The Big Picture – War on Malnutrition and Poverty: Welfare schemes helped?

October 18, 2014 at 8:44 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment
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rjtvAir date: October 16, 2014

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Health Secretary, Government of India) ; Pamela Philipose (Development Journalist) ; Reetika Khera (Associate Professor) ; Vipul Mudgal (Project Director, CSDS) and Anchor: Girish Nikam

Air date: October 16, 2014 (Rajyasabha TV)

I come in at 1:53 Minute, 6:50 Minute, 13:48 Minute, 23:15 Minute & 26.15 Minutes.

Delhi south civic body hikes parking charges

October 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment
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Newsx Published on 16 Oct 2014

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation on Wednesday hiked parking charges and introduced hourly rates, setting the stage for similar hikes in other areas of the capital. The new rates will be Rs 20 per hour for surface parking.

Guests: Smt Shailaja Chandra, Ex-Chief Secretary, Delhi Govt. ; Sh. Shri Ram Khanna, Consumer activist; Ms. Nupur Sharma, BJP; Ms. Vanadana Sebastian, Correspondent,and Anchor: Pratyush Dubey.
I come in at 3.25 Minutes, 7.30 Minutes and 18.48 minutes.

Another policeman brazenly killed: Do criminals no longer fear Delhi Police?

October 16, 2014 at 8:06 PM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment
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ibnliveCNN-IBN | Published on 14 Oct 2014

A day after a Delhi Police constable was shot dead outside a police station, two adults have been arrested and two juveniles have been held for the crime. All the four accused who have been taken under custody are burglars.

Guests: Smt Shailaja Chandra, Ex-Chief Secretary, Delhi Govt. ; Sh. T.R. Kakkar, Ex CP, Delhi Police; Dolphy D’Souza, convener of Police Reforms Watch,and Anchor: Palki.
I come in at 6.10 Minutes and 12.15 minutes.

Cleaning up sarkar

October 7, 2014 at 10:03 AM | Posted in Bureaucracy, Governance and Sarkar | Leave a comment
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logo_newIt is good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s penchant for clean surroundings has been taken seriously. But it will take a lot more for the government’s Augean stables to be cleaned. Here is why.

Not very long ago (in 2010, to be precise), I was in Delhi’s just-renovated Sarojini Nagar public library. A well-maintained lawn, gleaming windows, glistening floor tiles, cool air gliding from noise-free air conditioners were welcome additions to a building lined with books. The library was chock-full of readers, so I took the lift to the top floor, which I expected would be empty. It was, in a manner of speaking. My impression of the great transformation that I had seen in the floors below was instantly ruined. Prime space had been used to store not library books, but scores of rusted fan fittings, which had probably been dismantled in the prelude to the renovation. I was told, without any embarrassment, that these were the fans which had been installed when the building was first constructed in 1985. They were now waiting — and had been for over two years — for a three-person condemnation board to meet to certify their irretrievability. “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

Although, at face value, the rules seem fairly rational, the detailed explanation of each process is so convoluted that no officer would ever be able to understand, much less implement, them without some handholding. ( Source PTI )

Although, at face value, the rules seem fairly rational, the detailed explanation of each process is so convoluted that no officer would ever be able to understand, much less implement, them without some handholding. ( Source PTI )

The administrative officer of the library was confident that he had selected the most economical warehousing facility to store the 25-year-old fans. Far from having done anything wrong, he had simply followed the General Financial Rules, 2005 (GFRs). The GFRs are sacrosanct and officials must ensure strict compliance. Failure to do so could invite a sharp rap on the knuckles from the comptroller and auditor general. This could be accompanied by the insinuation that there was negligence, or worse, that there was financial misconduct. Given these possible consequences, who on earth would want to stick her neck out to dispose of the government’s junk?

But more importantly, who can remove this yoke from government servants? Only the originator of the rules: the ministry of finance. From the point of view of a clean-up drive, of the 250-odd rules (they originated in 1963 and have been regularly updated since then), perhaps Rules 192 to 200 need to be overhauled first. These are the rules that require the approval of a condemnation board (sometimes called a committee) prior to the disposal of government waste — equipment, furniture, raddi etc — beyond a certain value. Every government office — Central or state, autonomous, attached or subordinate — must follow the GFRs. Although, at face value, the rules seem fairly rational, the detailed explanation of each process is so convoluted that no officer would ever be able to understand, much less implement, them without some handholding.

Take, for instance, the condemnation of government vehicles, an epic saga thanks to the GFRs. Junking a vehicle unless it is at least six and a half years old (10, according to some versions of the rules) or has at least 1,50,000 km of mileage, whichever is more, is prohibited. Since this conundrum can never be resolved, old government vehicles are usually allowed to rust in peace until a death certificate can be obtained from a superior condemnation board.

The obvious solution would be to dispense with staff cars altogether — except for those used by individuals who need security — and replace them with outsourced transport services. The need to first buy new vehicles and then fit them with the driver’s choice of plastic fan, lace curtains, macho-looking chrome fenders and never-to-be-used flagpoles would cease automatically. To say nothing of maintaining a fleet of vehicles whose annual upkeep often exceeds the value of the vehicles themselves. More than the lal batti mindset, it is the culture of being driven around in a sarkari car that needs to change. This way, it will.

But back to the GFRs. Much has been said about repealing antiquated laws; rightly so. But more than changing statutes, many of which have never been used or invoked, there is a pressing need to change the GFRs. Particularly those relating to the disposal of government junk. Because of the way in which they have been written, they actually shield officers from having to take responsibility and encourage the committee culture, which contributes to delays in decision-making. A new government can call the shots for a few months — until the bureaucracy becomes complacent again. All that is needed is for it to be immediately specified that every divisional head of a ministry, department or organisation would be responsible — by name — for ensuring that the unserviceable items belonging to her division are disposed of every two months. This could be done by inviting online quotations and handing the accumulated junk over to the rubbish collector who bids the highest. It is highly unlikely that any officer of the rank of a deputy secretary or lieutenant colonel would put her neck on the line in order to make a deal with kabadis. Public watchdogs and RTI sleuths can, of course, access all the relevant documentation if they suspect hanky panky.

Making junk disposal time-bound and pinpointing responsibility would ensure cleanliness and, additionally, accountability. Before long, an impact would be felt in every government office across the country. The Union finance ministry and state finance departments need to revisit this subject. At stake is valuable space, which could get freed up, and, of course, clean surroundings.

Swacch Bharat, opportunity to do things differently

October 2, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Posted in Bureaucracy, Governance and Sarkar | 5 Comments
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deccan logoThat the Union government has accorded high priority to ‘swachhata’ deserves cheer. But lest it is forgotten, previous governments had also given similar priority to sanitation under the aegis of the “Total Sanitation Campaign” which started in 1999. Although the 15-year graph of toilets constructed by the states is impressive, it has, nonetheless, left nearly half of India defecating in the open.


The ministries of drinking water and sanitation, and urban development, the World Bank, UNICEF, prominent bilateral agencies, philanthropists and countless NGOs have been trying to get Indians to build and use toilets through all these years.

Yet, the census shows that rural sanitation is just 31 per cent and Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (in that order) are among those with the worst standard of sanitation. It is not as though the educated South is much better as Tamil Nadu and even Karnataka have far to go, having fallen behind the national average. Toilet use in urban areas in the country is better but still lags far behind the standards of poorer countries like Bangladesh.

Over the years, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has judged success of the programme by the number of latrines built and the number of villages awarded the Nirmal Gram Puraskar for becoming open defecation-free.

This, despite the known fact that money spent on spreading awareness and building toilets has often led to highly unsatisfactory utilisation outcomes, exacerbated by the lack of water and astonishingly, an individual preference for open defecation.

The Swacch Bharat programme, therefore, presents an opportunity for doing things differently — but only if the challenges are confronted imaginatively and not by short-lived attempts to wield the broom before cameras. And if the new programme is implemented without rewards and retributions for key functionaries and citizens, this too will become like many other bureaucratic ventures — banal and boring.

Starting June this year, a slew of international articles supported by research papers from public health experts hammered India for failure to contain open defecation, exacerbated by a burgeoning population prone to malnutrition, stunting and succumbing to diarrhoeal diseases.

Public health reports have been unanimous in showing how bacteria and worms get ingested through the faecal-oral route, largely the result of open defecation and unhygienic disposal of human excreta. As a result, it is the most vulnerable – mainly young children – who become incapable of absorbing calories and nutrients and are rendered victims of malnutrition, stunting and diarrhoeal diseases.

The use of toilets must therefore be monitored without using the right tools and asking the right questions: whether there was a decline in water-borne diseases after a village got access to toilets? Did deaths of children under 5 (the most at-risk segment) reduce? Did malnutrition levels come down? The health ministry’s expert institutions conduct surveys on all these subjects but as long as sanitation is considered to be another department’s responsibility, issues of turf will prevent fresh thinking and reporting.

Swacch Bharat can sweep out decade old mindsets and augur in a new way of judging success and equally failure. But that requires a shared vision to improve health indices as the first priority and not let sermons and construction statistics detract from the primary focus.

Access to sanitation

While urban areas may look better placed compared to rural areas as more than an 80 per cent provision of toilets is reported, the capital city of Delhi (one of the better cities) has considerable open defecation. Social studies show that people feel that squatting is for free and the disposal of excreta flowing into water is “clean business”.

In any case, the daily defecation into the Yamuna is considered a miniscule addition to the huge quantities of untreated sewage which have already choked the river for years. Importantly, slum households living besides the riverbed do not consider access to sanitation among their top list of household priorities (TVs and mobiles matter more).

But swatchhata is not only about latrines. It also includes towns and cities with clean surroundings, where debris, garbage and construction rubble make the citizen’s life miserable. No miscreant ever gets fined for creating a nuisance even as the municipal staff and police jointly lament that the fines are too low and the possibility of punishment too remote for citizens to be deterred.

That being so, whether it is rural India or urban, the Swachh Bharat programme needs to make structural changes in the way supervisory responsibilities are apportioned. Sanitation outcomes need to be judged by factors which are germane to the fundamental aim of sanitation which is to promote public health and improve civic conditions.

In rural areas, reducing diarrhoeal outbreaks, malnutrition and under-5 child deaths should become essential end- products of the sanitation campaign as much as the construction of toilets itself. Open defecation must be viewed by society as something intolerable, to be spurned by all.

The invocation of the Mahatma’s name and our ancient adages about swacchata may not motivate poor households as much as economic solutions like night-soil based bio-gas plants (which are functioning in villages in Pune district supplying cooking gas to households) might stimulate change.

When it comes to urban spaces, fines must be raised drastically by altering the schedule to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Act is something the urban development ministry can authorise overnight. Making the fine payable on-the-spot or by having to appear before an executive magistrate who can triple the fine or add it to the property tax bill in case of default would have visible impact.

It is time swachhata was judged by healthier, safer lives and not just by counting latrines. Two key ministries have a great chance to do things differently.

The Big Picture – Civil Service Exams: What is the way out?

August 6, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

rjtvPublished on 5 Aug 2014

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Delhi) ; J D Seelam (MP, Congress) ; Sri Ram Santhanam (Sriram IAS academy) ; Rohit Chahal (National Secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP))

No to English – Has the Centre Caved In on the UPSC row?

August 5, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

ndtv_logoPublished On: August 4, 2014 | Duration: 47 min, 54 sec

The government has given in, now English marks in the UPSC paper won’t be counted. But many protesting students, who feel the exam is against Hindi-speaking people, believe it should be scrapped completely. Should the government have given in at all? Is the English language key for the success of civil servants? We debate on the Left, Right and Centre.

Click  to view video

Click to view video

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Bureaucrat) ; Yogender Yadav (Former, UGC Mermeber) ; Sambit Patra (Leader, BJP) ; Narender Kumar (UPSC Aspirant); KC Singh (Former Secretary, MEA) and Nidhi Rajdan, Anchor .

I come in at 11.32 minutes

I come in at 8.22 minutes

नेशनल रिपोर्टर : सी-सैट पर अब क्यों नाराज हैं छात्र?

August 5, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

ndtv_logoPublished On: August 4, 2014 | Duration: 19 min, 51 sec

केंद्र सरकार ने यूपीएससी की सीसैट परीक्षा का विवाद सुलाझानें के लिए अपना रुख संसद में साफ कर दिया, लेकिन प्रदर्शनकारी छात्र अब भी नाराज़ हैं। आखिर क्यों उनकी शिकायत दूर नहीं हो पाई है। जानेंगे आज नेशनल रिपोर्टर में….

Click to view video

Click to view video

I come in at 9.22 minutes

Govt buys time, vows resolution on UPSC issue

August 2, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

headlines_todayPublished on 29 Jun 2014

So far the UPSC has refused to make any changes in the English paper in the preliminary examination of civil services.

Click for play video

Click for play video

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Cabinet Secretary, Govt of Delhi) ; Pappu Yadav (MP, RJD) ; Shaina NC(Leader, BJP); Sooraj Yadav, Delhi University, Vinod Mayla, UPSC Aspirant Anchor: Rahul Kanwar.

I come in at 5.00 minutes, and again at 15.56 minutes.

Civil Service Aptitude Test: It’s not unfair to Hindi-medium aspirants

July 31, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Posted in Bureaucracy, Governance and Sarkar | Leave a comment

HT logo

Sixty-four years after the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducted the first competitive examination for recruiting civil servants, we now witness the shameful spectacle of potential public servants making a bonfire of question papers on the street, breaking prohibitory orders before Parliament House and indulging in rioting to the point of getting arrested and jailed. There have been two main refrains.

First, the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT), introduced in 2011, is unfair to rural and Hindi-medium aspirants, besides being skewed in favour of those having an English-speaking background.

Second, the CSAT fails to evaluate the functional competence of future civil servants and should therefore be scrapped. That a relatively small section of the examinees has been dictating what should be done to restructure the examination and their ultimatums have been receiving serious attention, is perhaps unheard of in the annals of the UPSC — a highly respected constitutionally established institution.

Each year some 300,000 candidates appear for the combined competitive examination. The final success rate is 0.3% of the total applicants and is related to the number of vacancies that the government asks the commission to fill.


About 15,000 candidates are screened through a two-part qualifying examination. Thereafter, on the basis of a rigorous written examination, around 3,000 candidates are called for the interview. The merit list is declared after the marks obtained in the interview and the written examination are totalled.

Interestingly the cause of friction emanates not from the structure or content of the main examination but is purely the CSAT. The test examines the candidates’ interpersonal skills, communication, analytical and problem-solving abilities, basic numeracy, data interpretation and comprehension of the English language (at Class 10 level).

Hindi translation is provided for 90% of the questions, and the statement that the CSAT is anti-Hindi is clearly far-fetched. While the quality of translation needs improvement, junking the entire paper because of a few badly translated questions is preposterous.

What is inexplicable is why the CSAT did not create even the slightest ripple in the three previous years it has been a part of the examination. Was the reckless February 2014 decision to give two more chances to civil services aspirants (in a bid to placate yet another vote-bank) responsible for opening this Pandora’s box?

Interestingly, there is no conflict with the other ‘General Studies’ preliminary paper that tests the candidates’ knowledge of current events, Indian history, the Indian national movement, the Indian polity and governance, economic and social developments including environment and general science. The reason could be that all this can be absorbed from books and coaching classes whereas the CSAT is unpredictable.

I spoke to some among those that had successfully cleared the 2011, 2012 and 2013 examinations, which included the CSAT. They were unanimous in their appreciation of the aptitude test because “it provided a level playing field at the preliminary stage”. More importantly, it introduced elements that could not be crammed from books or scooped up from coaching centres.

That brings one to the related question of rural-urban bias and English proficiency. Here the facts given on the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration’s website are illuminating. Each year on average 15-20% of the successful candidates are women and they come predominantly (up to 90%) from urban areas.

However, among male probationers, the proportion of urban to rural probationers ranges from 65% urban to 35% rural; this picture had not altered after the CSAT was introduced. If one looks at the last three years, the lowest intake of rural entrants was 31%.

The rural-background entrants follow generally a trajectory that is quite impressive. After attending a district or even block-level school successful students move to the state capital for high school and college education, boarding with relatives or in hostels.

Probationers from the Hindi medium had this to say: Despite having attended Hindi or vernacular-medium schools and being permitted to write in Hindi or a regional language, they realised the need to attain English proficiency at the earliest. This is because the civil service examination demands an understanding of national and international developments, which are not analysed in depth by Hindi and regional newspapers.

The main examination papers in subjects like geography or economics also require conversance with latest expert report findings, which too are accessible only on the Internet — again in English. Finally to hold one’s own during discussion having a nuanced understanding of English helps enormously.

The notion that all rural candidates opted for Hindi medium was erroneous; the data shows that around 85% candidates, including those from rural backgrounds, have consistently opted to write in English.

This analysis shows that while one may criticise the need for dependency on English, the fact remains that until an alternative is available more than a working knowledge of English would continue to be needed — not because of a colonial hangover or an elitist bias but simply because at the present stage of development Hindi and regional analysis simply cannot provide the broad-based understanding an aspirant to the civil services must perforce attain.

Raising the hopes of disgruntled coaching-class inspired aspirants has dangerous implications for the quality of future civil servants. One hopes appeasement does not again take place, diluting the rigour of one of the world’s most admired examination systems.Raising the hopes of disgruntled coaching-class inspired aspirants has dangerous implications for the quality of future civil servants. One hopes appeasement does not again take place, diluting the rigour of one of the world’s most admired examination systems.

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