. Everyone is the ‘other’—religion, caste, language, region, sexuality…

This atmosphere of siege results even in death penalty to assuage the ‘conscience of the nation’ (and not evidence), arrest of respected human rights activists such as Binayak Sen for over a year, armed militia such as Salwa Judum promoted by the government…. Targeting of human rights defenders goes on with impunity even up to the SC. The human rights activists even have coined a term for it: Strategic Litigation Against Public Purpose, with the rather appropriate acronym SLAPP.

The judicial space—the PIL—is fast disappearing, and applied at the whims of the judges. There is suo moto case when a judge is caught in a traffic jam, but not when the mothers of Manipur protest.

The courts are overtly influenced by the political compulsions. The SC went to the extent on diluting its direction on rehabilitation before eviction on the explicit appeal by the PM. This has dangerous consequences. The non-responsive state has led to some taking up the gun. Others have despaired. Prominent intellectuals losing hope have unilaterally declared individual secession.

2.2 Fragmentation preventing concerted, coordinated action
Though civil society proclaims that ‘there is more that unites us, than that divides us’ the reality is that civil society is hopelessly fragmented. There is seldom solidarity across boundaries. Fragmentation and overspecialisation (those working for Dalit rights seldom work with those working for Dalit women’s rights let alone Adivasi rights…) sharing of expertise and experience across the different ‘specialist’ campaigns is practically non-existent. Those working on WTO, TRIPS, TRIMS etc routinely use copyright and proprietary software despite there being a robust copyleft, freeware and opensource movement in the country, and are not connected to the grassroots movements. Those at the grassroots seldom even know that such campaigns are being fought on their behalf.

It would be comic were it not for the consequential isolation of the community organisations promoted by these CSOs. The lessons, experience and expertise that would immensely benefit each other is seldom socialised.
This is almost a mirror of dominant society dividing the oppressed and making them fight against each other. (Salwa Judum in Jharkhand, Pana-Khand in Khandamal, Orissa, Dalit-Adivasi in Dangs, Gujarat)

2.3 The government by other means
NGOs have now become the preferred institutional model of civil society. But here too we have government promoted NGOs—the Gongos (most notoriously in Chandrababu Naidu’s government, where the government set up an NGO in each district headed by the district collector!)—and retired officials starting NGOs bringing in the same government ethos. Religious institutions too set up ‘secular NGOs’, and gain access to the planning commission consultative bodies in that capacity. Some ‘NGOs’ also oppose the rehabilitation efforts of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Many educational institutions are registered as trusts and societies to tap into funds that are raised for the poor and marginalized as part of their ‘out-reach’ programmes. More for reaching out for funds than the people concerned. Similar is the story of foundations established by corporate houses. Where a sound marketing strategy is often well embedded as part and parcel of community outreach.

The CS space is now dominated by many well equipped to bring out professional reports and media support, many of whom are far from social change agendas. In such a situation grassroots NGOs are most often short of funds. They are forced to accept government largesse. Once they accept this, they are relegated to being social ‘contractors’—a cheaper means of getting work done. When lacking in staying capacity, they also have to pay bribes to get their bills passed, just like any other contractor.

2.4 Lack of role clarity
The role of CSOs is to empower communities (perhaps with the creation of community organisations), ensure their participation in governance and then move to support roles: make the poor and their issues visible and provide legitimacy in the dominant discourse.

But this is a tough call. CSOs are called to fill up gaps in government at short notice—for everything from mid-day meals to disaster relief. As the 2004 tsunami showed, it is difficult to stick to a rights based or watchdog role at all times. The clarity of a human rights and solidarity based approach is not deep enough to provide clear direction as to when charity or corruption free implementation roles should be assumed. This again leads to them backsliding to social contractor roles.

3 Ways the civil society requires support in protecting and securing rights of the people
3.1 Democratisation
CSOs need support in moving from their leadership positions to support of CBOs. At present most of the leadership is with outsiders, therefore there is a vast concentration of power and charity approach. Such a role transformation would help in strengthening democracy at the grassroots.

3.2 Institutional mechanism for interacting with the state
There is no institutional mechanism for civil society to engage with the state. There is no formally accepted institutional representation and mandatory consultation and incorporation of interests within state polity. Such an institutional mechanism needs to be created. Though a small step, the sharing of some reports and draft policies with the ‘public’ on government websites is welcome. Many ‘consultative processes’ are more a façade for credibility, or required procedure, rather than an honest attempt for an open more democratic process.

3.3 Capturing mindspace
The culture of democracy, which includes the right to dissent, and accountability from the state has not really sunk in. Civil society cannot function in such a democratic vacuum. Support needs to be given for the creation of such a democratic mindset. The right to dissent and creating a culture of human rights from the individual, to family, community and the state is a tall order. The first step would be to create a confidence that voices will be heard and listened to and not ‘ silenced’ or victimized.

It could involve engaging the mass media on a large scale to create the right enabling environment so that solidarity with the poor is not seen as promoting extremism or terrorist sympathy.

3.4 Management capacity and vision
Micro-interventions are good, but unless they are scaled up it does not provide systemic change. However, at the grassroots the vision of a ‘critical mass’ needed for sustainable social change is absent. Without this critical mass, the same battles are fought over and over again, sometimes for many lifetimes.

The modern advances in skills and tools are yet to trickle down to the grassroots. Even when there is knowledge available, it is priced beyond the means of those who actually need it. This ‘knowledge delivery’ could be done post haste.

3.5 Alliance building
Civil society is stressed with too few people and resources taking on too many stressful tasks. This results is fragmentation mentioned earlier. Civil society needs help in making both horizontal and vertical links. Some don’t have the skills. Most don’t have the time. Yet they need to make space for others within the social justice movement (Dalit women within Dalits/Dalit—Adivasi; etc) and be sensitive to exclusion within the excluded (not for nothing are Dalit women called the Dalits among the Dalits).

A nationally respected platform (or a handful of them) that would provide the critical mass is an urgent need. These bodies should also have the legitimacy to internally critique the CSOs and grassroots organisations to enable democratisation.

3.6 Finances
Have purpose, the means will follow is a good slogan. Unfortunately, many idealistic groups become social contractors due to the lack of finances. Civil society initiatives can be, and are, scuttled by the sheer inertia of the state that simply waits them out.

Those who opt for a life of sacrifice often miss out on social security—the simple things of good education for their children, health coverage for their parents and loved ones, legal support, and a retirement nest egg. Provision of some form of social security in line with community standards would help at the grassroots.

4 Advantages of indigenising international NGOs in supporting civil society groups in protecting and securing rights of the people
Indigenising iNGOs has the following dimensions:
• Personnel.
• Finances.
• Ideology.
• Agenda.
• Programme management.
Each of these has distinct implications—both advantages and disadvantages—the most significant being rootedness and legitimacy. When there is a deliberate sense of victimisation and ‘otherness’ being cultivated amongst the majority (about 80% even according to conservative estimates), the importance of rootedness and legitimacy cannot be overstated. The bogey of being ‘foreign’—foreigner, foreign funded or foreign agenda—is a sure recipe for failure.
Tangentially, Indigenising iNGOs also appeals to the growing national pride which is an outcome of demographics as much as economics (India as superpower). Nuclear powered India is no longer willing to play second fiddle. It wants to set the agenda. Moreover, India does have a mature civil society. Just as NGOs should not articulate issues or set the agenda where the community can, similarly expatriate do not have the legitimacy to do so on behalf of Indian Civil Society.

4.1 Personnel
Most iNGOs do have most of their personnel from within India. However, those that don’t have non-Indians in their top most positions with a vast gulf in salaries. Having Indian personnel would (or should) erase this disparity (we are aware that it is not so in some cases). Local personnel would also be able to hold the partner NGOs to higher standards (see programme management below).

The flip side is also important. Indigenising often means that the local elite take up positions of leadership. It is a rare iNGO that has a significant section of Dalits and Adivasi in its staff, and rarer still for them to be at the leadership level. Indians can’t always mean Brahmin men, and ‘gender’, employment of Brahmin women, many who refuse to even recognise caste based discrimination. So though there is ‘gender balance’ and local staff employed this conservative section practically closes the door to caste, ethnic and other forms of equity. Indigenising personnel should be preceded by a diversity policy which is strictly monitored.

4.2 Finances
Raising money within India (even with the international brand name) would result in sensitising the growing Indian middle class, giving them an opportunity to give (other than to religious causes, which claims the largest chunk of giving), and engages them in social change. It helps the iNGO to set the pace of change at the level society is ready for. It is an accurate reflection of the acceptability of its agenda and its success in convincing its core support base.
It would deter some conspicuous consumption and ostentatious lifestyles that are presently followed.

4.3 Ideology
At present most iNGOs and their staff are more conversant with their policy documents and international covenants than the constitution of India or implementation mechanisms. The long history of human rights and social movements in India does not form part of the policy discourse. Indigenising the ideology and policy discourse would help the grassroots identify with the agenda of the iNGO. At present most of this indigenising is done with the limited resources of the grassroots NGO.

4.4 Agenda
Due to the asymmetric power relations arising out of the donor-recipient relationship, the agenda of social change is often set by the iNGO. Indigenising the agenda, with genuine respect for the local conditions and risk taking capacity would lead to more realistic and achievable goals based on the priorities of the community (for instance, why is it that 60 years down the line all those eligible could not get ration cards?).

This is not to dilute the agenda, but for a more robust engagement in both directions. The iNGO agenda during tsunami helped in addressing caste discrimination though it was not an NGO agenda.

With indigenisation, the experience can also be socialised globally. Some iNGOs have successfully socialised the experience with caste based discrimination to their global policy on social exclusion in all its forms (not just caste). This would be another level in horizontal linkages where locals socialise local learning across the globe.

4.5 Programme management
Indigenising iNGOs help in better programme management. For instance, women are more likely to hold women headed NGOs and NGOs working on women’s rights to higher performance standards than men. Similarly for Dalit empowerment etc. Indigenisation helps the programme move from the charity space to performance based, to a rights/entitlement based mode at least attitudinally.

The flip side is that the blurring of roles of the NGO/iNGO could lead to replacing of the local NGO from agenda setting and leadership to merely implementation. The leadership passes to the iNGO. This has to be guarded against. Without role clarity, indigenisation would prove to be a disaster for the development of civil society at the grassroots.

winsight provides analytical insights for proactive interventions.
It is an occasional paper series of OpenSpace
It is for free distribution, and is copyleft.

winsight 02 No name, no broadband, No Dalit

No name, no broadband, No Dalit
Anita and Edwin, OpenSpace

The government of India has announced its target of providing broadband connections to all Gram Panchayats, Government Higher Secondary Schools and Public Health Centres by 2012.[1] On the face of it, that should be welcomed since a majority of Indians—and Dalits—live in villages, and a majority of the vulnerable go to Government Higher Secondary Schools and Public Health Centres. However, reality is a little more complex and calls for a nuanced response. Unless the social justice movements (Dalit, Adivasi etc) organise themselves, they will find themselves even more marginalised due to two reasons: stratification in prosperity, and no-name villages.

Stratification in prosperity
Stratification in prosperity is a well known phenomenon in academic circles. When all people are poor, then there is not so much of a difference in opportunity or wealth. However, as the community moves up in standard and quality of life, the powerful invariably corner most of the benefits. It is seen empirically in the recent studies that show that during the past decades (though there is some debate whether the poor got poorer and the rich got richer) opinion is unanimous that the gap between the rich and the poor actually got wider. Since the Dalits are the more vulnerable section, the digital opportunity will certainly open up the digital divide between the rural Dalit and the dominant castes. This loss of opportunity will lead to further handicap in the job market. Marginalisation in the job market will delay the formation of a critical mass of the Dalit middle class.

No-name villages
This would be aggravated by the phenomenon of ‘no-name’ villages that the Dalits live in. this phenomenon results in all the infrastructure being located where it is inaccessible for the Dalits. So what is this ‘no-name villages’? India, it is said, is a land of 600,000 villages—638,365 according to the census of India 2001. The curious fact is that these do not count the Dalit villages. Instead the Dalit villages are recorded as ‘colonies’ or Dalit-para of the ‘main village’. It is a continuation of the social construct that the Dalit cannot ‘own anything’—so lowly as to be even without caste—even the village where a Dalit lives cannot ‘own’ a name or an identity.

The consequences of this ‘no-name’ status are well known to those in the women’s movement, where many of the issues facing women were ‘problems with no names’. No-name villages are identified, and treated, as a ghetto of the ‘main village’—the village where the dominant live, and for whom those from the Dalit colony have to compulsorily provide free or subsidised ‘services’. Therefore a Dalit village near a dominant caste village called Belur would be called Belur Dalit colony. Just as any colonised people, the Dalits of this ‘colony’ are virtually slaves of the dominant of the dominant caste village. They are forbidden entry into these villages (since they would pollute it) except for performing ‘unclean tasks’ that would ‘pollute’ the dominant.

Yet all the infrastructure is cornered only by the dominant village. Since the Dalit village does not have a separate existence, government records show that the village has all infrastructure (schools, primary health centres, telephones, community centres, primary health centres, child care centre, water supply, electricity….). In reality, all these are only in the dominant caste village—which the Dalits are forbidden to enter or to use. The Dalit village does not get any of these. So the Dalits are denied all these facilities, while the government statistics show that the ‘village’ has all the infrastructure. In older infrastructure (water, burial grounds, land) there is discrimination. In the newer technology and infrastructure there is exclusion and denial of service (roads, electricity, community halls). So whether it is 100% electrification or 100% broadband connection, the Dalit village will be excluded.

What is to be done?
• Campaign for equal access
A campaign for locating these modern instruments of liberation in Dalit villages—or at the very least in commonly accessible places is an essential first step. This is a non-neotiable and others can only build on this.

• Name the village
Another is to ensure the visibility of these ‘gaps’. For this a simple linguistic change is sufficient. Dalits should make the naming of their village, and getting a unique PIN Code for it a priority political demand (just as recognising Dalit as a religion should be in the upcoming 2011 census). The temptation to name all the villages as ‘Ambedkar’ villages will be strong, but must be resisted. (If there are too many Ambedkar villages, then they will again be Belur Ambedkar Village etc, defeating the purpose of capturing mindspace and attitudinal change.)

Once that is done, India will have not 600,000 villages, but 1.2 million. Just like name change from ‘harijan’ to Dalit, and ‘upper caste’ to dominant/oppressor caste makes a difference, this renaming will make a significant difference. It will set free the mind. But it will do more than that.

• Monitor infrastructure access, benefit and control
The distinct identity will need to be followed up by a strong administrative mechanism of securing and monitoring the use of resource allocations. The monitoring will ensure that infrastructure is provided where it can be accessed and controlled by Dalits, so that they can benefit from it. When infrastructure is provided it will have to be provided in the Dalit village and in the dominant caste village.

Without vigilance, this could be another avenue for imposing the dominant culture, just as the mid-day meals scheme is being used to impose a vegetarian diet (even excluding eggs) on the hapless children. All these are in addition to developing web-specific content from the Dalit perspective, which otherwise will be monopolised by the dominant to define the normative standards, framework of discourse, and occupy mindspace. Invisibility in cyberspace can be as insidious and devastating as invisibility in the physical space.

If not, Dalits look set to be bypassed by this digital revolution too.

[1] The government has set a target to provide broadband connectivity in all Gram Panchayats, Government Higher Secondary Schools and Public Health Centres by the end of year 2012. Minister of Communications and IT, A. Raja,, 4-Nov-2008; (accessed 7 November 2008)

winsight provides analytical insights for proactive interventions.
It is an occasional paper series of OpenSpace
It is for free distribution, and is copyleft.

winsight 03 MDGs India: status update December 2008

MDGs India: status update December 2008
A backgrounder compiled by anita and edwin, openSpace, bangalore

In September 2000, the member States in the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration in the meeting of the General Assembly. The Millennium Development Goals commit the international community to an expanded vision of development, one that vigorously promotes human development as the key to sustaining social and economic progress in all countries, and recognizes the importance of creating a global partnership for development. The goals have been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress. Following consultations among international agencies, including the World Bank, and the specialized agencies of the United Nations, the General Assembly recognized the Millennium Development Goals as part of the road-map for implementing the Millennium Declaration.

Following are the eight millennium development goals, which are to be achieved by 2015:
• Goal 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
• Goal 2 – Achieve universal primary education
• Goal 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women
• Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality
• Goal 5 – Improve maternal health
• Goal 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
• Goal 7 – Ensure environment sustainability
• Goal 8 – Develop a global partnership for development

These are goals pledged by 189 Heads of States to adopt measures in the fight against poverty, hunger, illiteracy, gender inequality, disease and environmental degradation. The eight goals are divided into 18 targets comprising 48 indicators.

India’s MDG targets

For more see attached file

winsight 04 Gandhigram and Ambedkargram: Discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion in India

Gandhigram and Ambedkargram: Discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion in India

Gandhigram and Ambedkargram: Discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion in India

A measure of privilege and exclusion

1.       Context: Definition and policy response

The words discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion are often used loosely and interchangeably in development discourse. However, there are different in their cause and effect. To craft an appropriate policy response and design appropriate programmes to address each of them, they must be accurately defined and tracked with precision. Rigorous definition is the starting point that would enable a scientific response, those affected by these different phenomenon can be correctly identified, appropriate policy framed, relevant programmes designed, focussed execution architecture built and category specific monitoring enforced.

There will always be differences in accomplishments and access. This could be active or passive. The point of departure is to measure when this ‘difference’ becomes discrimination, marginalisation or exclusion. The Human Development Indicators (HDI) provide a roadmap. When unacceptable variance occurs across different indicators of human wellbeing for the same individual or community, then we can surmise that there is some disadvantage or vulnerability for the individual or group.

‘Personal choice’ could account for a variance of up to 5% negative or positive, or be a passive phenomenon. The policy response can be advocacy, and knowledge of gaps itself is sufficient to get it addressed. However, a negative variance of over 5% indicates an active process, with varying intensity. Where negative variance is over 5%, mere knowledge of the achievement gap would not make the state act since the state, or powerful persons within it, have an active role in perpetrating this disadvantage. At the very least, the state is dependent on a compromised delivery mechanism to reach out to these disadvantaged groups. A negative variance of 5-10% indicates discrimination. Discrimination could be the result of individual bias, but within a framework of ‘acceptable behaviour’ and therefore with guarantee of impunity.

A negative variance of 10-15% indicates marginalisation. Marginalisation is an active process, and is systemic. A negative variance of over 15% indicates exclusion. It reveals a high degree of vulnerability, and is a consequence of structural deficiency. It is active and normative—i.e this discrimination is considered the ‘natural order’ of things.

The same could be deduced from positive variance. Up to 5% would be ‘natural’, but over that would be favoured (>5%), privileged (>10%) or elite (>15%).


Privilege Exclusion Scale


% variance

Active, passive



> 15%




> 10%




> 5%




+5% to  -5%




> - 5%




> - 10%




> - 15%



2.       The international measure

To track social privilege or exclusion HDI can be used as a starting point. The HDI combines three basic dimensions:

Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity

Knowledge and education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (with one-third weighting).

Standard of living, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) in United States dollars.

Therefore if the community has a negative variance of > 5% we can conclude that they are discriminated against. If the negative variance is >10% then it is marginalisation. If above 15% then it is exclusion. The appropriate remedy—policy, institutional or structural—can be designed and applied accordingly.

This measure can be used to measure intra-community vulnerability when tracking variance for senior citizens, people with special needs, women and children, provided there is disaggregated data.

The indicators tracked for the national average and for the particular section are:

1.       Life expectancy at birth.

2.       Infant mortality rate (IMR)

3.       Under five mortality rate (U5MR)

4.       Adult literacy rate.

5.       Primary school enrolment ratio.

6.       Secondary school enrolment ratio.

7.       Tertiary school enrolment ratio.

8.       Per capita GDP at PPP.

9.       Percentage employed in primary (agriculture) sector.

10.   Percentage employed in secondary (manufacturing) sector.

11.   Percentage employed in tertiary (services) sector.

12.   Percentage employed in ‘unclean’ occupations.

3.       Gandhigram and Ambedkargram: What does it mean

The pattern of discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion is visible in rural India for Dalits as a collective also. There is certainly a urban/rural divide, and a regional bias in development. However, even where basic services exist, they are invariably in the ‘Gandhigram’ part of the village and seldom in the ‘Ambedkargram.’ It would do well to remember that the Dalits (who have to stay in Ambedkargram) are allowed extremely restricted access, if at all, to the main village (Gandhigram). In very many places they are not only segregated, but also walled off.

This is aggravated by the phenomenon of ‘no-name’ villages that the Dalits live in. this phenomenon results in all the infrastructure being located where it is inaccessible for the Dalits. So what is this ‘no-name villages’? India, it is said, is a land of 600,000 villages—638,365 according to the census of India 2001. The curious fact is that these do not count the Dalit villages. Instead, the Dalit villages are recorded as Dalit ‘colonies’ or ‘Dalit-para’ of the ‘main village’. Therefore a Dalit village near a dominant caste village called Belur would be called Belur Dalit colony. It is a continuation of the social construct that the Dalit cannot ‘own anything’—so lowly as to be even without caste—even the village where a Dalit lives cannot ‘own’ a name or an identity.

The consequences of this ‘no-name’ status are well known to those in the women’s movement, where many of the issues facing women were ‘problems with no names’. No-name villages are identified and treated as a colony of the ‘main village’ (the ‘Gandhigram’) where the dominant live, and for whom those from the ‘Dalit colony’ (the ‘Ambedkargram’) have to compulsorily provide free or subsidised ‘services’. Just as any colonised people, the Dalits of this ‘colony’ are virtually slaves of the dominant of the dominant caste village. They are forbidden entry into these villages (since they would pollute it) except for performing ‘unclean tasks’ that would ‘pollute’ the dominant. The dominant village (the ‘Gandhigram’) has the first right to all the resources (natural and human) of the ‘colony’ (the ‘Ambedkargram’). It is only after fulfilling the labour requirements of the Gandhigram that the denizens of Ambedkargram can venture out. Providing free labour as a caste function is mandatory.

Yet all the infrastructure is cornered only by the dominant village. Since the Dalit village does not have a separate existence, government records show that the village has all infrastructure (schools, primary health centres, telephones, community centres, primary health centres, child care centre, water supply, electricity….). In reality, all these are only in the dominant caste village (the Gandhigram) which the Dalits are forbidden to enter or to use. The Dalit village (the Ambedkargram) does not get any of these. So the Dalits are denied all these facilities, while the government statistics show that the ‘village’ has all the infrastructure. In older infrastructure (water, burial grounds, land) there is discrimination. In the newer technology and infrastructure there is exclusion and denial of service (roads, electricity, community halls). So whether it is 100% electrification or 100% broadband connections (promised by 2012), the Dalit village will be excluded.

4.       Access to basic services

Let us track sixteen basic services in 1000 villages and where they are physically located—in Gandhigram or in Ambedkargram.

  1. Drinking water bore well/hand pump
  2. Electricity
  3. Primary Health Centre
  4. PDS Outlet
  5. Community Hall
  6. Balwadi
  7. Anganwadi
  8. Primary School
  9. High School
  10. Post office
  11. Panchayat office
  12. Bank/cooperative society
  13. Police station
  14. Polling booth
  15. Bus stop.
  16. Location of        (a) Temple

                                (b) Mosque

                                (c) Church


Data available shows irrefutably which sections of India are privileged which are excluded. It is valid even within communities, where data shows who are the 'Dalits among Dalits', the age, sex and regional composition of such exclusion.

winsight 05 Meeting challenges in resource mobilisation

Meeting challenges in resource mobilisation
The load you put on your head by yourself is a load you can carry.
~African Proverb
Judge: ‘Why did you rob the bank?’ Prisoner: ‘That’s where the money was, your honour’.

Individuals and institutions, corporate enterprises and people’s movements share the same need for resources: human, material and financial. The challenges of accessing resources have always been complex for organisations and movements of the poor. They need external resources—human, material and financial—while retaining control over their agenda, institutions and their people.

Though it seems a simple solution—asking for money from people who have it and would willingly give—there are several hurdles to actually doing so, most of them self-reinforcing, and self-made. Cause based organisations often face ideological, value and systems constraints in raising resources. The challenge becomes acute since the poor often have limited resources, skills and outreach. In this note we will explore the challenges of raising financial resources, and how to face them.

1 The context and scope
1.1 The positions
There are different ideological and practical positions regarding individual and institutional fundraising. They vary from organisation to organisation (and movement to movement). Some of them are legal, for instance Indian trade unions and political parties cannot accept ‘foreign funds’. Some are ideological. Some make a virtue out of necessity. Whatever the underpinning reason, the positions broadly fall in the following categories:
• No funding at all. All funds must be raised through membership fees.
• Limited funding is possible, if it is ‘voluntary’.
• No ‘foreign funding’.
• No funding from government, multilateral or corporate sources.
• No funding from the ‘tainted’ industries: arms, chemical, liquor, crime, tobacco, but other corporate institutional funding is accepted.
• Any ‘local’ funding is accepted.
• Any funding is accepted.

1.2 Why do we refuse external funding?
The fear of dilution of the agenda, solidarity and ownership are at the heart of the debate.
• Somebody else will set the agenda.
• Loss of control.
• Become unsustainable.
• People will no longer contribute, they will only expect to receive benefits (dilution of ownership).
• Accountability will be towards the donors, (dilution of internal accountability).
• The struggle will get diluted.
• Resources will need to be diverted for meeting the donor requirements.

1.3 The categories of donors
There are two primary categories of donors: individuals and institutions. They support for various reasons—out of sympathy, the desire to support or for solidarity. Each of these result in different expectations and rewards for the donor and from the recipient.

Donor motivation and accountability need to be factored into any resource mobilisation strategy. Given the diversity in donors, it is strategically important to know what to expect, from whom, for what and when. None will give for causes to raise an income or ensure assets above their own. The best is the solidarity donor who would want the standard to be equal to their own (at most) or at least to human rights standards.

2 Addressing these concerns
When we cannot find supporters within our friends, we must find supporters from amongst our enemies.
Japanese proverb

We must deal with the world as it is to create the world as we want it to be. Solutions need to be consistent with values, and not conflict with other objectives. At the same time, they need to be rooted in the social reality of the day.

2.1 Ideological
In an age of globalisation, international solidarity is a necessity not an optional extra and certainly not a luxury. The quantum of funding can be restricted in both absolute and relative terms (see Quotas and sub-quotas below). It could also be dependent on the need (see A good, strong financial system below) and the absorption capacity of the organisation at different stages of its growth. Funding in excess of absorption capacity can be catastrophic, especially in the organisation’s formative years, but potentially at any time.

2.2 A good, strong financial system
Any enterprise, whether using public money or not, always needs good financial systems. These financial systems need to be of a higher standard than the generally accepted norms. This financial system, with qualified professionals, will give a good projection and a realistic estimate of the financial outlay and cash flow required. The senior management can then identify potential sources of income.

2.3 Decouple fundraising and agenda setting
This used to be done in the newspapers where the editorial staff were distinct from the marketing department that sells advertisement space. This was to prevent advertisers from influencing the news coverage and the editorial department. Both departments used to have strong links with the circulation department.
Similarly, the decision makers need to be insulated from those raising funds. The fundraisers need clear guidelines as to which mode of fundraising is permissible (see 1. The positions above). The chief of the organisation is often the chief fundraiser also. Though the CEO could meet with traditional donors, it would be best to have them vetted beforehand to avoid surprises at a later state.

2.4 Quotas and sub-quotas: Restrict financial power of single donors
Diversified sources of funding are an important hedge against wide variations. There could be caps on single donors (not more than 1% of the total outlay) and even sectors (not more than 30% from any particular sector—private, public, individual or corporate—and within it not more than 5% in a sub-sector: 5% from the telecom sector, 5% from housing, 5% from services etc).

2.5 Separate resource modes for different operational modes
A good rule of thumb is that at most 25% of the organisational expenses go towards ‘awareness’. At least 75% should go towards actual services. Activists support (full-time/part-time, salaries, social security) could be raised separately, as also operational costs. The ‘services’ budget could be given directly to the members by the government, but monitored by the organisation. (for instance housing, quality schools, health facilities etc).

2.6 CUTE fundraising
In all fundraising, the following four principles need to be followed.
• Communicate your work. Communication is always the first step towards fundraising, and always precedes it. Once you get the money, communicate your gratitude and what you used it for. In most of the avenues mentioned below, your cause and organisation visibility and credibility is vital.
• Uniqueness of the organisation must be highlighted. Emphasise the USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Explain why the work you are doing needs to be supported.
• Transparency in work and use of funds.
• Easy to donate to. Once a person is interested in donating to your cause, they should be able to do it quickly (before they change their mind!), conveniently and easily—if possible from the comfort of their home or office. Oftentimes, giving in kind is easier. Remember to ask only for a small amount. Small, regular contributions are better than larger, irregular ones.
Use technology—for instance the internet—to make giving fulfil these requirements and make it as easy and simple for those who want to contribute to do so.

3 Avenues for fundraising
If you can dream it, you can do it.
~Walt Disney
There are several avenues for fundraising. Here are a bakers dozen of the best. They all need to be used in combination for the best results. A prerequisite is that the cause and the organisation must have already built up credibility and brand recognition. If not, a good communication strategy needs to be developed and the communication and financial systems need to be in place first.

3.1 Institutional grants
Institutional grants can be from government, bi-lateral, multi-lateral, international or private sources. They have their set criteria in terms of geographical and sectoral areas of support, recipient standards and governance structures. The national and state governments, government agencies, UN bodies, foreign governments and institutions, national and international funding individuals and institutions fall in this category.

3.2 Fees: ‘membership’ and ‘service’
The membership fee (or the user fee) should not be token. This is specially difficult in organisations that seek to serve the poor. The poor cannot pay ‘market rates’. However, there could be differential membership fees. The membership fee could be annual or lifetime. Either way, it should not been so nominal as to be inconsequential.
The other source of ‘in house funding’ would be a ‘service fee’. This fee would be charged at a flat rate for every service that the organisation obtains for its members. So a member would pay Rs 10 as annual membership fee (to be paid yearly, whether or not any services or benefits are obtained in the particular year), and Rs 100 for getting a ration card and Rs 75 for electricity connection as and when these services are availed of through the organisation.
The total fees (membership and service) should work out to about 10-15% of the total annual budget, and preferably cover all the running costs (salaries, maintenance). The service fees, apart from keeping the organisation in good financial health, also keeps the organisation disciplined in agenda setting. Clear goals and deliverables to the community alone will ensure that the services offered are of relevance to the membership, and that there is sufficient attention being paid to their material needs.

3.3 Sale of services
Organisations can sell their services and expertise and use the proceeds to further their mission. Most of the time organisations give away their expertise for free (for instance in government committees) instead of charging for them (as academic and corporate institutions do in the same committees) in the vain hope that it would further their cause. It does not. In formal relationships, what is not priced is not valued. And, all too often, the higher the price the more the perceived value.

3.4 Dual use assets
Organisations often build only sufficient assets to reduce avoidable recurring costs, such as rent. They choose to be in the periphery of the cities for this reason. However, they could have a big hall that could be rented out for weddings and other community functions. This hall could double as a training centre or crèche when not in commercial use. Another option is to have the frontage as commercial with dual use infrastructure at the back.

For instance, most NGOs would be the first to use the internet, or know about government schemes. Having a paid membership to access these services not only brings revenue, but enables close touch with the local community. This would be regardless of pay-per-use (as internet/copying kiosks) or as periodic memberships (monthly, annual, life) for the reference library. A good collection of text books either for borrowing or as a book bank, easily sourced from outgoing students, would add to the pull factor.

Since the urban growth would ensure the appreciation of value as the area becomes more ‘central’ this is a virtual win-win situation, keeping well above inflation. Getting maximum land, even if kept vacant, would add to the income of the organisation since parking space is at a premium in urban areas.
Contrariwise, rented accommodation is bound to push the organisation perpetually to the periphery.

3.5 Events
Events can be general events that contribute a share, or all, of the profits to a cause or specific ‘fundraisers’. The charity sales, the special dinners, the balls, special screenings, plays… are all specific fundraising events. The ticket collection, less the actual expenses, can go to promote the cause. If the expenses can be sponsored, then the entire collection can be ‘profit’. The public has ‘fun’ while contributing to the cause.

Co-branding events, such as awards, summits and conclaves can be done with sponsorships and partners. Negotiating with the professional network could result in the a part of the income from their annual industry meet being given for the cause.

3.6 Outsourcing: Professional fundraisers and co-branding
The use of professional fundraisers is not particularly liked within the non-profit sector. The use of dedicated professionals is countered with the idea that ‘fundraising should be also awareness creation and mobilisation’. Even granted that it be true (though we would encourage organisations that hold to this position to reflect on the questions: if so why didn’t it happen?), it does not negate the use of professional fundraisers, despite the ‘outsourcing’ label.

Professional fundraisers can be employed either on a flat fee basis, or on a percentage of the amount raised. The first is more ‘cost effective’, but the second might lead to more funds being raised due to the incentive.

3.7 A rupee a day and payroll giving
Giving must be as regular and as painless as possible. Payroll deduction and automatic transfer from the banks is the best option. This can be from the members or from others who would like to contribute. Having ‘mandate forms’ from different banks handy to get the approval for the automatic transfer helps to immediately convert the interested person into a regular contributor. Though automatic ‘fund and forget’ painless giving does work, constant interaction enables better returns in terms of money and support. Ideally, friend making should precede fundraising. Remember, small, regular contributions are better in all ways than erratic bigger ones. The first helps institution development, while the latter is destabilising.

3.8 Legacies
These are contributions made after the life of the donor. Most would be bequeaths in a will for a sum to be paid to a specific organisation. It could also be single premium life insurance payments of long duration—for instance when a member’s child gets a job with the organisation as the nominee/beneficiary. It is not so common in India, but has considerable success elsewhere.

3.9 The internet
Most of those with disposable income would have access to the internet and the credit card. Have a website (or register with a charity website) so that those who would like to donate to the cause will be able to do so with one click.

3.10 Credit cards, wealth management and financial services
Co-branding credit cards where a portion of each transaction is given to the cause is a ‘painless’ method of creating a steady income stream. You could also ensure that donation to your organisation/cause is listed as a way to redeem ‘reward points’.

Appeal letters could be written directly to the rich (High Networth Individuals, HNIs). The credit card companies would give you a list of their high spenders (platinum card holders). The organisation brochure with an appeal for support could be mailed along with the credit card bills. Banks and financial services institutions charge a fee for some of these services. Ask for the lowest rates, since the appeal is for a cause rather than commercial marketing.
Banks could be tapped to donate Rs 100 per account opened or fixed deposit during March to those working on women’s empowerment, May for labour, September for education or teachers, October for farmers and November for children.

3.11 Loose change
Tourists, compulsive shoppers have loose purse strings. So have collection boxes for their loose change at airports, restaurants, shopping malls and tourist destinations. Unfortunately, pilgrim centres normally collect everything for god—though people tend to give more during festivals, no matter where they are.
There could be appeals on specific anniversaries so that people give to your organisation on the occasion of their birthdays, anniversaries and other significant dates. This works well for orphanages (feeding during anniversaries) but some others have tried it with varying success.

3.12 Volunteers
Reducing costs is an important part of fundraising since every rupee saved is a rupee that does not have to be raised. Deploying volunteers helps reduce the costs of most functions, and access quality skills. This cost savings can be substantial. it is possible to have a good quality website designed and online totally by volunteers. It is best not to use volunteers for core functions though.

3.13 Family and friends
Family and friends are our strength. We turn to them first and last. We assume that you have already got the maximum contribution from your friends and relatives. Ask them for small, regular amounts rather than bulk amounts.

4 The legal workarounds
‘For private circulation only’… ‘Suggested contribution….’
A good financial governance and accountability system should be in place before any public money is accessed from any source whatsoever. That does not mean that it has to be cumbersome, or that the organisation should become rigid. The systems should support the organisation fulfil its mission in the best possible way. The accountability and reporting systems must be transparent, rigorous but light-touch.
Given the virtual criminalisation of foreign monetary support for social change in India, there is a need to be innovative. There have been numerous ways in which the letter of the law can be followed, while adhering to the promise of social justice enshrined in our constitution. The above disclaimer on books and other publications by NGOs is a classic example. Some of them enhance organisational capacity and deepen leadership.

4.1 Creating multiple entities
Trade unions can form charitable trusts to provide services to their members and union. Being separate legal entities, these charitable trusts can receive external support and, if registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs, even from foreign sources.

The additional benefit is that these services are delivered professionally, with a very specific target, addressing a very specific need. This is the most ‘efficient’ service delivery possible. Delivery of services enhances the managerial and professional skills of the core community, and they do not have to ‘wait till the revolution’ for the results.
The relationship of equals, such as a network of organisations registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs eligible to receive foreign funds, helps in democratising the relationships, flattening hierarchies of capacity, responsibility and risk.

4.2 Scholarships, fellowships and activist support
Some institutional supporters give ‘scholarships’ or ‘fellowships’ for the activists. This too has very little legal restriction, but for the upper limit. Individuals could be asked to support activists either individually or collectively. It becomes easier if the organisation is registered with the charity commissioner and the income tax office so that tax breaks can be offered as an incentive to donors.

4.3 Accessing awards
The law permits individuals and institutions to accept awards (both national and international) even without registration. Applying for them should be seen as fundraising, since these awards are meant for solidarity and support for fraternal work.

—oO(End of document)Oo—

winsight 06 Best practice in partnerships with small NGOs in development

Best practice in partnerships with small NGOs in development
Anita Cheria and Edwin, OpenSpace, Bangalore

If you are reading this note, it probably means that you are either from a
• Large organisation planning on working with a small NGO or already working with one
• Small organisation planning on working with a large organisation or already working with one.
In either case, the relationship is one of an elephant and a mouse—it can be done, but even with the best of intensions, this is a difficult balance. Both must constantly be alert to ensure that the elephant does not step on the mouse.

1. Partnerships or relationships?
When people talk about ‘partnerships’, in reality they are talking about relationships. While all partnerships are relationships, not all relationships are partnerships. Partnerships are a special kind of relationship. It is not for nothing that in a gender equal world, we talk of ‘having relationships’ but of our ‘significant other’ as our ‘partner’. In development parlance too, it does retain those specific characteristics. International agencies (IAs) refer to the small local organisations (SLOs) as ‘partners’ but the same is rarely the case in reverse.

Relationships can be between any two or more entities. Partnerships are relationships between equals, with mutual respect. Partnership pre–supposes transparency, accountability and solidarity. A partnership in development is based on a commonality of values, interest and action. The ‘base document’ for such a partnership is the common ground between the development policy of the iNGO, bilateral or multinational agency or a ‘donor agency’ and the local (Indian) NGO. For simplicity and consistency, in this note the term International Agency (IA) is used for the former, and Small Local Organisation (SLO) is used for the latter.

2. What goes wrong: the how and why
Unfortunately, such ‘partnerships’ go bad right away. The reality is that the IAs see themselves as the agenda setters and the SLOs as implementing agencies. A World Bank document noted long ago that while the bank started off partnerships with NGOs due to their flexibility, adaptability and creativity, the NGOs became much more rigid due to their relationship with the bank rather than the other way around. The situation regarding other asymmetric ‘partnerships’ is, sadly, the same.

The reason is that these relationships centre around money, which the IAs have and the SLOs don’t. In the development sector, as everywhere else, those who pay the piper call the tune. Armed with money, ‘suggestions’ become virtual dictates. Immature ‘field officers’ with fancy degrees but little field experience sit in judgement over those with decades of experience in the field who are not as articulate. Given the employment desert, the fragile economic security of the employees (and often the CEO too) and the total lack of social security nets, the SLO agrees to practically anything required to get the all important funding. Ironically, the ‘field officers’ of IAs are often viewed as ‘people sitting in air-conditioned offices’ by people actually in the field, or as the IAs would put it ‘at the grassroots’—many of whom would love to exchange places.

Relationships where the point of relationship is the weakness of one part relates to the strength of another will always be abusive. The development sector is no exception.

3. Getting it right
The key change required is to relate on an agenda and platform where both are equals. The relationship needs to be on the strengths of both the IA and the SLO. Help with knowledge and expertise—including for institutional fund-raising. Money changing hands should be only after many levels of trust, complementarities, interests and strategic goals have been passed. If the rest of the relationship is not the overwhelming dominant part, financial transaction irreversibly changes the nature of the relationship from one of solidarity to one of donor and recipient.

The core competencies of IAs and SLOs are different. But they need to find common ground. There is often sufficient overlap in their vision, mission, policy and objectives. Each wants to fulfil the same agenda, and there is much more that unites us than divides. While the values and interests remain the same, there is a vast difference in skills, culture, and geo-political area of work. IAs work in the global north, and the SLOs in the global south.

For instance, the IAs are better at fund-raising (or have more access to funds), documentation and systems. SLOs are better at innovation at the grassroots, working where there are no systems or theory—often developing models and the theory on the run.

4. Coming together: the organisation
The complementary skills and areas of work are ideal for synergy—if some ground-rules can be agreed on.
• Recognise that working through SLOs means that you will need to build up their capacity too!
• A degree of transparency to start with, moving progressively higher.
• Understanding that there will not be agreement on all things by everyone on everything.
• Work together when and where possible, moving to higher levels.
• Shared objectives are good. Agreed up on values are non-negotiable. Micro-management is taboo. Dictating the process is forbidden.

5. Working together: the programme
5.1. Beyond vocabulary, into action
As mentioned earlier, IAs refer to the SLOs as ‘partners’ but the same is rarely the case in reverse. It goes much beyond just semantics. We have mastered the vocabulary of partnership (and human rights and political correctness, and ….) but action often remains feudal and dictatorial.

When IAs initiate a process of working with SLOs, there would need to be some mentorship and accompaniment process for building capacities and systems to make the interaction mature into a true partnership. It involves some intense engagement, but is a prerequisite for taking the relationship to the level of a partnership.

5.2. Building critical mass
For advocacy, there needs to be critical mass. Encourage SLOs to form partnerships with each other. Avoid dividing on IA boundaries, and on IA agendas, as is too often the case. IA turf wars in the north often get transferred to the SLOs in the south who cannot withstand such pressure.

5.3. Advocate for us where we cannot
There are many places where SLOs have no access, but IAs do. The obvious arena is geographical. Not many SLOs can afford to come to the home countries of the IAs and effectively lobby. Where SLOs can, they will. Where they cannot, they depend on solidarity. They also depend on solidarity of IAs to open doors within the SLO geographic area of operation, sometimes corporate bodies, but oftentimes other vested interests too.

The Swiss support would be that much more meaningful if Swiss civil society could lobby their government to release the list of tax evaders from India who have stashed their loot in Swiss Banks; or the British civil society if they could lobby against the weapons sales that diverts large amounts of national wealth from India, just to shore up a few thousand British jobs… the list could go on.

5.4. Bring in the community
Have an agreement with the community too… so that the commitment is to support them till they reach a certain standard of living (a ‘SMART’ life with dignity). Bring them on to the table so that they will also make reciprocal commitments: no more female foeticide, no caste discrimination or untouchability, no dowry… A social contract where each have roles and responsibilities, not where one community is the burden of another is needed in a solidarity relationship. The democratisation of society must be the focus and there needs to be a clear mechanism in place to carry the process forward in case on of the parties is unable to fulfil its role.

5.5. Agree on the non-negotiable minimum standards and stick to it
The legal requirements are the obvious non-negotiable ‘minimum standards’. Always ensure that everyone involved does get at least the minimum wages, the maternity/ paternity /annual/ medical leave, adequate insurance and social security. This is too often overlooked by the SLOs who are more focussed on the ‘cause’ and ‘task-at-hand’ leading to an almost criminal neglect of the team’s social security. Sometimes not meeting the non-negotiable minimum standards is camouflaged by some deft definitions (such as ‘volunteers’ for underpaid staff). IAs should not overlook this blind spot, nor turn a blind eye to the misleading wordcraft of the SLO but ensure that these social security provisions are incorporated into the systems and resource allocation.

Another set of non-negotiable minimum standards are the international human rights standards. The donors of IAs too should be made aware of these standards, and it should be incorporated into the programme. For instance housing cannot be done without meeting Sphere Minimum Standards for Humanitarian Relief, no matter how high the demand. Especially in disasters, the need to show numbers and scale is crippling the adequate allocation of resources for restoration of a life with dignity. Once the hut is shabbily ‘repaired’ the aid bandwagon moves on, leaving the affected people without the required assistance. Focussed attention meeting standards to ensure a life of dignity must always be maintained.

The ‘adjustments’ in the partnerships should always be for the benefit of the community.

5.6. Addressing differences
Dissent and different opinion needs to be actively encouraged. A free and frank exchange of ideas and opinions in an atmosphere of mutual respect strengthens a partnership. The opinion of a person with the money is not the right one (or the wrong one either!). Recognise that SLOs will be reluctant to contradict IA opinion—even when they know it is erroneous—for fear of jeopardising their funding. Do not use (the threat of) finance cuts as a tool to ensure compliance. The Damocles sword of funding being cut off is all too real.

Do not open up an issue unless you have the political will, technical skills and the wherewithal to see it through to resolution. Respect local knowledge and culture. Unless you can make a significant difference, don’t interfere. The way of doing things would be different, ‘participation’ may not be the way you imagine!

5.7. Give it time
Good partnerships take time to mature. The ‘commitment’ to support is often of short duration. This does not make the community sustainable, nor does it enable the local NGO to engage with the community in a constructive, mutually beneficial partnership. The engagement becomes one of implementing (impossible to attain) ‘targets’ with little informed consent. Sometimes even the local NGO is not aware of the whys of a project being implemented.

6. … and the icing on the cake…
SLOs have highly motivated, tight-knit teams. Red-tape is virtually nil. The organisation structure is flat. Multi-tasking is the norm. They are dynamic and are capable of a quick response on a shoestring budget at great personal risk. They are much closer to, and have more intense engagement with, the grassroots. They are fanatically loyal to ‘the cause’.

Building a partnership with SLOs takes time, and a lot of personal investment. But once done, the results are rewarding for all. It is well worth the effort.

winsight 07 A one minute guide to strategic planning

The one minute guide to strategic planning

Strategic plans help us optimise the use of the scarce resources available. (No matter how much resources we have, we always think is it scarce!). They help us make the maximum impact.

All planning covers three steps:
• Where do we want to go?
• Where are we now?
• How do we get there?

1. Where do we want to go?
This would mean
• Vision.
• Mission.
• SMART objectives.

2. Where are we now?
The most common way to analyse this is the SWOT analysis, where strengths and weaknesses (SW) are for the internal and opportunities and threats (OT) are the external factors.

3. How do we get there?
3.1. The critical mass
To be able to get where we want to, we need to have an effective strength, in terms of size (called critical mass) and resources.
First determine the critical mass for success.

3.2. The resources
The resources needed to get there, sometimes called the ‘needs analysis’, to make our critical mass.
What are the
• Human
• Material
• time
• information
… resources required to reach where we want to/make our critical mass.

3.3. The stakeholders
The stakeholders are anyone who is affected by our action.
They can be
• Passive or active.
• Positive or negative.
Once the stakeholders are analysed, we need to immediately classify them according to the power they have to influence our action—either by support, opposition or inertia. (‘core’ and ‘non-core’ stakeholder classification is important, but irrelevant when it comes to action).
Based on the power analysis, decide who our allies, opponents and sympathisers would be.

4. Accessing resources: Human
Resources can be
• What we already have.
• What we need to have, but don’t.

5. The resources that we do not have can be accessed by
• Training present staff.
• Hiring new staff.
• Outsourcing (consultants).

6. Accessing resources: Financial
Financial sources need to be diversified.
• No single individual or institution should contribute more than 5% of the income
• No single sector of the economy should contribute more than 30%.
• No region/country should contribute more than 30%.

7. Time management
Of all the resources that we have, time is the most perishable.
Systems and procedures
• Support our work.
• make routine work easier, so that our creative time can be best used for new tasks (‘emergencies’)
• Help us make the best use of the time that we have.

winsight 08 Elections 2009: Some reflections, and why we should change the system

The Campaign for Electoral Reforms India (CERI) is to make the electoral system more representative of the wishes of the electorate

Make Every Vote Count: Why and how to change our electoral system

Some reflections on the Indian parliamentary elections 2009

Anita Cheria and Edwin

1          The world’s largest democracy

1.1         The scale

India rightfully claims to be the world’s largest democracy, based on the number of its electorate. With a total electorate of 716 million, the elections to the Lok Sabha is by far the largest democratic exercise in the world—larger than all 50 countries of Europe combined, all 54 countries of Africa combined, all countries of North America combined and the entire British Commonwealth minus India.

It is easy to forget that independent India’s first election (for the constituent assembly) was not by universal adult franchise, but was restricted to about 10% of the population who were tax payers. Since then, not only has India opted for universal adult franchise, but has seen the population go from 350 million at independence to 1.2 billion now and reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 in the bargain.

This gargantuan exercise was conducted from 16 April—13 May 2009 in 5 phases. In those 28 days, 250,000 police were deployed, apart from the election officials and the agents of the political parties and candidates. The personnel deployed for this gigantic exercise alone make an army larger than the total population of many countries. In the 2009 general elections, 417,158,644 of the 716,676,063 strong electorate voted (58.21%).

More than a million electronic voting machines (EVMs) were deployed at 828,000 polling stations. The EVMs has reduced the enormity of the task to a degree, but the increase in population has more than compensated for that. Technologically it is possible to conduct these elections in a day. Due to a trust deficit in the local police the EC had to move around security personnel—either from central forces or state forces deployed elsewhere—to ensure a free and fair poll. This ‘turn around’ time is the chief cause of the rather long timetable.

The vulnerability mapping showed that about 87,000 of India’s 800,000 villages were vulnerable to caste, religious or Maoist violence. The election commission deployed 119 special trains to move around security personnel to ensure security. Constituencies considered vulnerable to Maoist violence were covered in the first phase of the poll to give security forces three weeks for preparation. In other areas they had two weeks. Little wonder then that the Chief Election Commissioner of India is often referred to as a Field Marshal, given the tremendous logistics involved.

1.2         The parliamentary election results 2009—A snapshot

Results by pre–poll alliance



% Votes


United Progressive Alliance, UPA




National Democratic Alliance, NDA




Third front




Fourth front












The results of the elections were a total surprise. Most expected the verdict to be fractured. Many formations were tried out based on the projections. The Congress–led UPA emerged, by far, as the single largest formation, within striking distance of the magic 272 needed for government formation.

The detailed results are in annex 1 (results by pre–poll alliance) and annex 2 (full results). For primary data, see the website of the election commission .

1.3         Some reactions

The views on what the elections actually meant in terms of deciphering the voters message span the entire spectrum. There is virtually no consensus on the reasons, the causes or the effects.

Depending on the ideological perspective, or lack of it, of the commentator, the most striking feature was talk of a Congress ‘revival’ and an emerging ‘bi–polar’ polity despite the fact that the vote share of the two ‘national’ parties—Congress (28.6%) and BJP (19%)—has actually been decreasing. The vote share of the Congress in 2009 is only fractionally more than in 1999, when it won 114 seats with 28.3% of the vote.

BJP has been losing—in 1999 it got 23.8% of the vote; 22.2% in 2004, and now 18.8%. Despite the stark evidence of numbers, they claim to be the two ‘poles’ of the ‘bi–polar’ Indian polity even with a majority of Indians (52.6%) voting against them. Their vote share has been steadily decreasing from 52.1% in 1999 to 48.7% in 2004 to 47.6% in 2009.


BJP Seats / Vote%

INC Seats / Vote%


85 – 11.36%

197 – 39.53%


120 – 20.04%

244 – 35.66%


161 – 20.29%

140 – 28.80%


182 – 25.59%

141 – 25.82%


182 – 23.75%

 114 – 28.30%


138 – 22.16%

145 – 26.53%


116 – 18.8%

206 – 28.6%

There was a near unanimous agreement that the verdict was a ‘thumping win’ for the Congress, despite the fact that it won far less than 50% of the seats and even that with allies. The Bahujan Samaj Party increased its vote share from 4.2% to 5.3% to 6.2%.

It was said to be a win for ‘development’, a rejection of the politics of extremism and against the Left Front—despite the win of the Trinamool Congress, which can arguably be said to be more anti–development than the Left if Singur and Nandigram are anything to go by. The only thing that can be said with confidence is that the composition of this parliament does not reflect the will of the people.

1.4         Some concerns

While we can pat ourselves on the back for the logistics, factors such as the quality of the candidates, increased use of money and muscle power with the politicisation of criminals are serious concerns. At least 150 MPs have criminal cases against them, with 73 serious cases ranging from rape to murder, up from 128 in the previous elections. The ‘party with a difference’ BJP has 42 MPs (36%) with criminal charges and the ‘party of the common man’ Congress has 41 (20%). Almost 40% of MPs from UP (31 of 80) have criminal cases against them.

However, the flaws in the system are much deeper. The electoral system itself is fundamentally flawed and the results do not reflect the ‘will of the people’ as expressed in the ballot box. As widespread ‘tactical voting’ has proved, political parties game the system to get ‘majorities’ and claim ‘mandates’ when the numbers show no such thing or, most times even the opposite. A deeper analysis of the results of the 2009 parliamentary election results provides some interesting insights. A sobering fact that emerges is that all the MPs put together got just 184,354,648 votes (25.72%) from the 716,676,063 strong electorate. The entire UPA got 21.4%, including losing candidates. So much for being representative of the will of the majority.

Now, 60 years after our republic was proclaimed, it is time to re-appraise the very basis of our democracy. Can we make it better? If so how? Are there other experiences that we can draw from?

2          The present ‘first past the post’ system

First, let us review the present system, assessing its strengths and weaknesses and identifying the gaps. Then we will move on to the correctives and the alternatives.

2.1         How the system works

The present system is called the majoritarian electoral system (MES) or the First Past The Post system (FPTP). It is the simplest possible.

·          Every adult (above the age of 18) has one vote. (Universal Adult Franchise)

·          The candidate with the largest number of votes in a constituency wins. (First Past The Post)

The system is a tremendous improvement from the feudal system where birth and military might decided representation and governance. It is an improvement from a system where only tax–payers and property owners could vote. However, it was developed at a time when the general understanding of mathematics was rather poor. (Law–makers tend to be rather poor at mathematics. The only section that has poorer understanding of mathematics are the bankers, as the 2007—8 financial crisis shows.) The science of representation was not as developed then as it is now.

At its basic level, the FPTP system does not take into account the need for representation of all sections of society. It just assumes that all are equally represented, and that ‘the will of the majority’ must prevail. Other nuances, such as the protection of human rights, the rule of law and advances in understanding of the nature and role of the state are left to other bodies and are sometimes absent. To make the system more representative, virtually all countries have some riders (called ‘reservations’ in India).

2.2         The distortion

The non–representative nature of this parliament becomes even more apparent when we correlate the vote share with the number of MPs. FPTP has highly distorted representation whereby Congress with 28.5% of the votes gets 38% of the seats, BJP with 19% gets 21%, but BSP with 6% gets only 4%, CPI(M) with 5% gets 3% and independents with 5% get only 1.66%. It results in Prajarajyam with 65.9 lakh votes (1.58%) not getting even one seat but Biju Janata Dal with 6,612,552 (1.59%) votes—a difference of just 0.01% (under 25,000 votes)—got 14 seats (2.58%).

But even more appalling is the fact that Sikkim Democratic Front with just 159,351 votes (0.04%) got one seat. The Shivsena with 6,454,850 votes (1.55%) got 11 seats (2.03%) and the Janata Dal (United) with 6,331,079 votes (1.52%) got 20 seats (3.68%).

3          The negatives and the correctives

Most countries realised early on that the FPTP system would not be representative if implemented in its basic form. One of the first ‘reservations’ was to ensure regional representation by having constituencies. In India, the Rajya Sabha was supposed to be a council of states, despite the Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. Other countries too have such state councils, such as the Senate in the US. There are reservations for the excluded communities—the Dalits (Schedule Caste, SC) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes, ST). In the panchayat system there is reservation for women from 33–50% depending on the state.

Countries that have made a conscious choice and demonstrated political will for justice or those who have made the transition to electoral democracy later have got more robust systems. Some have multiple votes and constituencies. Some such as Aotearoa (New Zealand) even have a parliament specially for the indigenous population (Maori). Some parliaments, such as the Inuit and the Sami, span several countries and continents, and are legally recognised internationally.

The solution proposed is to have a proportionate electoral system (PES) that would have representation on the basis on the proportion of votes received by a political party or individual, while at the same time retaining the correctives (more listed below) that are needed to ensure balanced representation, if not social justice. The PES is in addition to the corrective mechanisms that we have already. It is only the FPTP component that has to be changed. Additional correctives, such as equal representation for women, can be incorporated before implementation. While lessons can be drawn from across the world, as was the case for the Indian constitution, it would need to be customised for the Indian reality—like the Indian constitution.

3.1         Majority mandate: total electorate

3.1.1        The issue: ABC: Apathy, Boycotts and Constituents

In the 2009 elections, 417,158,644 of the 716,676,063 strong electorate voted (58.21%). While this is within the ‘normal’ range, it suggests that two of five eligible citizens (41%) did not vote. While some could have genuine reasons, it indicates that either those not voting felt powerless (that their vote would not make a difference) or that they feel it better to just influence or buy the elected ‘representative’ meaning that they felt powerful enough to subvert the system. Both are clear evidence of a breakdown in governance, and certainly a democracy deficit.

Just five MPs out of 543 have got more than 50% of the votes. Therefore, even if we talk of the ‘will of the majority’ only these five have it, and that too only for their constituencies.

MPs with more than 50% votes of the total electorate



PC Name

Votes Polled


Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE





















Tripura East









Tripura West







West Bengal









PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate


Two MPs actually got less than 10% of the votes.

MPs with less than 10% votes from the total electorate



PC Name

Votes Polled


Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE



















PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate


Sometimes voter apathy is not the reason for low turnouts but is an active protest against a dysfunctional state, or to question the very legitimacy of the election—and therefore the state that conducts them.

This happened when elections were held in Assam during the students’ struggle. It happens in virtually all the elections held in Maoist controlled or dominated areas, Jammu and Kashmir, and areas were there are strong separatist movements. Sometimes boycotts are decided on by some sections to draw attention to their problems or to lack of implementation of the previous promises.

MPs from Jammu and Kashmir (‘boycotted’ elections)



PC Name

Votes Polled


Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE

Jammu and Kashmir

















PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate


In the 2009 elections, the MP from Anantnag in Kashmir was elected with 27% of the votes cast, and just 12.61% of the total electorate. Since this was an active boycott, it means 87% of the voters were actively against the particular candidate and 73% were against the electoral process. In Srinagar, 74% were against the electoral process and 86% against the candidate. Such ‘elections’ do not confer legitimacy nor mandate, but only confirm the democracy deficit.

3.1.2        The correctives: Recall, duty to vote and cut–offs

Countries have countered this feeling of helplessness with empowering the people with the right to recall their representatives after a year of the elections in a public referendum. The referendum can be requested every six months or a year. This puts potent power in the hands of the electorate, and keeps pressure on the representative to perform according to the mandate.

Boycotts can be countered only by good governance, and laws seldom have the power to enforce voting. But some countries do have laws that enforce the ‘duty to vote’. That means all citizens must vote. Those who don’t are punished by laws that make it a crime to abstain from voting.

This is balanced by the election being valid only if a certain minimum percentage of votes are cast (the cut–off). Below the cut-off, the election itself is invalid and the process starts all over again. If it is for a constituency, then the process is restarted for the constituency. If the cut–off is not reached for a national election (such as for a directly elected president) then the entire election process needs to be restarted. The Russian Federation requires a high 90% valid votes cast. Other countries have lower cut–offs.

Elections where less than a certain percentage (say 75% of eligible citizens) vote should be annulled and a revote conducted. If even in the second round there is not sufficient turn out, or a majority vote ‘none of the above’ then a breakdown of constitutional machinery, illegitimacy of the state, the candidates and the political parties must be recognised.

3.2         Majority mandate: voter choice

3.2.1        The issue

Of the 543 MPs elected, only 120 (22%) were voted in with more than 50% of the votes cast. This means that a majority of the MPs (78%) won with less than 50% of the votes cast. Almost one in three MPs (167, 31%) were elected with less than 40% of the votes cast—itself less than 60%.

28 representatives (5.16%) got elected with less than 30% of the votes cast—meaning 70–80% of those voting voted against them.

Vote % of winning candidates

% Votes

Number of candidates

% Candidates

> 50%



< 50%



< 40%



< 30%



Percentages are used since the number of voters differs widely across constituencies.


The highest was Sushma Swaraj of the BJP who won from Vidisha constituency in MP with 78.8% of the votes, with 45% of the constituency voting. The lowest was Jagada Nand Singh of the RJD from Buxar, Bihar constituency with 21.3% of the votes, with 46.5% of the constituency voting. Seven of eight MPs with lowest vote share (all less than 27%) are from the erstwhile Bihar.

3.2.2        The corrective

Some countries that follow FPTP have ‘run offs’. If no single candidate gets 51% of the votes, then the top three candidates are selected for the second round. Even then if no candidate gets 51% of the votes, then the top two have a run off. This is a little expensive, but then so is democracy.

Section 49(O) ‘none of the above’ of the Representation of Peoples Act does provide an option. But this is good only if there is a law about the minimum percentage of votes polled for the election to be valid, and the proviso that the winning candidate must get over 50% of the votes polled.

The electronic voting machines will need to be reprogrammed to include the ‘none of the above’ option. The election commission is already working on it. The duty to vote, and minimum vote percentages are required simultaneously to give legitimacy.

3.3         Negative voting: The cruel choice

3.3.1        The issue

Sometimes a voter would like to vote for a party that has no reasonable chance of winning in that particular constituency. The voter then has to make a difficult choice:

·          Not vote at all.

·          Exercise the ‘none of the above’ option as per section 49(O) of the Representation of People Act.

·          Vote for a party that is closest to the position.

·          Vote against a party to ensure that it doesn’t come to power (tactical voting).

·          Vote for the party of choice, so that the vote gets registered, and maybe the party will put up a better candidate and campaign harder in this ‘no–win constituency’ the next time.

3.3.2        The corrective

An electoral system that apportions seats to parties based on their overall vote share nationwide would ensure that these votes don’t get ‘lost’. They will all be counted to make sure that the result is representative of voter preference.

In the 2009 parliamentary elections, it would mean that anyone getting 7,68,245 votes (0.18%) would be assured of a seat since there are 543 seats and 41,71,56,494 valid votes. The important point is that this 7,68,245 votes can come from any part of the nation.

3.4         Representative (gender)

3.4.1        The issue

Though the Chairperson of the ruling UPA, the President of India and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha are all women, the political empowerment of women is woefully inadequate in India. A total of 556 women contested, just 6% of the total 8626 candidates. There were 8070 male (94%) candidates. 213 constituencies (39%) did not have a single woman candidate, 179 had a single candidate (33%).

Of the ‘national parties’ only two even had 10% women candidates. Of their 1623 candidates, only 134 (8.26%) were women. 20 of 34 state level parties did not put up any woman candidate. Of the 760 candidates put up by them, only 51 (6.71%) were women. The Janata Dal (Secular) (33 candidates), Biju Janata Dal (18 candidates) and Muslim League Kerala State Committee (17 candidates) did not put up even one woman. 232 of 327 other registered parties (parties not ‘national’ or ‘state’ did not put up any women. 14 other registered parties put up only women candidates (16 candidates in all). Interestingly, the United Women’s Front put up 2 men and 4 women (six in all).

Candidates by party (National Parties only)



Percent women




Rashtriya Janata Dal, RJD





Bahujan Samaj Party, BSP





Communist Party of India, CPI





Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(M)





Indian National Congress, INC





Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP





Nationalist Congress Party, NCP





Despite protestations to the contrary, the only way to get representation of the un– and under–represented into parliament seems to be reservation. It is rare for a Dalit or Adivasi to get elected from a non–reserved seat for the parliament or legislative assembly elections. For women, the record is dismal. They seldom get elected from non–reserved seats in district or taluk panchayats. The record is better in the gram panchayats, but not by much.

3.4.2        The correctives

It is time to ensure 50% representation for women in parliament. The reservations need to be ensured till such time the focus of these reservations—women, Dalits and Adivasis—regularly get elected from non–reserved constituencies, or in greater proportion than their numbers in the overall population of the nation. Making it mandatory for all political parties to field 50% women is another option.

Other options are dual constituencies, where every constituency elects one man and a woman. The flip side is that then there might need to be other reservations in each constituency. For instance Dalits, sexual and religious minorities, indigenous and tribal peoples could all demand separate constituencies or multiple constituencies for themselves.

4          A fundamental change: Proportionate Electoral System

The first past the post system was good—and a revolutionary method of selecting our representatives. But now there are better ways. We have progressed since the time when the person who got the most votes must become the representative. Hybrid systems are in place in most electoral democracies.

4.1         A simple PES system

In a simple PES system, the entire country is one constituency. All parties put up a list of candidates, and people vote for the party. Once the votes are counted, parties are allotted seats according to their vote percentage. The candidates are selected from the party list in order of seniority on the list. For instance, if a party gets 11 members, then the first 11 candidates on their list are chosen.

In this note, the simple PES is used since the figures are for illustration only. Better systems are used in practice by different countries, to ensure that the most number of votes are counted, and representation best reflects voter preference.

4.2         Correctives

PES is not a magic bullet that will correct all the distortions and make representation perfect. The ‘pure’ PES would need to be value loaded. A hybrid system could be an option too.

To ensure that the lists are representative, there could be a mandatory listing of women in every alternate position, so that it would ensure 50% women candidates and translate into 50% women’s representation. Similarly for other under-represented sections.

Of course, this would need to be balanced by a minimum cut-off percentage of votes for the elections to be valid, and enforcement of the duty to vote.

4.3         Hybrid systems

Different systems can co–exist, and many have found that for true representation of the will of the people, they must co–exist. PES and direct election for candidates is the norm in many places. It is felt that such a system would allow the voter to indicate correctly which policies they support (therefore a vote for the party) and which candidate best represents that position (the direct vote).

Some countries, such as the Netherlands restrict the voters’ choice to the candidate of the party that they choose. First the voter has to choose a party, and then from within the party they have to choose a candidate. Some countries allow the voter to choose a candidate who need not be in the party of their choice. Nepal follows a mixed system. 335 seats are filled by PES, 240 by FPTP and 26 nominated members. The party list representation is calculated using the Sainte-Laguë method (see

India follows a hybrid system. Most members of the Lok Sabha (People’s Assembly) the lower house are elected by FPTP. Some are nominated. The members of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) the upper house, are elected by MLAs of the different states through a single transferable vote method, a variant of PES. The Rajya Sabha also has nominated members. The president is elected by weighted votes of the MPs and MLAs.

4.4         Can the people understand these complexities and nuances?

The argument is that ‘the people’—read the vast majority illiterates—will not be able to understand the nuances of the proportionate voting system, with multiple options for individuals and party lists. That is also convincingly disproved by the Dalit Parliament of Tumkur District in Karnataka where the list and PR system has been in force.

A hybrid system with PES, FPTP and nominations was followed in Nepal for their constituent assembly, with good results and robust participation. If a country with even lower HDI (Human Development Indicators) ranking—in health, literacy and virtually everything else—can do it, there is no reason why India cannot do it.

It is only the elite gatekeepers who have this apprehension. It is the elite who cannot handle these complexities—witness the frequent calls for having fixed term parliaments and legislatures, and having all the elections from the panchayat to the parliament at the same time since, in the words of a former deputy prime minister ‘frequent elections make governance difficult’. The clincher is that India already follows a hybrid model—even for the Lok Sabha. When the world has progressed to better representation systems, Indian cannot remain behind.

5          The consequences

5.1         Who would lose or gain?

The following table shows how the parliament looks like today, and how it would look if each front, party or individual got seats in proportion to the votes they won. The UPA and the NDA—both claiming to be the ‘poles’ of Indian polity would lose the most—90 seats between them. It means that in the present parliament, they are over–represented by that many seats. All others would gain by the same amount. Smaller parties and independents gain the most.

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES




% Votes


PES Seats

















Third front







Fourth front




















Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if a proportionate electoral system was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.1.1        Those who would lose seats

The biggest losers amongst the parties are again the two claimants to pole position. The Congress would lose 51 of 206 seats presently held (25%) and the BJP 14 of 116 (12%). ‘Kingmaker’ DMK would lose 8 of its 18 seats (44%), as also the fellow riders of the communal forces Janata Dal (United), which would lose 12 of 20 presently held (60%) and Biju Janata Dal which would lose 5 of 14 seats held (36%).

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES




% Votes


% Seats

PES Seats



Muslim League Kerala State Committee








All India Majlis–E–Ittehadul Muslimeen








Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi








Sikkim Democratic Front








All India Trinamool Congress








Jammu & Kashmir National Conference
















Rashtriya Lok Dal








Samajwadi Party








Biju Janata Dal








Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam








Janata Dal (United)








Bharatiya Janata Party








Indian National Congress







Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; %Seats: Percentage seats won; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if PES was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.1.2        Those who would gain seats

24 parties and independents would gain almost a hundred seats between them. Independents would gain the maximum number of seats, 19, followed by the CPI(M) with 13 and the BSP with 12. Thirteen parties which do not have a single seat in the present parliament would win 29 seats between them, with the Praja Rajyam alone winning 9 seats.

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES




% Votes


% Seats

PES Seats











Communist Party of India (Marxist)








Bahujan Samaj Party








Praja Rajyam Party








Telugu Desam








Communist Party of India








Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam








Pattali Makkal Katchi








Rashtriya Janata Dal








Nationalist Congress Party








Indian National Lok Dal








Lok Jan Shakti Party








Assam United Democratic Front








Maharashtra Navnirman Sena








Janata Dal (Secular)








Shiromani Akali Dal








Telangana Rashtra Samithi








Asom Gana Parishad








Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation








Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam








Lok Satta Party








Peace Party








Jammu & Kashmir People's Democratic Party








Apna Dal








Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangha







Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; %Seats: Percentage seats won; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if PES was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.2         The win–win

Ensuring that the parliament is more inclusive and representative ensures that more citizens have a stake in it. While there would be some extreme Left and Right representation, the centrist parties will be dominant. Shifts would be minor, and gradual.

Given a realistic chance, more of those who choose to boycott would want to influence the system from within. With those outside being brought in, they would then have a stake in the system and be within democratic polity. A system where every voice has an equal chance of being heard would be much more representative of the rich diversity of the country than the present system which promises so much but delivers so little. It would immeasurably strengthen the nation to have the entire political spectrum and diversity of opinion represented at the highest levels of governance. In an age when we are moving swiftly towards air war with our own citizens, we can do no less.

5.3         The constitutional position

In India we already have different systems of voting that are mandated by the constitution. While most members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected through FPTP, the president may nominate 2 Anglo Indians. The Rajya Sabha members are elected by the state legislatures (MLAs) in a single transferable vote system, where there is weightage for the votes according to the preference. There is a different system for the election of the president, where there is different weightage for the votes of the MPs and MLAs. As mentioned earlier, the regional and community reservations exist.

It is self-evident that PES is fully in consonance with the constitution, and is already practiced in certain elections to the parliament. While a constitutional amendment is required for some of these reforms, fuller and better representation is certainly possible without changing the ‘basic structure of the constitution’ as stipulated by the Supreme Court of India. PES for the Lok Sabha would only be an extension of the existing system.

6          Some efforts at moving forward

There are many campaigns for electoral reforms in India. Most have been from civil society, and restricted to closed room seminars, and have been more on administrative and judicial reform of the political system (voter ID card, EVMs, barring criminals from contesting and the like) rather than reforming the political system as such. Few have been from parties in parliament. None have been sustained nor have they been transformed into a mass movement or an advocacy campaign. Some political parties did talk of reforms when in the political wilderness, but swiftly changed their position on sniffing victory in even a few seats.

The Campaign for Electoral Reforms India (CERI, is one recent attempt to make the electoral system more representative of voter preference. It seeks to bring in proportionate representation whereby the composition of the parliament and assemblies reflect the number of votes cast. The campaign was launched on 10 October 2008, and positive opinion is being created amongst different sections of society ranging from political party leaders, sitting and former MPs and MLAs, academics and social activists.

The question now is not if India will move to PES. PES is already practiced for the elections to the Rajya Sabha and the president. It is a question of when PES will be extended to cover the Lok Sabha, and which correctives will be incorporated into it while the shift is made to ensure social justice. It is a question of when India wants to have the best representation of voter preference in the Lok Sabha. A system were the ‘will of the majority’ is just 25% simply cannot retain legitimacy in the long term. While the form of the alternative can be discussed, the necessity for reform and urgency of systemic change cannot be denied. The tools exist. Experience exists. Now for the vision, political will and statesmanship.

7          References

All figures are from the website of the election commission and wikipedia,_2009 (both accessed 3 October 2009).


—oO(end of document)Oo—

winsight 09 IITs, cut-offs, merit and inclusion

The terms of engagement
The union minister Kapil Sibal has been pilloried for suggesting a higher cut–off for IIT entrance. He wants to raise it from the present 60% to 80% aggregate marks in std XII. Some have called him elitist (one of the worst epithets in an Indian liberal’s quiver) and worse. The minister has since backed down, and said that a committee of technical experts would examine the matter and make recommendations.

Given that the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are the premier institutions of higher education in this country, preventing access does lead to protest by the defenders of equal opportunity and equity. It is a different matter altogether that these engineers go on to the equally elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and then, on graduating from both these premier institutes, sell toilet soap for the rest of their lives.

Gaming the system, not talent
The elephant in the room is the huge amount of money that these institutes make in administering these tests, and the entire ‘coaching’ industry that teaches these candidates how to game the system. In 2009 alone about 400,000 appeared for the tests. True to form, those who benefit from this scam have chosen to keep quiet about it. The fact is that it is not the 'best and the brightest' who get through those portals, but those who can game the system.

The need for standardised tests
Standardised all India tests become imperative given the vast disparity in the quality of the education system across the country. Not only does the syllabus differ from state to state, so does the marking. So 80% in a state board (often SSLC) does not mean 80% in CBSE or 80% in ICSE. The different state boards are not equal either. How then can the cut off be the same. The suggestion that percentiles be used also does not hold water, given the vast disparities—in infrastructure and marks gained—between states, within states (urban–rural for instance), gender, caste and community.

Democratic principles: equal opportunity and informed choice
In this debate, what is overlooked are two democratic principles: equal opportunity and informed choice. The best option is to scrap any cut–off, and forget the Std XII marks in admission. This is not a very ‘radical’ suggestion given that the cut–off in the entrance tests have been single digits, even for maths and sciences. Cut–offs for 2008 were 5 in mathematics, 0 in physics and 3 in chemistry, and in 2007 were 1 in mathematics, 4 in physics and 3 in chemistry. In 2008 one general category candidate made it to IIT Kharagpur scoring 8 marks in physics.

Some options
What could be done is to publish the lowest mark that a selected candidate has got in the Std XII. This could be state–wise, gender, SC/ST… It could show the clusters: 70% of those selected got 90% in maths, or that the lowest marks in physics of a selected candidate was 69%. If these numbers of a decade are put out, with the scatter diagrams, then the candidates know the historical possibility of getting selected.

Given the state of technology, it is eminently possible. It is also in the highest traditions of democracy: equal opportunity and informed choice. All candidates passing Std XII, in whichever board can compete. They know their chances of getting selected. If they still want to spend the time and money, then it is their informed choice and democratic right.

The actual cut-off might be higher or lower. But decisions can be taken only on the basis of hard data, meaning when these statistics are available.

Starting at the beginning
The place to start for equal opportunity lies elsewhere, as also the quest for ‘quality’. Extend equal opportunity through a quality common school system, so that equal opportunity starts at the initial years of formal schooling. Realising the full creative genius of the children of our country demands no less.

winsight 10 Pseudo-Hinduism: Hindutva and Sangh experiments with truth

Hindutva and Sangh: The ‘party with a difference’ experiments with truth

The Hindutva sangh and its frontal organisations have long proclaimed themselves ‘protectors’ of ‘Indian culture’. The ‘sangh’ would broadly be the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal (BD). Each of these is for different sections of Hindu Society—the VHP for the Brahmins, the RSS for the middle castes, OBCs) and the BD for those lowest in the caste hierarchy or outside it—from the Shudras on.

These are by far the best known, though there are many others. This note looks at how they fare in each of the ‘core’ areas where they present themselves as a ‘party with a difference’. It is to look behind the media image they project, and document their actual practice.

1. Common civil code: a common deception
Most Indians, including those who support the right to separate personal laws, concur with the Supreme Court judgement that that it is illegal for others to convert to Islam, only for the purpose of marriage. The only two MPs who have ‘converted’ to Islam, and got married—he for the second time, and she knowingly the second wife—are the dream girl, Jat—Tamil Brahmin couple from the BJP. Perhaps Aisha Bi R. Chakravarty and Dilawar Khan Kewal Krishn who got married in accordance with Islamic rites On August 21, 1979 would like to clarify? Incidentally, the lady in question is a Rajya Sabha MP—meaning the party, and not the general electorate—chose her because she embodies their values. She has since been made a party vice president.

This common deception is commonplace within the sanghi world. They certainly know how to talk the talk, and then talk the walk!

2. National security: Flight to Kandahar
The sanghi political front, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power on the promise of hot pursuit of terrorists, and strong action on national security. Apart from attacking civilians as ‘soft targets’, the sanghis proved to be even more weak kneed than their predecessors. They not only released dreaded terrorists but also sent the union Minister for Foreign Affairs to personally escort them to Kandahar.

Apart from being in the cabinet meeting and being party to the decision to trade terrorists for hostages, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister L K Advani, the pseudo–iron man of India wilted when it came to the test of character. He not only disowned the decision but also lied about being in the meeting itself. He was a multi–term president of the BJP, its founding member, its star campaigner, and a lifelong member of the RSS. Just as the RSS distances itself from the BJP, claiming to be a cultural organisation with nothing to do with either politics nor the BJP, its faithful child does the same with his decisions.

3. Culture and tradition: Parivar or Sanghi?
The sanghis call themselves the sangh parivar, parivar—meaning family. But how do they treat families? Their lead second generation leader was murdered in cold blood by his own brother. His son was found in a compromising position in drug–induced stupor, got into a marriage of convenience, and divorced by the wife due to domestic violence within a year. The BJP split the mother son duo of an erstwhile royal family. It split a family in the hope of coming to power for the first time in south India too. They did not. However, until the alliance lasted, they managed to keep the family apart.

So which ‘family’ do they have in mind, the global family? In which case why burn a man and his children just because of ‘religious conversion’?

4. Partition and the ‘core of nationhood’: from secular Jinnah with love to communal Nehru
In a strange twist reminiscent of the Stockholm Syndrome, the top leadership of the sanghi party fall in love with Mohammed Ali Jinnah serially with amazing regularity. It is comical since they often demonise Jinnah as the architect of the partition of India, never mind historical evidence that it was their guru who propounded the two nation theory (‘we, or our nationhood defined’) decades before Jinnah.

After cursory research, they suddenly find that Jinnah was a secular person, who wanted a secular Pakistan. They dig out his speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, discover that he was once the poster boy of Hindu–Muslim unity and conveniently gloss over very many inconvenient facts. True to form, they cannot have a comprehensive analysis of the man and the phenomenon in its totality.

These pseudo–intellectuals who suddenly find Jinnah secular have maintained for long that Jawaharlal Nehru was communal. Secular Jinnah and communal Nehru… a revealing insight into the clarity of non–thought and penetrating insights of the Hindutva brigade.

5. Hinduism as ‘verbal vomit’
Can it get worse? Oh yes it can. The pseudo–Hindu sanghis routinely burn down and vandalise people, works of art and property of those whom they don’t like. They burn people. They burn property… and they call the entire Upanishads and the Vedas as ‘verbal vomit’. Surprised? Read on…

The BJP chose as their Rajya Sabha MP a person who wrote an entire section in a book condemning virtually every tenet of Hinduism in the Vedas and Upanishads as worshipping false gods. And the section title? ‘Verbal vomit’ and a subsection ‘empty boxes within empty boxes’. The book? Hinduism, essence and consequence. The author, Arun Shourie.

Well versed in Nazi ways, they know that a big lie mentioned a hundred times becomes the truth and have used Gobbelsian techniques not only to demonise entire sections to consolidate their ‘vote bank’, but also to promote a totally different image of themselves than they really are. Hinduism or Hindutva? Hindus or pseudo–Hindus?

We have presented the evidence. You decide.

(we present more evidence for the strong hearted in the attached file)

winsight 11 A one minute guide to Management Information Systems:: SPORT USEFULL TIPS

A one minute guide to documentation

A one minute guide to Management Information Systems


All documentation is to record, to reflect and to inspire action. Management information systems (MIS) support our work to make it more effective and maximise the impact. It helps decision making and streamlines information management. The following make information management a pleasure.


Systems              Systems help streamline the collection, organising, storage, retrieval and use of information. MIS requires sufficient infrastructure—human and physical. Systems should always support the work, and make it easier.

People                Any system is only as good as the people. Those working the information need to have the capacity and the passion to work with numbers and people.

Objective             Be clear why the data is being collected, and for what the information is required. What is the objective in collecting the data? The process of collecting the data should be ‘objective’ meaning don’t only collect data that supports preconceived notions. If the data warrants a new approach or a change in beliefs, then we must be flexible and honest enough to do so.

Retrieval              We all have experienced situations when we ‘know’ but cannot ‘remember’—hence the saying ‘it does not matter how much you know, but how much you can remember in time’. The information system should be able to generate the required information at the appropriate time. For this reason, the information retrieval system (naming, coding and filing) is an intrinsic part of a good MIS.

Timely                Information is useful at a particular time. How often should data be collected, and how much time should be allotted for it? Deadlines are extremely important. Decision-makers should be able to access the appropriate information at the correct time.


Unique                Make sure that you collect each bit of data only once. Collecting and keeping duplicate data takes time and space—both of which cost money—and causes confusion. Updating becomes a nightmare where there is more than one set of data. Remember the saying ‘a person with one watch knows the time, those with two are never sure’. Multiple copies of the same information could mean that some are not ‘up-to-date’ since it is difficult to change information everywhere (this is so even if our data is in computers)..

Simple                Keep the data, the data collection process and presentation simple, easy to understand and use.

Essential             Collect only information required for taking a particular decision. Resist the temptation to collect all the data possible. Collect all the data required—as comprehensive as necessary—but keep it to only what is required. Data collection and analysis can be very addictive, so self-restraint and self-disciple to keep to a minimalist approach is vital. In the case of information management, less might actually be more.

Forward looking  The data that we collect will be about the past. They record history. But organising this data—turning it into information—must help in future work.

Unusual              The data collected must ‘tell a story’. What is unusual? What are the emerging trends?

Live                    Capture data that is ‘living’—that is useful for our work, and that which can help us take decisions to best improve the life of the poor we work with. Always have the latest information, keep updating what you have. Go back to get more information—another method of keeping the data ‘live’.

Long lasting        The data collected and organised must be useful in the long term. Always crosscheck to see if the right questions are being asked.


Time                   Any work requires time. Ensure that sufficient time is allotted for collecting data and organising information in the ‘time budget’ of each staff. Ensure that the time invested in this task provides sufficient ‘returns’ to the organisation, by using the information so generated.

Interesting           The data collected should be transformed into interesting presentations so that others too use it. There should be a good mix of qualitative and quantitative data (stories and numbers).

Procedures          Knowledge is power. There should be appropriate procedures, policies and protocols to ensure proper collection, organising, storage, retrieval and use of information. Privacy is a concern that needs to be respected, since breach of privacy, apart from legal repercussions, could irreparably harm individuals.

Scale                  The effort at information collection and management should be appropriate to the scale of the organisation, and its relevance to the mission.

—oO(end of document)Oo—

winsight 12 A one minute guide to inclusion: CARE and CARE

A one minute guide to inclusion: CARE and CARE
anita cheria and edwin

With ‘inclusive growth’ gaining currency, the focus now is on how to make inclusive growth possible rather than if and why. Experience has proved that inclusive growth is a business imperative rather than a social justice fetish. Inclusion makes economic sense since it enables tapping into a wider pool (labour, markets or vendors) rather than let prejudice restrict or even exclude talent and quality. Diversity not only helps in the management logistics of a company (for instance a religion diversified staff would not all go on holiday at the same time) but also helps an organisation to be ahead on the knowledge curve with regard to cultural sensibilities in the external environment and preventing groupthink.

It is important to understand and always remember that diversity and inclusion are good for the organisation even in monetary terms. Therefore inclusion is not charity, and should not be so considered. A few simple pointers—the ‘CARE and CARE’ principles—help in making the organisation inclusive, and the experience a positive and profitable one for all concerned.

Capacity building
To be inclusive, the capacity of the excluded needs to be increased. Being inclusive and ‘inclusive growth’ it is not to put incompetent people into positions they are ill suited for. That would be adding insult to injury and be unfair on both the organisation and those thus forcibly ‘included’. Enhancing their skill set is a prerequisite for inclusion.
Fortunately, with the spread of education, there is a readily available pool of qualified (and sometimes over–qualified) experts in virtually every knowledge stream from every social section.

Affirmative action
The practice of exclusion has become so normative that we are unconscious of it, and oftentimes it becomes exclusion by default rather than by conscious individual design. The presence of qualified persons from the excluded sections in the general talent pool and their absence in formal spaces needs to be corrected by policy and practice of conscious affirmative action. If these persons are not included at the appropriate skill and responsibility levels, then they become frustrated or discouraged (if over–promoted), just like anyone else.

The policies and practice need to be ‘SMART TRADE’: Simple, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic Time–bound, Transparent Responsibility, Accountability, Dignity, Execute. It needs to be clear how much diversity, how soon, who is responsible and what the accountability be for ensuring dignity and execution. Execution with dignity are very important to move beyond words and tokenism. Without dignity, attrition rates would defeat all success of recruitment.

Role models
Role models are an imperative for the success of inclusion. Once a barrier is broken, then more people can follow suit. Many people thought—and scientific evidence ‘proved’—the human body could not run a sub–four minute mile. Once it was done, it has become a regular feature.

Role models are needed both ways. Within the organisation, it could be the CEO so that the majority has a good role model on how to be inclusive. CEO needs to lead from the front and take active interest—a CEO’s policy and an organisational policy, and a part of ‘life’

For the excluded communities role models are needed so that they know that they too can excel. These role models work best as peers—meaning when the role models are from the excluded communities themselves—but any kind of commonality when sensitively forefronted would work. For instance, a woman role model could work with all women, provided the ‘woman’ identity is stressed.

Enabling culture and infrastructure
Diversity is a statistic, inclusion is a mindset. There must be zero tolerance for bigotry. There are many ways in which bias plays out. Some of them come from genuine beliefs, some even from genuine concern (for instance ‘those who get in through reservations have lowered self–esteem). However, the organisation must foster a genuinely welcoming culture and an enabling ethos so that the excluded can have the confidence that they are really welcome. Only then can they deliver on their promise and potential.

This mental infrastructure needs to be complemented with physical infrastructure and assistive technologies such as ramps, separate spaces and common spaces, crèches etc.

Many organisations have good policies and good intentions. That is insufficient. There must be time–bound action on measurable ‘SMART TRADE’ targets. If not heads must roll.

While an internal staff structure that replicates the larger external demographics is ideal, organisations should ensure that it has at least 50% of the diversity in the larger society if it is to be even remotely competitive in the evolving world. For instance, since women are about half the population, organisations with less than 25% women (50% of 50%) would be disadvantaged. In an interesting case, where all the product managers, engineers, sales and marketing staff and the advertising company were selling appliances made for women by men and sold by men, an interesting ‘insight’ was ‘the consumer is not a moron—she is your wife’, hardly rocket–science, but necessary since there were no women in the team. Similarly those with less than 5% people with disabilities, or less than 10% religious minorities…. In redressing the balance for extreme cases of exclusion, such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, they might need to be encouraged in proportion to their presence in the population rather than 50%.

Make it clear to everyone that there is no going back. Diversity, inclusion and justice are part of the ‘new normal’. The acceptable standards of behaviour needs to be clear, especially what is taboo. Treating everyone with dignity at all times is important. Zero tolerance for racist, ethnic, caste or gender comments should be particularly enforced. Most often the most painful behaviour is condoned because ‘it was only a joke’ and ‘everybody does it’. Be prepared for obstructive behaviour from unexpected quarters. Deal with it compassionately but firmly.

Disaggregated data
Disaggregated data is essential for tracking the diversity profile, and hence inclusion, of any organisation. In many of the credit cooperatives run by NGOs, they claim to have 100% women, with the implicit assumption (and sometime vocal assertion) that they cover the most vulnerable. Disaggregated data will show that most of the women are in the 20—45 age group, seldom from the socially excluded sections or single women (deserted or widowed).
Disaggregated data helps reveal our blind–spots so that we can take remedial action. It goes back to a favourite saying of managers: ‘what is measured gets managed’.

Critical mass of the excluded
The number of the excluded needs to be sufficiently high to prevent isolation and tokenism. Just one or two would be intimidated and drowned out, or even at times become targets of office bullying and victimisation. Inclusion needs to be beyond tokenism if it is to succeed. Having ‘trophy’ or ‘symbolic’ representatives increases anger and frustration, let alone foster loyalty or gratitude.

This critical mass needs to be encouraged them to develop their own support networks, which may or may not have people from the majority.

Audit performance
Start with your objectives. Get the data. Analyse to make sense of it. Ensure that there is visible monitoring that neutralises the subtle biases (maternity leave, flexi–time etc). Conduct periodic Social Equity Audits at all levels of the organisation and for different stakeholders.

Reverse mentor
‘There are no paths, paths are made by walking’. This African saying holds true for inclusion, which would be a new terrain for the managers. It is certainly not taught in business school. Teach the managers how to address exclusion concerns—and who better to do so than the excluded themselves.

Encourage and empower
The excluded need an equal opportunity. They can carry the same responsibilities as anyone else, and when they are given the chance, they can deliver. For that they need to be given progressively more responsibilities, not mollycoddled, and with practice and experience, they will deliver. As the level of confidence rises, delegate more responsibility. Treat them as high-fliers, and they will be.

Missteps are bound to be many in this journey, most of them at the initial stages, but it could strike at any time. Even ‘mature organisations’ with decades of experience in inclusive practice could trip. But an atmosphere of encouragement would make everyone feel wanted and valued. This empowering feeling would help avoid the minefield of recriminations.

Do not patronise them. Always remember, inclusion is not charity.

A good article on inclusion by Hema Ravichandar, is available online at–place–to–belong.html?h=B
It came out when we were working on this, and enriched this note. For instance, the term 'reverse mentor' is from there. Do check it out.

winsight 13 A one minute guide to the Multidimensional Poverty Index

Multidimensional Poverty Index: Basic Overview

A one minute guide to the Multidimensional Poverty Index

(Compiled and adapted from[1]


The MPI is an index of acute multidimensional poverty. It reflects deprivations in very rudimentary services and core human functioning for people across 104 countries. Although deeply constrained by data limitations, MPI reveals a different pattern of poverty than income poverty, as it illuminates a different set of deprivations. The MPI has three dimensions: health, education, and standard of living. These are measured using ten indicators. Poor households are identified and an aggregate measure constructed using the methodology proposed by Alkire and Foster. Each dimension and each indicator within a dimension is equally weighted.

The indicators

1        Education (each indicator is weighted equally at 1/6 )

1.1   Years of Schooling: deprived if no household member has completed five years of schooling

1.2   Child Enrolment: deprived if any school-aged child is not attending school in years 1 to 8

2        Health (each indicator is weighted equally at 1/6)

2.1   Child Mortality: deprived if any child has died in the family

2.2   Nutrition: deprived if any adult or child for whom there is nutritional information is malnourished

3        Standard of Living (each indicator is weighted equally at 1/18)

3.1   Electricity: deprived if the household has no electricity

3.2   Drinking water: deprived if the household does not have access to clean drinking water or clean water is more than 30 minutes walk from home (MDG Definition)

3.3   Sanitation: deprived if they do not have an improved toilet or if their toilet is shared (MDG Definition)

3.4   Flooring: deprived if the household has dirt, sand or dung floor

3.5   Cooking Fuel: deprived if they cook with wood, charcoal or dung

3.6   Assets: deprived if the household does not own more than one of: radio, TV, telephone, bike, or motorbike

Who is multi-dimensionally poor

A household is identified as multi-dimensionally poor if, and only if, it is deprived in some combination of indicators whose weighted sum exceeds 30% of deprivations.  To know if a household is multi-dimensionally poor, for each of the above indicators, add 1/6 for health and education or 1/18 for standard of living for a household. If the total is 3/10 (0.3) or more, then that household is classified as multi-dimensionally poor.

Half of the world’s poor as measured by the MPI live in South Asia (51%, 844 million) and one quarter in Africa (28%, 458 million). Niger has the greatest intensity and incidence of poverty in any country, with 93 per cent of the population classified as poor in MPI terms.

The advantage

The MPI reflects both the incidence of poverty – the proportion of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor (H, households) – and the average intensity (A) of their deprivation – the average proportion of indicators in which they are deprived. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty by the average intensity across the poor (HxA).

The MPI reveals the combination of deprivations suffered by a household at the same time in addition to the intensity. It reveals where exactly the deprivations cluster, making focussed intervention possible. For instance, in a community, they may be quite literate, yet their standard of living might be poor (or vice versa). It enables policy and programmes to be focused. The MPI also reveals great variations within countries.

MPI and India

Despite strong economic growth, MPI analysis reveals the persistence of acute poverty in India. There are more MPI poor in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million).

The following table shows the multidimensional poverty rate (MPI) and its two components for India. It reveals that 81% are multi-dimensionally poor in Bihar. Poverty in Bihar and Jharkand is most intense—poor people are deprived in 60% of the MPI’s weighted indicators. The largest number of poor people (134.7 million, 21%) of India’s poor live in Uttar Pradesh. West Bengal has the third largest number of poor.  Multidimensional poverty is lowest for Kerala. The top five states have only 4.5% of the poor. The five poorest states have more than 50% of the poor.

Multidimensional Poverty across Indian States[2]

MPI Rank


Population (million) 2007


Proportion of poor

Average intensity

Contribution to overall poverty

Number of MPI poor (million)


























Himachal Pradesh








Tamil Nadu








































Jammu and Kashmir








Andhra Pradesh
















Eastern Indian States








West Bengal
























Uttar Pradesh
















Madhya Pradesh
































Within this, there are variations. Multidimensional poverty is highest (81.4%) among Scheduled Tribes, followed by Scheduled Castes (65.8%), Other Backward Classes (58.3%) and others (33.3%). 

Breakdown of Multidimensional Poverty across Hindu Castes and Tribes



Percentage of MPI Poor

Average Intensity

Scheduled Caste




Scheduled Tribe




Other Backward Class








The MPI figures (55%) are in contrast to the the World Bank(42%),[3] N C Saxena(50%) Arjun Sengupta(41%),[4] Tendulkar(37%)[5] and the Planning Commission (27.5%) estimates.

—oO(end of document)Oo—

[1] For more: General: ; Data: MPI Data is available at Alkire, Sabina and Maria Emma Santos. 2010. Multidimensional Poverty Index: 2010 Data. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Available at: India:

[2]   The calculation includes Delhi but this table shows only Indian states. The estimation of state-wise poor is based on the actual population in 2007. The proportion of MPI poor is estimated using the DHS dataset 2005-6, so the total number of poor people in the last column may not sum up exactly. ‘Eastern Indian states’ include Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura.

[3]   The bank’s poverty line is $1.25. At India’s PPP it translates to Rs21.6 a day in urban areas and Rs14.3 a day in rural areas.

[4] 41% below Rs 14.6 per day. Extremely Poor (6.4%, Rs 8.9), Poor (15.4%, Rs 11.6) Marginally Poor (19.0%, Rs 14.6). Vulnerable (36%, Rs 20) Total 77%, 836 million people, below Rs 20 per day. Report On Conditions Of Work And Promotion Of Livelihoods In The Unorganised Sector: National Commission For Enterprises In The Unorganised Sector, National Commission For Enterprises In The Unorganised Sector, Government Of India.

[5]   Overall 37.2%, with 41.8% rural (below Rs 13.8 per day, Rs 446.68 per month) and 25.7% urban (Rs 578.80 per month). Expert Group on Methodology for Estimation of Poverty, Chair Prof. Suresh D. Tendulkar;

winsight 14 The India Report: State of the nation 2012

The India Report: State of the nation 2012

India is the world’s second fastest growing economy, and the 10th largest (World Bank 2011). Of sub-continental dimensions, India can be described in many ways, all of them reflecting a part of reality—so much so that DfID (Department of International Development, Government of UK) has termed it three Indias: developed, developing and under-developed India. The India that exports food is also home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world. The India of IT coexists with the India which practices manual scavenging. Space-faring India is home to 626 million who practice open defecation, more than the rest of the world combined (474 million). The lower middle income country India is also one with the largest number of poor and illiterates, but producing 700,000 engineering graduates and 35,000 doctors per annum. India has 287 million illiterate adults, the most in any country in the world, equivalent to almost four times the population of France (UN, 2012). India is the world’s largest importer of arms, accounting for 10% of global arms imports between 2007 to 2011 (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, 2012).

India is the world’s second most populous nation with 1.21 billion citizens, 48 of whom are billionaires and 400 million who live in absolute poverty (World Bank 2011)—more than the combined population of 50 countries in Africa, almost 80% of the entire population of the EU (503 million). Only the richest 10% of Indians have an average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of Rs 3,459.77 (rural, $63) and Rs 7651.68 (urban, $140)—meaning the ‘richest 10%’ in rural areas live on $2 per day, and the ‘richest 10%’ in urban areas live on $3 per day. The per capita annual income is just $3,500 (PPP rates, OECD 2011). The high ‘rate’ of economic growth hides the low base of calculation. India will take 40 years at 6% compounded growth to reach the present per capita income of the UK ($35,000). If the long term average (LTA) growth is factored in, India (LTA=3.69) will take 65 years to catch up with the present UK per capita income and 170 years to catch up if UK’s LTA growth, (2.29%) is factored in.

Despite strong economic growth, the incidence and extent of poverty in India is severe and extensive. The UNDP’s multidimensional poverty index (MPI, 2010) reveals the persistence of acute poverty in India. There are more MPI poor in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). The intensity of the poverty in parts of India is equal to, or worse than, that in war torn Africa (MPI, UNDP).

At the peak of India’s economic growth (2004-05 to 2009-10) fewer than 2 million jobs were created, though 55 million joined the work force. Even in areas of Indian ‘dominance’ such as information technology, India has a broadband (≥ 256 Kbps download) subscriber base of 14.5 million—meaning just about 12% of the Indian population is covered at extremely slow speeds —an indicator of the deep digital divide that accentuates the India development paradox in virtually every development indicator. Broadband speeds of over 4Mbps are available for just 8% in India, compared to 90% in the UK, and is ranked 112 among countries in internet speed in 2012. The digital divide is stark in telephones too (overall coverage (79.58%), with urban coverage (169.03%) far outstripping the rural (40.66%).

India fares poorly on governance and development indicators. India ranks 129 of 183 countries (2011) in per capita GDP (PPP terms). India ranks 112 out of 141 countries in the Child Development Index (CDI, 2011), lower than Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the lowest among the BRICS nations. India ranks 129 of 187 countries in the Gender Inequality Index 2011 (0.617) the lowest ranked country in South Asia, and BRICS—the world’s fastest growing economies, comprising Brazil (0.449), Russia (0.338), India, China (0.209) and South Africa (0.49). Bangladesh (0.55), Bhutan (0.495), Pakistan (0.573), Nepal (0.558), and Sri Lanka (0.419) all have a lower GII than India (0.617). In comparison, UK’s GII is 0.209. India is ranked 94 of 176 countries with a score of 36 on 100 (2012) in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, below Sri Lanka (ranked 79 with 40 marks) and China (80, 39) and, but above Nepal and Pakistan (rank 139, 27 marks) and Bangladesh (144 with 26 marks). India was ranked 8 of 150 countries in illicit (black) money outflow, losing US$ 1.6billion in 2010 alone and US$123 billion from 2001-2010.

Almost any composite index of indicators of governance, equity, health, education, and nutrition would place India very close to the bottom in a ranking of all countries outside Africa. India is ranked 134 of 187 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index 2011, above Bhutan (141), Pakistan (145), Bangladesh (146) and Nepal (157) but below Sri Lanka (97), China (101), and even Iraq (132) or Palestine (114) and the lowest amongst the BRICS. India is ranked 66 of 105 countries in the 2012 Global Food Security Index lower than China (39) and Sri Lanka (62), but better than Pakistan (75) and Bangladesh (81). Only five countries outside Africa Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen) have a lower youth female literacy rate than India. Only four countries (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Myanmar, and Pakistan) do worse than India in infant mortality rate (48 deaths/1,000 live births, UNICEF 2010); only three (Bolivia, Cambodia and Haiti) have lower levels of access to improved sanitation than India (31%); and none (anywhere—not even in Africa) have a higher proportion of underweight children (46%).

Despite improved incomes and increased production (from 50.8 million tons of food grain in 1951 to 241.6 million tons in 2011), per capita availability and per capita intake of most food items (except milk) declined during the last decade. Per capita food grain availability rose from 468.7 grams per day (GPD) in 1961 to 510.1 GPD in 1991 and then fell to 438.6 GPD in 2011. Availability of pulses has more than halved—from 69.0 GPD in 1961 to 31.6 GPD in 2011. With India expected to be the most populous country in the world by 2025, feeding the population is likely to be one of the more serious challenges that the country will face in the coming decades.

Calorific intake figures from the National Sample Survey Organisation NSSO consumption surveys point to a continuing decline, except in the case of milk. The decline is simultaneously seen in food such as eggs, meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The decline in calorie intake during 2005-10 is the highest in any five-year period. The India Human Development Report 2011, prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower research, a Planning Commission body, admits that ‘by WHO standards, India is in a state of famine’. The poor nutritional standards make Indians susceptible to various infections. HIV has been brought under control and stabilised to a degree with new infections down by more than 50%—from 270,000 in 2000 to 120,668 in 2009 (NACO Fact Sheet-2011)—though the risk of opportunistic infections (especially TB) remains high.

(Download the attached pdf for the full report)

winsight 15 India foresight 2013

India has the largest youth population in the world 800 million below the age of 35—fully 66% of its population—and about half its population below 25. India is fast urbanising and is close to an urban majority if the 3,894 census townsi are included. This translates into an easily organised demographic dividend that is betrayed by low skill levels due to systemic failure. This results in demographic dynamiteii that, together with the growing middle class aspirations—makes for a potent mix, ready for revolution. The first wave was captured by the Hindutva forces in 1992 to demolish the Babri Mosque. However, as the middle class matured and mass media came to their aid, the increasingly confident middle class began to slowly hold the state accountable, rather than become part of the lunatic fringe led by self-deluded demagogues. Exposed to 24x7 news and entertainment channels, they have come to expect world class service even from the state. Starting in trickles such as the Nitish Katara case and the Jessica Lal case in the 1990s, an increasingly combative middle class came out in large numbers in the anti-corruption movement of Hazare, Ramdev and Kejriwal in 2012 with the media actively fanning the flames.

Increasing aspirations, desire fanning, and closing opportunities (just one million jobs in 2013 against the required 12 million, and virtually jobless economic growth from 2004-05 to 2009-10) amongst growing income inequality and fed on a diet of caste superiority and entitlement has led to a veritable army of angst ridden middle class youth. This angst was quickly channelized by the techno-savvy but few understood the depth of disenchantment and the deep-rooted multifaceted systemic failure that has not spared a single institution—from patronage driven civil administration, dysfunctional police, regressive judiciary, dynastic, identity based politics to crony capitalists, not sparing even the army and the judiciary—that is at the root of this tremendous upsurge, only vague contours of which are still visible.

The late December 2012 protests in New Delhi are an indication of the times to come, and are eerily similar to Nepal before the revolution there. Though there were thousands of rapes of women (especially Dalit and Adivasi women) it took the rape of a middle class student in the national capital for the anger to again find focus against the state. The protest was without a leader and the oligarchy was clueless as to a response, let alone a coherent one. Offering ‘fast-track courts’ showed how out of touch the kleptocracy is—when the aspiration is for a system that works all the time as a matter of course, not ‘special’ instruments that would work as an exception. It is a tragic commentary on who makes a difference India and the ‘plus’ syndrome—the monopoly of India’s anger and grief is reserved for people like us within Delhi. Lumpenisation of polity and impunity continues to gather pace in federal India.

The combination of youth (idealism, sense of justice, quick solutions), growing middle class aspirations, and a feudal political and administrative system that works on patronage rather than rule of law makes for an India that is on the cusp of a revolution. This leaderless middle class youth frustration is there for the taking for any task—positive or negative—that can be framed in a simple, idealistic, achievable narrative within a short timeframe. Historically the demographic has led to the youth choosing a leader who would lead them into war. Since external war is no longer possible, it remains to be seen if India will see a civil war or a war on corruption... or nation building (including institutions of state such as a rule of law based society) on a war footing. Channelizing the middle class youth energy and idealism is a national imperative.
The gathering storm has been under the radar. An analogy from disasters is worth recalling: a disaster takes a long time to come, for they need many small but crucial elements to be just right. But when they come they hit harder and faster than we expect. Interesting times lie ahead in 2013 that will see a fundamental shift in Indian polity and normative values in the short-term itself as we move towards a critical mass of organised, enlightened, active citizens to become an inexorable, grinding march towards ‘that heaven of freedom’.

For our previous writing on the demographics of change see (India: A Revolution from below, 2006)

winsight 16 Virtual implementing organisations: A new kid in town

Winsight 16 Virtual implementing organisations: A new kid in town

1 Virtual organisations
Virtual organisations have a long history in India and the world. One of the most famous is the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that shook the conscience of the world. The national policy and law regarding Resettlement and Rehabilitation is directly the result of their advocacy with the World Bank and the Supreme Court, a direct outcome of perception management and sophisticated media engagement. Yet the NBA is not registered under any law—whether as a company, trade union, cooperative, society or trust.

That does not mean they are illegal or illegitimate—far from it. Though it is better known as a ‘campaign’, it runs schools, publishes magazines and does virtually everything that a civil society organisation does, including internet and social media presence. It even raises money and accepts donations—but is not a ‘welfare’ or ‘service’ entity. It is not registered, but is quite effective. It uses the formal banking system, but apart from that NBA is completely outside the formal system in terms of a registered office, CEO/chief functionary or staff.

There are others less well known but equally effective. However, most of them, including the NBA initiated National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) remain(ed) amorphous or campaign specific networks at best. The campaigns for Right to Food, (RTF), Education (RTE), health, local governance and Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) are heavily peppered with CSOs of all hues. They effectively engage with the state, at times even help draft policies and are on formal state consultative bodies. But all of them are unregistered. Sometimes they do not even have an office. NBA – Delhi Forum is one such example. Delhi Forum (itself a programme of Programme for Social Action, PSA) provided support to the NBA in New Delhi for coordination, advocacy, media and perception management. Both are not legal entities, meaning they are not registered.

Virtual organisations are distinct from seasonal or event based organisations such as the charity aid marathons. It goes considerably beyond the charity aid marathons. They are episodic and function with a skeleton staff between events. The army of volunteers come in closer to the event, while others come in for specific tasks. The field marshal is literally on call and the CEO is for a couple of months only.

For sheer audacity of vision, inclusiveness of participation, breadth of the framework and dynamism of organisation, none can match the World Social Forum, the world’s premier virtual organisation. That is has permanent presence in the mind is testimony to its almost institutional nature. The WSF and similar platform organisations are tailor mode for virtual organisations.

2 Accountability: The legal gymnastics
If the litmus test of organisational accountability is the ability to sue and be sued on behalf of the organisation, then the ‘convenor’ and ‘core group’ fail the test, for they can neither sue nor be sued on behalf of the host organisation. In many cases, the ‘host organisation’ is little more than a funding conduit, but under the law is fully liable for all acts of commission and omission. The ‘convenor’ of the virtual organisation, not to mention the ‘core group members’, are seldom in any way connected to it, let alone legally accountable for any of its acts.

The more formal, CSO led campaigns do an office, but often these offices have only skeleton staff, since these are ‘campaign’ offices, and dance to a different beat. The ‘secretariat’ functions out of the office of a ‘host organisation’ as a ‘desk’ or a ‘programme unit’. They are not ‘legal entities’. Though they do function on public money, the ‘legal entity’ that ‘hosts’ the secretariat is different. Though the paid staff would be ‘appointed’ by, and be administratively accountable, to the legal entity that hosts the secretariat (and through whom their salaries are paid), in virtually all other matters they are accountable to, and function under the mandate of, the respective ‘core group’. Though not legally accountable, the programmatic and functional accountability to the core group often matches or exceeds the legal standards.
This distinction between the financial and administrative accountability on the one hand, and the programmatic and functional accountability on the other is a critical one for all virtual organisations.

3 The need for virtual organisations
These multiple levels of legal ring fencing and buffering become important as the state seeks to criminalise all democratic dissent. Just as corporations and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) limit liability in the corporate sector, these virtual organisations limit liability in the social sector. The legal entity is required only for a bank account. The ham handed state response to the people’s movement against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant shows that the state is aware of the contours of the multiple layers within campaigns, but not the details. (In the Kudankulam case it erred, and badly at that).

4 From VOs to VIOs
Campaign organisations need to be VOs for ring fencing and shielding. The new phenomenon is these virtual organisations, sometimes transcending national boundaries, implementing multi-million dollar projects. They become a new sub-set, if not a new category altogether: the virtual implementing organisation (VIO). The necessity and rationale for VIOs is different from the rationale campaign organisations.

In the case of WNTA mentioned earlier, it hosts within it the Social Watch Coalition and the Peoples Budget Initiative—both of which, in turn, are virtual organisations. However, both are implementing organisations in that they have a specific programme deliverable (annual Social Watch and Budget Analysis reports), activities (training) state chapters, and national secretariats with staff. Legally both Social Watch and People’s Budget Initiative are ‘projects’ of registered non-profit organisations.

Similar is the case of the Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) in Karnataka and Tamilnadu. They are unregistered bodies, with significant presence at the grassroots and in corridors of power. They implement projects from housing to micro-credit worth several million Rupees. Yet they do not have a single employee or a budget or even a bank account.

5 When and where they are needed
VIOs are required when setting up permanent institutional structures, going the legal route of registration and non profit compliances and permissions is cumbersome, and would probably result in the window of opportunity closing. It would typically be when the implementation (or ‘joint programme’) is only for a project (when assured funding is for a short time only and the programme is dependent on short funding cycles).

The key decision points thus would be whether the project/initiative

  • It is a for short duration (three years or less in most cases).
  • Is large enough to require a separate programme structure.
  • Has multiple implementers, each of whom needs to ‘own’ it.
  • Assured funding is for a short duration.
  • Permanent presence is not foreseen, or temporary presence is known.
  • For testing the scaling up across geography, competency or levels.

This is not to say that these organisations have only a temporary relationship. The collaboration of these organisations may be for a long duration on issues or agendas (especially for advocacy, which is the reason they got to know each other in the first place) but the working together would be dependent on short duration funding.

6 Common characteristics
VIOs are not monolithic, though there are some broad commonalities. They have significant differences between them. However, there are some commonalities and best practice that can be drawn out.

Some characteristics common to all VIOs are

  • Not registered (under any law – company, trust, society, cooperative society, trade union, political party....)
  • Does not, cannot, have a ‘board’, but would have the equivalent in ‘steering committees’ and ‘core groups’ that are functionally the senior management teams. The terms are carefully chosen to reflect the non-hierarchical mode of functioning and relationships.
  • Implementation of a common programme by the constituents (who may or may not be registered, or a combination of registered and unregistered constituents).
  • Individual and collective financial and programmatic accountability through legally enforceable contracts.
  • The staff are ‘programme staff’ appointed for the duration of the project, or are on deputation from one of the initiating organisations, for the duration of the project.

7 Best practice: When and where they are successful
VIOs function like high performance teams at the apex level. They give their best output when given time, talent and tolerance. They need time to mature, and need tolerance when they make mistakes and find their feet, even though—or perhaps, especially because—they are all CEOs. Over time however, they begin to function more cohesively, complementing each other.

All the principles of good networking apply, with some additional good practice.

  • Collective initiation (or bringing in all key players together as soon as possible) and therefore collective ownership (Collegiality).
  • Strong anchor organisation, often acknowledged as the leader.
  • Complementary geographical presence and/or core competence (with just a little redundancy).
  • Small, lean and temporary programme secretariat (often called ‘coordination office’) that is separate, with the required competencies.
  • Required competencies would include those to support the constituents at national and international levels. These in house competencies include big data, IEC development and advocacy. Because of the combined scale of operations, they become necessary. Due to economy of scale they become affordable.
  • Transparent monetary systems and rigorous mutual accountability procedures. The absence of this is the killer in most cases.
  • The organisations have collaborated before. The longer and deeper the better.
  • Matrix reporting and accountability structures. This ensures more, and more rigorous accountability. A matrix is more democratic ‘flat’ than even a lateral set up, in that there is downward accountability, multiple and multi-sectoral peer accountability.
  • Open space methodologies and technology work best.
  • The ‘steering committee’ (that have the CEOs of the ‘lead’ organisations) and ‘core groups’ that are functionally the senior management teams. The ‘leads’ or ‘convenors’ of these core groups form the ‘coordination committee’. The terms are carefully chosen to reflect the non-hierarchical mode of functioning and relationships.
  • Internal peer ‘support groups’ help each other through shared expertise, reciprocity and mutuality rather than ‘monitoring and control’ systems.

8 The enablers
A fortuitous concatenation of circumstances has made the phenomenon of VIOs possible. These forms of organisation, especially in implementation of large complex programmes with multiple deliverables at multiple levels (and continents!) would have been virtually impossible even a decade ago.

The key enablers of this phenomenon are:

  • ICT and the death of distance, made possible due to ICT (thank you internet, especially skype) and connectivity (low cost air travel is one, but also rail and other forms). ICT enables transparency at low cost (when there is the political will) and therefore increases trust, enables sharing of lessons learnt and therefore a shorter learning curve, faster adoption.
  • Increasing competencies at grass root levels (a development an unintended consequence of ICT that allows for being connected from anywhere so more people are willing to make the shift to the grassroots).
  • CSOs now have crossed the first generation, and have demonstrated long-term presence in the field. This makes it possible to know kindred souls and fraternal organisations from which reciprocal support and solidarity can be expected. Identifying the critical organisations to form alliances (VIOs) for essential tasks becomes easier.
  • Balancing of rights and responsibilities in activist attitudes. The pressure for results, growth and influence at individual CSO level at progressively higher levels from the state and donors. This has led to a culture of collaboration rather than confrontation between CSOs.
  • Donor support patterns have shifted to large programmes and macro impact. The budget levels have shifted upwards, making economies of scale possible for CSOs. Earlier, donor budget limits did not permit VIOs made by multiple CSOs.

9 Killing the baby: Formalising the ‘virtual’
VIOs work well for a short while, when the initial enthusiasm translates into momentum and CEO engagement. Active CEO engagement is possible only in short bursts. In long term VIOs, CEO engagement becomes ritualistic (if only because an informal hierarchy of duties has been established), and often only at bookends—at the beginning and closing of the project. Even in cases where the ‘secretariat’ is rotated among constituents, it is difficult to sustain the initial level of CEO interest.

Once a permanent requirement is established, often in 3-5 years, then a separate legal entity should be formalised. It should have its own secretariat, with the critical mass of staff to fulfil its collective mandate and provide services to the constituents. If not, the initiative will stagnate, or even worse, experience a living death.

winsight 17 Purposive networking

Purposive Networking

The ten commandments—the ten ‘C’s—of networking are: common values, core competence, critical mass, complementarities, creativity, cost, control, credit, change and complexities. Forming a critical mass is an important part of networking.

Networks that are founded on values are sustainable. Those that are formed as interest groups or for any other reason will flounder if they do not have common values. These values need to be defined and determined upfront, articulated and formalised as institutional practice and systems—commonly known as ‘good governance’ practices. Networking must be based on the core competence or commonality of the constituents. It must have a common agenda or interest.

The network should have the critical mass or sufficient strength in terms of numbers and influence to bring about the desired impact. This critical mass should have sufficient space for each and every constituent of the network to be given a specific task which will enable individual recognition together with a display of skills and talent.

Once the critical mass is attained, the network needs to have diverse skills and expertise within it so that it can be present in all forums with internal expertise. What is stressed here is that there needs to be a common perspective but different skills. The appropriate analogy would be an organisation that has people with similar values but different skills.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the skills we have? What are the skills we need? Who has those skills? Then network with them.
  • What is the diversity of our network? How many Dalit women headed organisations are members? How many are from different religions? What are the different communities present? If you make a table of this, you will see the gaps. Then do purposive networking so that the gaps are filled (for instance, search for Dalit women headed organisations and invite them to join the network).
  • What is the geographical spread of our work? Do we have people from all the districts/provinces? Make a list of the organisations and where they work. Do purposive networking to close the gaps.

A network is not only to do the same things on a bigger scale. It is to do new things. A network of excellent programme implementation grassroots groups need not remain a programme implementation network. They can collectively do things they did not do before—such as advocacy and lobbying and other such actions to engage in the creation of mindscapes.
The principles of strategic networking remain the same. The objective is not only numbers, but also to ensure diversity—geographic, social and thematic—within the network.

The format helps us to track whether the requisite diversity within the campaign exists, and if not, where the gaps are. Being databased, it helps us move beyond our blindspots and beyond our comfort zones if we wish to do so. Where the requisite diversity is absent, then it will be the responsibility of the members to consciously, proactively search, invite, and include such organisations and individuals.

For instance, if the table reveals that there are no organisations in a district, then it shall be the duty of that state coordinator to find an organisation in that district who would be willing to be part of the campaign. Once that district organisation is identified and included, then the district organisation would identify other groups.

The group must also track how many of these groups are women headed. If there is a gap (less than 30%) then we would need to identify and include women headed organisations at the state and district levels. Similarly for PWD, children’s, Dalit and Adivasi headed organisations (and intersectionality: Dalit women, Adivasi women, in each district, theme, sector...).

Next is to track the links with professional groups, such as teachers, media, health and government officials. Sharing this information will enable purposive networking in other states. For instance, if one state networks with the Indian Union of Working Journalists, then others can do so, citing that as leverage. Similarly, if a national network (say Voluntary Health Association of India, VHAI) is part of the campaign in one state, it could be invited to be part of the campaign in all states where it is present—and also join the national working group.

By such purposive networking the collective strength of all will be leveraged to become greater than the individual strength.

(This note was initially prepared for the Right to Sanitation Campaign).

winsight 18 When Shepherds are Silent, the Sheep must Speak

When Shepherds are Silent, the Sheep must Speak
Reflections on 2018, the year gone by

The Year of Our Lord 2018 was an annus horribilis for the Roman Catholic Church in India, specifically the Roman Catholic Clergy in Kerala, Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC), Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, and Cardinal Oswald Gracias. It is not that some of the men in frocks were caught with their pants down – which can be dismissed or at least explained away as individual aberration. No, it is the silence of the brotherhood of the pink frock that makes it a coverup. And coverups, as even children know, are evidence of institutional complicity, connivence and condonation rather than individual weakness. They go right to the top, tarring all in the know and all in positions of responsibility.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, Secretary General, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has the tagline from Winston Churchill in his letters: ‘Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but of reflection’. Where does one start… with the multiple sexual abuse and rape of a housewife by a group of priests violating the confidentiality of the confessional and defiling the sacraments of confession and marriage, or the repeated sexual abuse of a Roman Catholic Nun by a Roman Catholic Bishop… or the shower of petals that greeted him on his release, or the ‘brotherhood’ that ensured prison visitations by fellow bishops but none for the nun, or the sudden death of a prominent supporter-witness?

Never in living memory has the idiotai (as the faithful are derisively referred to) been so thoroughly exposed as idiots, and the laity well and truly laid. Else why did Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam–Angamaly and Head of the Syro–Malabar Church think he could get away with denying that he knew about the abuse and feign ignorance despite the fact that the nuns had come to him, he had prayed over them and later even counselled them over the phone? Did he think the the idiotai would not find out that he had been in the know, was part of the cover–up and, in the ultimate insult to intelligence of the idiotai, blatantly lying through his teeth despite recorded evidence? Did Cardinal Mar George Alencherry learn nothing from being stripped of administrative powers by the Pope for corruption in land dealings on the demand of his parishioners earlier in the year?

The brotherhood of the frocks of many colours first feigned ignorance and denied knowledge of the issue (the infamous Alencherry tapes put paid to that lie), raised ‘jurisdictional’ limitations (Cardinal Mar George Alencherry is from the Syro–Malabar Church, Bishop Franco Mulakkal is from the Latin rite, but then what about the papal nuncio and the Pope?), offered to buy out the survivors (caught on tape, and under police investigation), and filed false cases against the survivor, witnesses and their families. Despite the sister survivor knocking at every ecclesiastical door there was no response. These include personal complaints and letters to priests, bishops, and the papal nuncio (ambassador) to India. Even the Pope himself was hand-delivered a letter at the Vatican, with about 1,000 signatures of the faithful, appraising him of the facts and pleading for his intercession. All to no avail. It is only during the police investigation into the false case filed by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the sister survivor was forced to part with copies of the letters written to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the truth was exposed. Only after that did the secular police do what the Roman Catholic brotherhood, the Princes of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Earthy Representative of Christ, should have done in the first place – start an impartial investigation.

The brotherhood went into overdrive, along with their surrogates, using their usual tactics of isolation, defamation and character assassination. The evidence so far has been so overwhelming that the brotherhood of the frock have been thoroughly exposed and collectively defrocked in the minds of all right thinking people, including the faithful, who came out to the streets in support of the survivor sister. This is no mean attitudinal change. To understand the absolute mind control the Roman Catholic clergy exercise over their flock, the case of a 16 year old girl ‘confessing’ that her father made her pregnant in 2017 is illustrative. In reality, it was the result of long–term sexual abuse of the minor by a Roman Catholic priest Father Robin Vadakkumchery. She did it to ‘save the honour’ of the Roman Catholic priest and the Roman Catholic clergy (which she, mistakenly, equated with the Roman Catholic Church). In this case, the sisterhood of the frock – five nuns, Sisters Tessy Jose, Ancy Mathew, Aneesa, Lissy Maria, and Ophilia – helpfully used their medical facilities at Christuraj Hospital in Koothuparamba to cover–up the role of the priest, and sent the newborn to an orphanage run by a Christian management without the teenage mother’s knowledge. They are now serving jail time. Again, this was due to conscientious secular officials rather than fealty to Christian values of the brotherhood or sisterhood of the frock. It shows the depth of defilement and hollowing out of Roman Catholic institutions: from the church and the confessional, to the convent, hospital and orphanage, the debasement of sacred trust and sacraments, in addition to the absolute thraldom the faithful are kept in, incapable of independent thought or judgement, bereft of freewill, unable to distinguish right from wrong.

Ten years ago, in 2008, Sister Jesme was forced to quit her position as Principal of St. Mary's College in Trichur, Kerala and her Congregation of the Mother Carmelite (CMC), on exposing internally precisely this sort of corruption, sexual abuse, rape and complicity of the hierarchy but was brushed off by the same hierarchy. They even tried to brand her insane to get her admitted into a mental hospital. She details the experience in her powerful expose ‘Amen: An Autobiography of a Nun’, which the Roman Catholic Church discouraged the faithful from reading. However this time, unlike in the case of Sister Jesme, it has not worked. The sister survivor remains firmly within her congregation, despite several attempts to buy her off and, when that failed, to push her out through intimidation and petty harassment.

From the comfort of his perch two continents away, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, as part of the organising committee of the Papal conference on ‘Protection of minors and vulnerable adults’ at the Vatican from 21–24 February 2019 piously writes that ‘Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world. The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome, to learn first–hand the suffering that they have endured.’ Significantly, his letter is only addressed to his ‘Dear Brothers in Christ’. Not one of his ‘dear brothers’ has visited the sister survivor, though they streamed to visit the much maligned beloved Bishop Franco Mulakkal. So where does it leave the ‘very credibility of the church’? The dog–whistle of the brotherhood – honouring the rapist in commemorative calendars, visitations, solidarity sermons, honouring the surrogates who abused the survivors – has insured precisely their intended result.

The latest salvo has been the 1 January 2019 order from the The Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Mar Jacob Manathodath to Father Augustine Vattoly, who was a prominent face of the nuns’ protests seeking action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, to step down as the Convenor of Save Our Sisters (SOS) movement and asked not to support associations like Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency and to ‘respect those in authority and abide by its guidance and directions’.

The brotherhood has proved repeatedly that we cannot trust them with the sanctity of the confessional, the convent or the sacrament, nor trust them with our conscience, let alone to trust them to do the right thing. About 500 years to the day after the Protestant Reformation began in 1517, the Vicar of Christ realises that the time and circumstances of the Holy Roman Catholic Church are ripe for another reformation. Married clergy is not the solution when the problem is impunity. The desperate synods, conferences and consultations called by the Pontifex Maximus seem increasingly like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, a tone deaf dance of dinosaurs – out of sync with the times, out of sync with their flock, and out of sync with the values the humble carpenter’s son lived and died for.

On reflection, it is clear that when shepherds feign sleep the flock must awake. When shepherds silent keep, the sheep must speak. It is time for the laity to speak up and take back the church – for it is we who are the Church, the Bride of Christ – and not the clergy. It is time to practice what the brotherhood of the pink frock and white lace has so eloquently stated, but so abysmally failed to practice: Visit the survivors. Support them. Speak up now. Or be idiotai forevermore.

winsight 19 Philanthropy: Karuna in Corona times

Philanthropy: Karuna in Corona times

Karuna - love in action - is at the core of all enlightened human endeavour. Stressful times bring out the best and worst of us. In this pandemic, there are few who are not moved by the ocean of humanity trying to get back to their homes hundreds of kilometres from the cities, oftentimes on foot. Many in the middle and affluent classes are providing shelter to the less fortunate. Many want to do more, and volunteer in relief operations and donate small and large amounts of money. The instinctive outpouring of solidarity makes for a powerful urge to act - do anything - in the fond hope that it will ameliorate the suffering of the less fortunate.

Few pause to think how their contributions can best reach the most needy, or what the most appropriate response would be at a given time. In practicing karuna, there needs to be an understanding of who the most needy are, and the stages of humanitarian relief. The requirements of each are different, and inappropriate responses will lead to a greater disaster. It is better not to act at all, rather than act inappropriately. The typical stages are rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.

In any disaster, those who can reach the relief camps, or disbursal centres, are not the most needy. The most needy cannot for various reasons. They could be those with disabilities living alone, with no means of contacting the outside world. They could be those living with HIV, stigmatised by society, and fearful of reaching out. They could be newly orphaned children, who do not know how to reach out or are too scared to, hiding in place. The relief effort needs to actively look for and reach out to these most vulnerable, and the always left out sections of our society. Societies with strong networks in normal times invariably do better at this, since the frequent or regular social interaction leaves fewer untouched.

The present approach has been to vacuum up all the money at the highest possible level. In the government, it has been to centralise it all with the prime minister, with no tax breaks even for donating CSR money to the chief minister’s relief funds at the state level. In civil society initiatives, most of the funding is scooped up by international NGOs and their affiliates in the country, due to their well oiled fund-raising and PR machinery. This centralisation is wasteful, since rescue and relief to the most needy has to be at the local level, and going through all the bureaucratic layers of identification and disbursal from the national to local levels is not only time consuming, not based on local needs, but also diverts a substantial portion of the contribution to overheads. Rescue and relief are micro-activities, almost as a reflex action, and therefore should not go anywhere other than the local community directly (preferably to the women). The rule of thumb is to give to a women’s group directly if you know of one, or to a civil society organization (local NGO) working there, if you know of one. Volunteering with either is the best way to contribute, before donating in cash or kind.

Regardless of the phase of recovery, contributions that need no tax benefit certificates, should always go directly to the community or organisation closest to those affected. It is only those who need tax exemptions that need to send it to larger groups. Even here, it is best to send it to medium size civil society organizations, with the requisite expertise. It is important to note that even during the 2004 tsunami that had international repercussions, it is the grassroots community organisations that provided the best and most sustained support to the community.

This interaction and engagement with the local community, and the community or civil society organisation working with them, will hopefully lead to a long-term relationship, where the skills of the upper and middle class can be used to enhance the resilience of the community, be proactive in mitigation, and accompany the community in the path of development on their own terms - which is the most sustainable of them all. The government and large NGOs struggle to ensure ‘people’s participation’ and sustainability. Working with the community or community organisations, both of these are a given, and the soul returns are infinitely more.

winsight 20: LIC, national security, and a modified reality

The government wants to sell the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), which is worth about Rs 34 trillion (USD45 billion). The stage has been set with increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance to 74%, followed by Initial Public Offer (IPO) this year. This is ostensibly to enhance transparency, enhance accountability by enabling the common citizen to have shares of LIC and decide its policies, and unlock value. The move has been met with disbelief and dismay.

Just as a person with a hammer sees every situation as a nail, every trader (the base of the governing party) sees everyone and everything as goods to be bartered or sold. The petty traders see only the short term value, and the adrenaline high of money in the bank, even if they have sold family silver at a deep discount. With the economy in tatters due to mismanagement - the Tughlaq-esque demonetisation, botched rollout of GST, and the sociopathic response to Covid-19 - this is a firesale on a large scale, knowing fully well that it is to help the crony capitalists. However, as will be elaborated below, the sale is myopic but not just because of crony capitalism, but due to a much more serious, irreversible, and permanent, degrading of national security.

There has been some resistance on the following lines - ranging from economic to the argumentative to the absurd. The economic one goes something like this: Started with just Rs 50million, it has grown to a Rs 34 trillion behemoth, serving the interests of the nation all the while. It returns substantial profits to the government and the policy holders, and is the bank of last resort as in the case of taking over bankrupt institutions. Yet others (the absurd since capital is agnostic) point to the absurdity of a Hindu nationalist government selling family silver to foreigners - with the majority shareholding gradually but irrevocably shifting to sovereign funds, most likely owned by Christians, Muslims (both ‘enemies’ of Hindutva), or the Chinese (anathema to the hyper-nationalists). In between are those who talk of its service to the nation, the lives it has changed, its record of prompt service, its role in social inclusion, killing the golden goose and so on.

To understand the full implications of the sale and its devastating consequences, we need to step back a bit. Let us rewind to why investments of controlling interest are made. An exploration of the Indigo offer for Air India, and the Tata takeover of the bankrupt Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are illuminating as to what the ‘value’ really is.

First the case of Indigo and Air India. Despite the acquisition not being a right fit, Indigo was interested to buy the bankrupt Air India. The dissonance is at so many levels. Air India has largely useless Boeing aircraft of many different configurations and models - very inefficient since it results in non-swappable people and equipment - while Indigo flies only Airbus. Air India has flabby crew while Indigo is a lean organisation. Indigo is profitable, and an airline of choice. Air India is a blackhole, and the government has to order its officials to fly the airline so that it can shovel some money its way (apart from all the other subsidies, especially the much maligned ‘Haj’ subsidy). In other words, the airline is a basket case, so why did the smart people in Indigo want it? Simply because there were other major assets that the airline has - airport slots - that in the pre-pandemic era were worth more than gold.

When Ratan Tata acquired the loss making white elephant Jaguar Land Rover, it was not for the steel or the assembly lines or the lazy British workers - all of which he already had in abundance, and at much cheaper prices already. He looked beyond the obvious to acquire the patents and intellectual property. Those were the true targets of the acquisitions. Similarly when Tata bought VSNL it was for the other assets, mainly land and the bank balance, rather than the spectrum or customer base.

Of course, LIC is a financial institution, and a valuable one at that. But it is also much more. It has the trust of millions, but that would be monetised and encashed by the goodwill premium. What is the proverbial golden goose of the LIC? The actuarial tables developed and held by the LIC over decades are a goldmine of information regarding the risks related to critical infrastructure and the entire population at least for the next 100 years.

It has the risk profile of virtually every Indian demographic, including soldiers and doctors. This is critical data. Want to know when, how, and how many soldiers died and of what cause in Galwan, Goa, or Gangtok? As the army has group insurance from the LIC, it has the records. Other countries - friendly and hostile - will give an arm and a leg to lay their hands on this sort of information. The medical data of army veterans and politically connected persons has direct implications on national security, and is one of the favourite targets of hackers. As a perspective on how valuable this data is, and how pervasive and successful these targeted hacker attacks are, it is sobering that both the best defended databases of military medical information (US and Israeli) have been breached.

Add to that the fact that these policies are linked to the Aadhaar numbers, which are linked to bank accounts, linked to the income tax permanent account numbers (PAN), linked to the mobile phone numbers, linked to Arogyasetu and Covin, which have even more information about the individual, then the breadth and depth of the personal information being sold for a song becomes evident.

Strategic foresight is intrinsic to statecraft. Looking beyond the obvious to discern true value is basic to any business transaction. Only those living in modified reality (India’s version of ‘alternative facts’) will even think of parting with this critical national security information. Hyper-nationalists do not see value other than in monetary terms - or more likely, short term income to cover their backsides for mismanaging the economy, exacerbated by their mismanagement of the pandemic. The sale of LIC will haunt us for generations, and the nation will pay a very heavy cost. We cannot always wait for a Disha Ravi or Priya Pillai to point out that Modisha has no clothes or is destroying our future and come to our rescue. It is time to wake up.