UChicago’s Anup Malani on India, Demonetization and Measuring the Effects

UChicago’s Anup Malani on India, Demonetization and Measuring the Effects

Anup Malani, the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Faculty Director of UChicago’s International Innovation Corps and the Tata Centre for Development, discusses the decision by the Indian government to end the use of current 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, including a Dec. 30, 2016 deadline to exchange the bills. He also outlines plans by the Tata Centre to study the effects of demonetization through large-scale research projects already underway in India.

Stakeholder Spotlight | The IIC–EPIC team speaks with Principal Secretary Khullar

Stakeholder Spotlight | The IIC–EPIC team speaks with Principal Secretary Khullar

Principal Secretary Khullar

Principal Secretary Khullar

The IIC–EPIC team spoke to Principal Secretary Khullar about policy-making in the Indian government. We are thankful for his time. Here are key insights from the conversation.

The IIC–EPIC team works closely with Mr. Mukesh Khullar, Principal Secretary, Department of Energy, Government of Maharashtra. In his 31-year career, Mr. Khullar has held several key positions in government, including that of the Mission Director, National Food Security Mission, New Delhi; Joint Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Government of India; and Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra covering diverse fields such as e-governance, Agriculture and Energy.

Innovative Approach to Policy Implementation

In 1999, hot on the heels of the information technology revolution in India, as the Collector of the Thane district, Mr. Khullar initiated steps for laying the foundation for e-governance. He conceptualized and established a friendly front-end single point interaction between the citizens and the government through a Citizen Facilitation Centre, also called Setu (bridge).

The Setu initiative recognized that citizens required timely and professional services, and that at the time, unauthorised intermediaries filled that need by navigating through complex government procedures and regulations for the citizens, often by bribing officials. Setu aimed to provide convenient time-bound quality services in a digitized form to citizens at a nominal facilitation fee. The facility relied on standardized procedures, employed local housewives, streamlined internal government processes for efficient time utilization, remained open on weekends and was managed by an employees’ union. The revenue generated sustained the system as well as contributed to an employees’ union fund, which officials could have access to for medical emergencies, personal loans, scholarships, et cetera.

Therefore, the initiative was able to address the problem of unauthorized intermediaries liaising between uninformed citizens and corrupt government servants.

Interestingly, Mr. Khullar reveals that the Setu project was in part inspired by the time efficient and systematic service provided by a few multinational food chains opening up in India post liberalization. The initiative came to be awarded at the state and national levels, and was rolled out across Maharashtra after its initial success. The initiative also achieved the larger goal of demystifying technology and humanizing bureaucracy.

Incremental Development vs. Leapfrog Approaches

Mr. Khullar opines that the key to successful policy implementation is creating local ownership. Self-sustaining slow, incremental changes are the most assured path to progress. He noted how individuals often look at situations and policies in the United States or Western Europe, and have aspirations of seeing similarly advanced technologies and policies quickly implemented in India. Instead, he stressed the need for gradual value changes in society in which some individuals lead by example, while noting that such shifts generally take time.

Bringing together stakeholders to design policy

Mr. Khullar described how stakeholder management was the core of day-to-day policy-making. As a policy craftsman, he is required to devise ways to achieve seemingly unattainable milestones within short time frames. This requires an IAS officer to cut across silos that divide the experts, politicians, and beneficiaries in the field.

In his tenure at the National Food Security Mission, the challenge was to increase food grain production to self-sufficiency and surplus levels using lab accredited yield methods, even though scientists did not always take into account factors responsible for poor yield on the ground. He was able to address the problems of policy design by bringing researchers out to the field and through simple and inexpensive incentives for research that provided field-tested and effective results.

The result was an unprecedented increase in food grain production, as well as a repository of useful research highlighting best practices and indigenous sustainable solutions.

Indian Civil Services & Engaging Experts

Mr. Khullar spoke extensively about the unique opportunity the civil service has afforded him to work in diverse sectors and regional demographics. As an IAS officer, he has served at the district, state, and central levels. This wide-ranging regional experience informs the inputs of IAS officers in the central government policies. Even though there are the obvious challenges of working across cultural and language barriers with no field expertise, Mr. Khullar through his own experiences serves as an example of the sustainable impact that an aware policy-maker can bring.

The IIC-Epic team on a field visit. 

The IIC-Epic team on a field visit. 

Interview conducted by Kelsey Reid and Swati Narnaulia. 

Team Spotlight | Adarsh Yojana Rajasthan

Team Spotlight | Adarsh Yojana Rajasthan

More than 12,000 elementary and secondary schools in Rajasthan have been merged to create “Adarsh” schools under the Adarsh Yojana initiative, which is a Rajashthan Department of Education program to implement large scale educational programs. These schools will be properly staffed and equipped with sufficient resources to provide quailty education.

Adarsh tackles the challenge of small and under-resourced schools while simultaneously creating model schools that will become driving agents of change. We support Rajasthan’s Department of Education in developing sound policy for the Adarsh Yojana initiative and translating that policy to practice.

A Focus on Smart Implementation

To be embedded within a mission-driven project and oversee its close implementation at the state level is an unparalleled opportunity. The very thought of this makes me feel the work is important.
— Ankit Tulsyan, IIC Fellow 2015-2016

We see in our work that effective implementation is key to the success of large-scale government programs. Accordingly, our team has focused on implementation in a number of the initiatives we are working on with the Rajasthan government, including community engagement, the State Initiative for Quality Education (SIQE), and staffing improvements.

Within the scope of community engagement, we are strengthening the role School Monitoring Committees (SMC’s) play in getting local stakeholders invested in creating effective “Adarsh” schools. We visited SMC’s across the state to better understand the opportunities and challenges in building community engagement through SMC’s.

Based on these learnings, our team is working with the Rajashthan Council of Secondary Education (RCSE), UNICEF, and other partners to develop SMC guidelines and community training modules that incorporate these key findings.

IIC Fellow Sonia Dhawan observes that community engagement is a crucial, but often overlooked component of successful education systems. “It can sometimes take last priority in the educational sphere,” she says, “but the team has come in at a particularly exciting moment for Rajasthan's community engagement efforts. With the help of UNICEF and other NGOs, the Rajasthan Council on Secondary Education is revamping its community engagement efforts, and it's a really dynamic space right now.”

In our work with SIQE, the focus is primarily on monitoring mechanisms that can help strengthen the program. We have sought to understand the impact of training principals and teachers in SIQE pedagogy by reviewing training feedback data. One of our recommendations, based on the feedback data, was a certification mechanism to incentivize principals to make reforms in their schools. By taking a close look at how the program functions, we realized that minor changes could have big implications. Many of the ‘solutions’ we’ve proposed are small tweaks that can make someone’s job easier or streamline the transmission of information.

Our team has also drafted a policy to improve and streamline the state's teacher transfer system, which was recently approved by state ministers. Using the policy as a foundation, we are developing the technical capacity within the government to ensure that this policy is properly implemented.

On-the-Ground Challenges and Opportunities

Our team has been challenged and inspired by the scope of our project. We never realized how challenging scale could be. Working with 13,000 schools spread over 33 districts, 257 blocks of Rajasthan is a big undertaking.

Throughout our work this year, we have encountered numerous learnings that informed our approach. One of our early takeaways was that it is important—if difficult—to get a full picture of on-the-ground realities in order to formulate solutions that will really work. Sonia reflects, “It's really easy to see someone not performing well and assume the worst, but most times these people have a lot of invisible factors working against them. It's hard to anticipate these factors when we're assigning work or issuing guidelines from different environments.”

Thus, our approach is to find solutions that are effective at all levels of the educational system whenever possible. We see the importance of increasing the capacity of individuals at all levels of the education system under a unified goal. It is crucial to not only give people the skills and the tools they need, but to also provide them a direction to work toward. A unified vision for Adarsh creates a highly motivated environment that encourages staff to take up challenging tasks involved in creating model schools.

We have built relationships among local stakeholders as well as high-level officials across the state in order to bring local knowledge into policy-making decisions. We’ve been able to to build trust with parents and school staff working on the ground, such that they feel comfortable giving us honest feedback. Furthermore, it is rewarding when government officials tell us they are better able to understand what is happening on the ground based on the data and findings we are presenting to them. Ankit recounts, “Some of our proudest moments come during the highest level steering committee meetings, when the principal secretary applauds [our] efforts... or personally asks one of us to share our insights during the meeting.” Ultimately, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Department of Education at such a pivotal point in educational reform.

Ankit Tulsyan, April Stewart, Kathy Quintero, Shoikat Roy, and Sonia Dhawan contributed to this article. 

Team Spotlight | Mission Garima

Team Spotlight | Mission Garima

A Report from the Ground: Update from IIC Fellows

Garima is the Hindi word for dignity. In line with this, the overarching goal of the IIC team working with the Tata Trusts’ Mission Garima program, is to implement interventions directed at improving the dignity of sanitation workers in Mumbai. The job of a sanitation worker is frequently looked down upon, with workers facing a range of deep-rooted prejudices and socioeconomic challenges. Our team works closely with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Tata Trusts to address the neglect faced by nearly 28,821 sanitation workers, and to enhance their living and working conditions.

At the very outset, our team adopted unconventional mechanisms to understand and address these problems. Recognizing the importance of a human-centered approach to improve lives, we began our field visits to workers as early as 6AM, when they started their workdays.

In doing this, we laid out the preliminary tenets of design thinking - empathize, co-create, and co-design with small groups. We did this with over 300 workers, and the insights we gained from these sessions were rich and profound. We are certain we wouldn’t have had access to such information had we used conventional survey methods. Our approach not only enabled us to connect with workers at a closer level, but also helped us identify the areas where we could innovate and facilitate change in their work-life.

Our research helped us identify waste-separation and nutritional issues as the key areas of intervention. The former includes triggering households to separate waste and thereby prevent the dangerous bulk of mixed waste that workers have to deal with. The latter focuses on making nutritious food accessible to the sanitation workers at their chowkis. In addition, our findings also helped us create designs for a ‘model Chowki,’ which we are working with our partners to build in Mumbai in the coming months.

Efficient waste management system will reduce the exposure of workers to harmful and sometimes hazardous waste.

Mission Garima visits a chowki in Nehru Nagar. 

Mission Garima visits a chowki in Nehru Nagar. 


This will reduce the instances of infections and diseases inflicted by such unhygienic conditions at their workplaces. The nutrition initiative aims to create avenues to make nutritious food accessible to workers. This has the potential to lower the instances of deficiency diseases, which a partner NGO of Mission Garima - working on curative health aspects of workers - notes as a chief concern. Consequently, both of these methods have the potential - directly and indirectly - to improve the health of workers in the long run.

Over the next quarter, we hope to leverage the resources within and outside the government system in Mumbai to scale and sustain the models we have found to be most effective. The waste separation model seeks to use small monetary and behavioural incentives to facilitate behavioral changes towards improved waste management. Such small incentives can contribute to managing waste in an efficient way in a big metropolis like Mumbai, eventually making the work of sanitation workers easier and safer.

The nutritious food plan of Aamcha Aahaar, Aamche Poshan has elements to nudge both the demand and supply side towards healthier food alternatives, thereby, alleviating the growing numbers of deficiency diseases in workers while making their workplaces more humane and employee friendly. We are currently developing a proposal for a scheme that would incorporate supply-side business models, as well as complementary nudges on demand side. This would be presented to MCGM for large scale implementation across different wards. 

Parushya contributed to this article.