Govt policies & interventions for development in various sectors, and issues arising out of their design and implementation

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Mains: GS II-

  • Govt policies & interventions for development in various sectors, and issues arising out of their design and implementation
PUBLIC POLICY
  • What is Public Policy?
    • There are many problems in our communities that need to be solved. Some problems may readily be dealt with by actions taken in the private sphere (individuals and families) or by our civil society (social, economic, or political associations or organizations). Public policy problems are those that must be addressed by laws and regulations adopted by the government.
    • A Public policy is a goal-oriented course of action adopted and implemented by the government bodies and officials in pursuit of certain objectives or goals of public interest.
  • Attributes of a Public policy:  Public policy has a number of key attributes:
    • It is made in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention.
    • It is what the government chooses to do or not to do about a particular issue or problem.
    • It might take the form of law, or regulation, or the set of all the laws and regulations that govern a particular issue or problem.
    • It is made on behalf of the “public.”
    • It is oriented toward a goal or desired state, such as the solution of a problem.
    • It is ultimately made by governments, even if the ideas come from outside government or through the interaction of government and the public.
    • Policymaking is part of an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end, since decisions about who will benefit from policies and who will bear any burden resulting from the policy are continually reassessed, revisited, and revised.
  • Characteristics of public policymaking:  Some of the major characteristics of public policymaking are:
    • Very Complex Process: It involves many components that are interconnected by communication and feedback loops and which interact in different ways. Some parts of the process are explicit and directly observable, but many others proceed through hidden channels that the officials themselves are often only partly aware of. These hidden procedures are very difficult and often impossible to observe. Thus, guidelines are often formed by a series of single decisions that result in a 'policy' without any one of the decision-makers being aware of that process.
    • A Dynamic Process: It is a continuing activity taking place within a structure. For sustenance, it requires a continuing input of resources and motivation. It changes with time. The sequences of its sub-processes and phases vary internally and with respect to each other.
    • Policymaking Comprises Various Components: It often involves a great variety of substructures. The identity of these substructures and the degree of their involvement in policy-making, vary because of different issues, circumstances, and societal values.
    • Policy Structure makes Different Contributions:  Every substructure makes a different, and sometimes unique. contribution to public policy. What sort of contribution substructures make, depends in part on their formal and informal characteristics which vary from society to society.
    • Decision-Making: It lets us use decision-making models for dealing with policymaking
    • Lays down Major Guidelines: In most cases, the policy lays down general directives, rather than detailed instructions. After main lines of action have been decided on, detailed sub-policies that translate the general theory into more concrete terms are usually needed to execute it.
    • Results in Action: Policymaking is action and goal-oriented.
    • Directed at the Future: Policies are framed in vague and elastic terms because the future is so uncertain. It permits policymakers to adjust their policy according to emerging facts and enables them to guard against unforeseen circumstances. 
    • Mainly Formulated by Governnrental Organs: Though many agencies are involved in providing inputs to the government, it is ultimately the government that is the legitimate authority to formulate and implement the policies.
    • Aims at Achieving what is in the Public Interest:  In a democracy like India, the policies are formulated to overcome the problems the population of the country is facing.
    • Use of Best Possible Means: The aim of policymaking is to solve the problems with the efficient use of the economic and human resources available.
    • Involvement of Various Bodies/Agencies: Individual citizens as voters, intellectuals, legislators, bureaucrats, political parties, political executives, Civil Society organizations, judiciary, etc. are the various organs that participate in public policymaking and can influence the policy process to a great extent.
  • Importance of Public Policy:
    • Today, the government affects all aspects of our lives. Everyone has a stake in the public policies enacted by federal, state, and local governments. The Scientific analysis of the public policy helps in understanding the causes and consequences of the policy, thereby facilitating solutions to social problems.
    • Although the trend of privatization made the government withdraw from many areas of development, still there are many important areas that need to be focused on for the sake of public interest, social welfare, and growth. Thus, the study of Public policy also called 'Planned view of development' is very much relevant.
  • Types of Public Policy:
    • Substantive – policies that are concerned with the general welfare and development of society
    • Regulatory – deals with the regulation of trade, business, safety measures, etc.
    • Distributive – focuses on specific sectors of society.
    • Redistributive – concerned with the rearrangement of policies aimed at making socio-economic changes
    • Capitalization– Under this type of policy, the Union government provides subsidies to different lower levels of government and other business undertakings.
Public Policy In India
  • Policy Cycle in India:

  • The stages of a policy cycle are as follows:
    • Agenda Setting: In this stage, the issues that are in need of government action are brought to the attention of the policymakers, and various aspects of these issues are assessed; the most concerning areas are prioritized.
    • Policy Formulation: This is the stage that gives structure to the policy. Goals are set, costs are determined, policy instruments are chosen, possible effects are evaluated, and stakeholders are established.
    • Adoption/Legitimation:
      • This is the stage of decision making where the best solution is chosen from amongst the different solutions that vary based on the policy instruments used. This approval of the policy may come from various sources- legislative, executive, in tandem with interest groups, or from referendums.
      • Policies require approval from various levels of the government before being adopted. India’s federal structure makes demarcations for certain legislative powers and duties, that is, the power to make laws on certain subjects is divided across Centre, the States, or both.
      • Friction or differences in understanding between the States and the Centre can also prove to be detrimental to the policymakers, where certain States refuse to follow the mandate of the Centre.
    • Implementation: This is with regard to how the policy will be put into action. This often means creating working networks where actors, resources, and knowledge are connected. This may involve clear communication with the required agents, such as executive public bodies like the Ministry of Human Resource Development, or creating say, an organization, to implement policy decisions. These agents will have to account for the usage of resources, whether monetary, human, legal or the likes. 
    • Evaluation: Government assesses the effect of the implemented policy at this stage. This is to determine how successful the policy was, in its impact, and whether the policy has been implemented correctly.
    • Policy Maintenance, Succession, or Termination: This stage determines whether the policy is to be maintained by improving or further developing it. Often, if problems are identified with the current policies, they are either modified or terminated

Agencies involved in Policy Making: Various agencies are involved in the formulation and development of a policy. In India, the agencies that play the role of public policymaking are:

  • Formal Channels of Policy Formulation:
    1. Executive: In a parliamentary system of government, the executive plays a major role in policy formulation because of the greater concentration of power in the government. The executive mainly consists of: 
      • Cabinet: 
        • The Cabinet is the supreme executive authority, being the inner body of the Council of Ministers. It is the task of the executive to decide the policies which are to be submitted to the Parliament. 
        • All policy related functions are performed by the cabinet functioning on the principle of unity. The Cabinet is the top policy formulation body in the government. Only major proposals are taken to it for its decision; other matters of less significance are dealt with by the minister concerned.
        • The Cabinet is serviced in its policy role by the Cabinet Secretariat headed by the cabinet secretary. The role of the cabinet secretary is of crucial importance in the policy formulation process.
        • The choice of policies is determined by the Cabinet and the network of Cabinet Committees and Cabinet Secretariat.
      • Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers
        • The Prime Minister (PM) is the head of the government and responsible for the entire functions of the government. The PM enjoys a special position in the realm of policy formulation. While the Prime Minister can exert exceptional influence over policy decisions through the assistance of the cabinet secretariat, it is now widely accepted that a Prime Minister has to obtain the support of his/her colleagues for his decisions. 
      • Secretariats – Departments and Ministries
        • The Secretariats of the departments and ministries assist the government in the discharge of its parliamentary responsibilities.
        • The business of the Government of India is transacted in the ministries/departments. Each of the ministries is assigned to a minister and each department to a secretary so as to assist the minister on policy matters and general administration.
        • Policies and programs of the government originate from the Central Secretariat. The administrative head of the ministries and departments are known as secretaries and the political heads are the ministers.
        • The secretary assists the minister in the formulation of public policies. The secretary to the Government of India is the highest policy official in the field of which he or she is in charge. In order to facilitate the process of policy formulation, Policy Planning Units are set up in key departments and ministries. This Unit provides the inputs for effective policy formulation among the various program elements of a department/ministry.
      • Civil Servants/Bureaucrats 
        • Usually, the policies formulated by a legislature are expressed in the form of acts and laws. In order to give more precise expression to these laws and acts, the administrative arm, that is, the civil servants or bureaucrats play an important role in policy formulation.
        • The civil servants have wide knowledge which they have derived from their educational qualifications and their direct experience of the operation of public policies.
        • This enables them to think about various factors while formulating policies viz. financial and administrative difficulties of policy proposals, repercussions likely to emerge from the policy, methods of dealing with policy problems, etc. This helps in formulating realistic plans. One of the reports of the United Nations states that the administrator's role in the policymaking process is to clarify the choices open to politicians and to anticipate their consequences'
    2. Legislature: 
      1. The Parliament is the supreme policy-making body and the legislature reigns supreme. Even the Prime Minister is dependent on the support of the legislature to remain in office.
      2. The Parliament in India makes the laws and policies and legitimizes the decisions of the government. Parliament serves as a forum for public debate on issues of public policies.
    3. Judiciary :
      • Generally speaking, the judiciary does not interfere with the policy matters of the legislature or the executive, unless the policy is either against the Constitution or some statute.
      • However, of late, the judiciary, notably the Supreme Court has been greatly influencing the contents of public policies through the exercise of the power of judicial review of legislation. The Judiciary in India plays a constructive role in shaping and influencing public policies in two ways: by its power of judicial review and by judicial decisions.
      • The judgments on various issues like social and economic issues, gender concerns, etc. have wider policy implications.

Informal Agencies involved in  Policy Formulation:

  • Individual Citizens:  In a democratic form of government, people are said to be the masters of their own destinies and public opinion plays a major role in the policy formulation process. The needs of the citizen enter the government by way of policy demands and are further shaped by the policy agenda of the political parties. Thus, in a democracy, people initiate the process of legislation and policy-making by voting for candidates whose opinions and values they know.
  • Media:  The role of media in the policy formulation process is an important factor. The media bridge the information gap between the citizen and the government. They communicate information to the citizens about the decisions the governments have taken and thereby media help shape their reactions to each other’s decisions.
  • Political Parties: They are regarded as important agents for establishing popular control over the government and public policies. They play an important role in reflecting on the issues at stake and in setting goals for society. They play a great role in mobilizing public opinion on various issues.
  • Civil Society Organizations (CSO): They strive to influence the decisions of the government without attempting to occupy political offices. CSOs range from large charity and voluntary organizations to community-based self-help groups etc. CSOs also include NGOs, research institutes, religious organizations, professional organizations, lobbying and advocacy groups, etc. Acting alone, the individual citizen is rarely a significant force. In this context, group action by way of CSOs serves as an effective method compared to individual action for citizens to influence public policies.

Policy Monitoring: 

  • In simple words monitoring' is the process of observing. It is not controlling. Policy monitoring has come to mean the process of observing the progress of policy implementation and resource utilization and anticipating deviations from policy expectations. Its implications are that management takes steps to ensure that all activities related to policy implementation are completed within the given time and budget. Monitoring can be defined as “the process of inducing action for adherence to schedule.
  • If monitoring shows that a particular policy activity is deviating from planned parameters then the management may take required measures to replan that particular activity. But if there is a significant variation from planned parameters, it is important to analyze the source of deviation before deciding upon the remedial measures.
  • Policy monitoring in brief is based on the following five assumptions:
    • Policy/program is measurable in terms of certain indicators or desired objectives.
    • Personal responsibility for the program performance exists at all levels in the organization.
    • Adequacy of time for monitoring is ensured.
    • There are proper tools for identifying deviations from program performance.
    • Provision exists for adjustments, which correct the deviations from planned expectations/outcomes. 
  • Effective monitoring of public policies aids in cost reduction, time-saving, and effective resource utilization. The key issue in monitoring is to create an information system that gives policymakers and policy implementers the information they need to make timely decisions and policies that will keep policy program performance as close as possible to the objectives of the policy. Therefore, it is important that monitoring and control processes should be given due importance and be designed properly.

Attributes of a good policy-making process:  A good policymaking would meet the following criteria:

  • The problems and issues confronting a sector are subjected to expert analysis.
  • Information on overlaps and trade-offs with other sectors is systematically gathered and made available to policy-makers.
  • Opposing points of view within and between sectors, are properly articulated, analyzed, and considered and those likely to benefited or harmed are identified and their reactions anticipated.
  • Decisions are made with due legal authority, after consultation of those likely to be affected, and with the involvement of knowledgeable persons in the sector concerned
  • Those responsible for implementation are systematically involved in the process but are not allowed to take control of it.
  • Policy-makers and /or their advisers have the honesty, independence, intellectual breadth, and depth to properly consider and integrate multiple perspectives and help arrive at optimal policy choices within a reasonable time. 

Weakness in India's Policy Making:

  • Excessive Fragmentation in Thinking and Action:  For example, the transport sector is dealt with by five departments/Ministries in the government of India whereas in the US and UK it is a part of one department.  Such fragmentation fails to recognize that actions taken in one sector have serious implications on another and may work at cross purposes with the policies of the other sector. Besides, it becomes very difficult, even for closely related sectors, to align their policies in accordance with a common overall agenda. 
  • The excessive overlap between policy-making and implementation: Policy-making in Indian ministries occurs at the levels of Director and above, but the most important level is that of the Secretaries to the Government of India, who are their Ministers’ “policy advisers-in-chief”. However, as mentioned earlier, the very same Secretaries spend a large part of their time bogged down on routine day-to-day administration of existing policy. Time is spent anticipating and answering parliamentary questions, attending meetings and functions on implementation issues, etc. Partly the problem is symptomatic of over-centralization. The result is that sub-optimal policy, where adequate attention has not been paid to citizen needs, tend to emerge. 
  • Lack of non-governmental inputs and informed debate:  The best expertise in many sectors lies outside the Government. Yet the policy processes and structures of Government have no systematic means for obtaining outside inputs, for involving those affected by policies, or for debating alternatives and their impacts on different groups.
  • Inadequate analysis of costs, benefits, trade-offs, and consequences: There are several underlying causes for this:
    • Excessive fragmentation
    • Inadequate time spent on policy-making
    • Inadequate professionalism of policy-makers and advisers
    • Inadequate consultation of in-house specialists
    • The mediocrity of in-house specialists.
  • Lack of Evidence-based Policy formulation: Policy formulation without the prior collection of statistics, only leads to wastage of valuable and scarce resources. In today's age of Big Data and Data Analysis, the collection of data is very essential during the initial design as well as the evaluation stages of policy formulation.
  • Reforming the Policy-Making and Implementation Process: Some of the measures needed to reform the Policy-making process are:
    • Reduction in fragmentation
    • Separation of policy-making from implementation and decentralizing implementation authority
    • Widening and enhancing the knowledge base used in policy-making and promoting integration and synthesis.
    • Evidence-based policy formulation.
    • Improving the competence and skills of policy-making manpower
    • Setting up an autonomous “Monitoring Trust” as an integral part of all important public policies and programs. The proposed Trust can comprise core technical, administrative, and legal members, along with stakeholders and social activists.  
    • Sharing information and progress through dashboards and other technology tools, inviting suggestions through IT portals like MyGov democratize and enrich both policy formulation and execution.
Government Policies and Interventions for development in various Sectors
  • Significance:
    • For the past several years social development has acquired a new salience in development thinking. During the 1950s – 80s development was seen mainly in terms of accumulation of material wealth and was measured in terms of GDP growth rate. Economic growth itself was regarded as the function of capital inputs.
    • The main pursuit of economic policy was to mobilize the resources required for achieving a desired rate of growth. Acceleration in the rate of growth was supposed to take care of both – economic and social problems.
    • Even post- 1980s when the development thinking went about a paradigm shift with its emphasis on human development, social development, inclusive development, and sustainable development, social sector development in India continued to suffer due to the government’s preoccupation with the introduction of economic reforms as part of the process of market-based governance approach.
    • There had been an overemphasis on correcting the fiscal imbalance at the cost of social development. In fact, the state, as a matter of deliberate policy, started scaling down its constitutional responsibility for providing “public goods” in such crucial areas such as education, health, housing, sanitation, etc.
    • This responsibility was increasingly being transferred to the private sector operators. As a result, there has been a sharp deterioration in the conditions of the poorest and the marginalized, particularly the SCs, STs, women, minorities, children, etc.
    • Nevertheless, 9th Five Year Plan onward the GoI started emphasizing on implementation of certain Basic Minimum Services (BMS) for the benefit of the common masses, such as –
      • Provision of safe drinking water;
      • Availability of primary health facilities and services;
      • Universalization of primary education;
      • Public housing assistance to shelter-less poor families;
      • Nutritional support to children;
      • Connectivity of all villages and habitations;
      • Streamlining of the PDS with a focus on poor
    • By this time even modern developmental economists like Mahboob-ul-Haq, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, and others started highlighting the failures of governance in terms of human and social development in the developing world including India. According to Prof Amartya Sen, investing in the social sector will expand the freedom for individuals and social groups.
    • By the turn of the new millennium, the global community also pushed for a new agenda for social development in the form of MDGs (Millennium Developmental Goals) which emphasized poverty alleviation, creating a disease-free world community, providing universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, reducing child mortality, etc.
    • Driven by all this the GoI took up social sector development on a priority basis 10th Plan onward. Therefore, there has been a consistent increase in social sector financial allocation – plans after plans, budgets after budgets.
    • The social sector development involves the following components:
      • Poverty alleviation and employment generation;
      • Access to education
      • Access to improved health services and public health
      • Development of critical rural infrastructure, e.g rural roads, housing, sanitation, availability of safe drinking water, electricity, etc.
      • Urban infrastructure, housing, sanitation, sewage, waste disposal, urban transport, etc.
      • Skill development for better livelihood means
      • Enhanced social security
      • Development of backward regions/districts in the country
  • Major Governmental Interventions in the Social Sector in Recent Years:
    • HEALTH
      • Ayushman Bharat program
      • National Health Mission
      • National Rural Health Mission
      • JSY (Janani Suraksha Yojana)
      • Universal Immunization Programme
      • National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme
      • PMSSY (Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana)
      • AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddhi, Homoeopathy)
    • EDUCATION
      • SHREYAS (Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills)
      • National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT)
      • RTE (Right to Education)
      • SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan)
      • MDMS (Mid-Day Meal Scheme)
      • Sakshar Bharat (National Mission on Female Literacy – an adult education program)
      • RMSY (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan)
      • Model School Scheme
      • RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan)
    • RURAL DEVELOPMENT
      • Poverty Alleviation through Rural Employment (for Livelihood Security)
        • MGNREGA – implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD)
        • NRLM/Aajeevika (formerly SJGSY) – implemented by MoRD
      • Development of Critical Infrastructure in Rural areas
        • IAY for Housing (Indira Aawas Yojana) – implemented by MoRD
        • PMGSY for Rural Roads (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) – implemented by MoRD
        • RGGVY for Rural Electrification (Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana) implemented by the Ministry of Power
        • NRDWP for Rural drinking water supply (National Rural Drinking Water Programme) – implemented by MoRD
        • TSC/NBA for Rural Sanitation (Total Sanitation Campaign) – implemented by MoRD
        • AIBP for Irrigation (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme) – implemented by Ministry of Water Resources
        • NLRMP (National Land Records Modernisation Programme)
      • Agricultural Development
        • RKVY for Agricultural development – implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture
      • Area Development
        • IWMP (Integrated Watershed Management Programme)
    • URBAN DEVELOPMENT
      • Urban Infrastructure Development
        • Smart Cities 
        • JNNURM – implemented by Ministry of Urban Development & Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation
        • ILCSS (Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme)
      • Housing & Urban poverty alleviation through employment generation
        • Housing for all
        • Affordable Housing Fund scheme
        • RAY (Rajiv Aawas Yojana)
        • SJSRY (Swarna Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana; now restructured as NULM under the 12th Plan) -implemented by Ministry of Housing & Poverty Alleviation
    • WOMEN & CHILD DEVELOPMENT
      • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
      • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
      • Poshan Abhiyaan /National Nutrition Mission
      • ICDS – – implemented by MoWCD 
      • Sabala/RGSEAG (Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls)
      • IGMSY (Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana)
      • NMEW (National Mission for Empowerment of Women)
      • RMK (Rashtriya Mahila Kosha)
      • Policies to address violence against women, e,g (PWDVA)
    • SKILL DEVELOPMENT
      • National Skill Development Mission
      • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)
      • UDAAN-  to provide skills training and enhance the employability of unemployed youth of J&K.
      • SANKALP(Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion ) and STRIVE (Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement)
    • SOCIAL SECURITY
      • PM Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana
      • Atal Pension Yojana
      • AABY (Aam Aadmi Beema Yojana)
      • RSBY (Rashtriya Swasthya Beema Yojana)
      • SSA (Social Security Agreements)
      • The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008NSAP (National Social Assistance Programme)
Case Studies: Policy formulation and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • Disbursal Of Subsidies:
    • In the initial stages of implementing and disbursing subsidies, though the intention was to help the poor and vulnerable sections of the population, there were many issues in the implementation of the schemes. Some of them are:
      • A Significant number of the genuinely poor weren't receiving the benefits of the schemes
      • A significant number of ineligible and well to do people were receiving the subsidies.
      • The Beneficiaries weren't receiving the full subsidy due to the presence of middlemen who usurped a part of the subsidy when Direct Benefit Transfer wasn't in place.
    • Upon evaluation of the implementation, the government came up with the idea of Direct Benefit Transfer of the subsidy amount directly to the beneficiary's  Bank Account identified with an Aadhaar card to weed out ineligible beneficiaries. The JAM trinity of Jandhan Accounts, Aadhaar seeding of the bank accounts, and Mobile Banking made the subsidies accessible to the deserving poor and vulnerable sections of the society.
    • From above we can see that though the intention behind the scheme of subsidy disbursal was to uplift the poor and vulnerable sections, its design and implementation were lacking which led to the leakage of subsidies. Later, continuous evaluation and monitoring of the implementation helped the government come up with the innovation of JAM trinity to stem the leakage. This helped the government reach genuine beneficiaries, save money, and use it for more welfare schemes.
  • Demonetization: 
    • The stated intention behind the demonetization was to weed out black money and eliminate terror funding which are threats to national security.
    • But the hasty implementation of the scheme resulted in innocent daily wagers losing their livelihood and lining up at the banks for exchanging the demonetized currency.
    • From this example, we can see how a poorly designed and hastily implemented scheme, though well-intended, causes more problems than benefits. 
  • GST Implementation:
    • The intention behind the implementation of GST policy was to bring one nation one market, reduce the cascading impact of taxes, bring uniformity in the taxes throughout the country, and a consequence increased economic activity leading to a significant rise in the GDP.
    • But in reality, multiple tax rates for various types of products, frequent changes in these tax rates, complexities involved in the tax filings all point towards a poorly designed and hastily implemented policy.
    • Though the flaws are being corrected with regular evaluation and monitoring, a number of such difficulties could have been avoided if prior consultation with the industry bodies, business people were done before going ahead with the implementation.



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