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DIALOGUE FOR CHANGE

India Exploring Signing of MoU for ‘Road Information System’

This would be developed on lines of the system run by the Express Highways Information Corporation of South Korea.

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NEW DELHI: Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has said that India is exploring an agreement with South Korea for the introduction of Highways Information System in the country.

This would be developed on lines of the system run by the Express Highways Information Corporation of South Korea, with integrated monitoring of a highway at a centralized control room.

Inaugurating the 29th National Road Safety Week in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan today, the Minister spelt out the ministry’s priorities in ensuring safety of road users in the country.

He informed that he has fixed a target of bringing down the number of road fatalities to half from the around 1.5 lakh accidental deaths reported when he took over.

Gadkari said though progress has been achieved in this respect, he is still not satisfied and aspires to keep working in this direction.

The Ministry organizes the Road Safety Week every year to create awareness among general public and improve upon the safety of road users.

This year, Road Safety Week is being organized from 23rd to 29th of April and the focus is on schools and commercial drivers.

Addressing the participants Gadkari requested that every student be made a road safety ambassador for his family and for the society. Various activities have been organized for school / college students, drivers and all road users.

The Minister gave away awards to fifteen school children who won the national level essay competition on road safety. The top three winners were given cash prizes of Rs 15,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 and a certificate each. Gadkari also administered the road safety pledge to all those present on the occasion.

Outlining the initiatives and steps taken to improve vehicle safety and overall road safety, the Minister said his ministry has adopted the 4E principles of Education, Enforcement, Engineering and Emergency care to address the problem of road safety.

For ensuring vehicular safety, the standards of buses have been upgraded, air bags and speed alert device have been made mandatory for all cars, and every two-wheeler will have ABS to avoid skidding. He said, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, passed by Lok Sabha is waiting to be cleared by Rajya Sabha. This bill comprehensively promotes safety on the road. It would also promote the development of an efficient, seamless and integrated multi-mode public transport system.

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has launched a scheme for setting up of Driving Training Centre to provide quality training to commercial vehicle drivers, improve road and environment safety and strengthen overall mobility on roads. 789 road accident black spots have been identified on NHs of which 139 black spots are rectified, work on 233 black spots are awarded and in progress.

Ministry had issued guidelines for taking up of Road Safety Audits on National Highways either as part of all new projects. Detailed Road Safety Audits in a length of 610 km have been sanctioned on National Highways in last two years.

Installation of crash barriers at accident prone locations on National Highways in Hilly Terrain has been sanctioned in a length of 183 Km at a cost of Rs 108.25 crore.

Shri Gadkari also released a paper on road safety by Indian Road Safety Campaign. IRSC is a youth led national mission promoting road safety, led by students and alumni of IIT Delhi. It is currently working on creating awareness on road safety, developing technologies, simplifying laws and improving the post-accident emergency care system.

IRSC organizes an annual road safety championship called as the Safer India Challenge in collaboration with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and various state polices involving the youth to come up with innovations in this area.

The Safer India Challenge’18 was launched on the occasion. In addition to this the Minister also released a short story collection on road safety theme entitled “Have a safe journey”

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DIALOGUE FOR CHANGE

Election by Community Consensus: Effects on Political Selection and Governance

Community consensus elections are prone to capture by the local elite, and can lead to worse governance overall.

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Abstract:

Multiple states in India incentivise village communities to elect their political representatives by community consensus, doing away with the need for state governments to organise official secret ballot elections. This article analyses the effects of these incentives in Gujarat for the period 2011-2015. It finds that such elections, like other community-based processes, are prone to capture by the local elite, and can lead to worse governance overall.


Community-driven development and local electoral reforms have become central tenets of policy across the developing country landscape (Mansuri and Rao 2013). Many states in India including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Punjab have tried to meld these two approaches together by incentivising the election of local politicians via community consensus. However, increasing community participation does not always lead to improved outcomes (Khwaja 2004), and qualitative evidence suggests that these processes are prone to capture by the local elite (Breman 2011, Ganguly 2013). My research (Arora 2018) shows that incentivising consensus-based elections reduces political competition, crowds in younger, more educated politicians, and worsens overall governance.

Financial Incentives for Consensus-Based Elections in Gujarat:

Since 2001, Gujarat has incentivised the election of local politicians via public consensus under its Samras (consensus) Panchayat scheme. Village residents are encouraged to deliberate amongst themselves and reach a consensus on who their political representatives should be. This scheme is aimed at preventing multiple candidates from standing for election, so that the sole candidate to file nomination papers can be declared as the unopposed winner. This prevents the need to organise official elections, reducing the state government’s the expenditure on the set up of polling booths and the hiring of election officers.

The policy has been fairly successful. In the 2011 elections, one out of every seven Gram Panchayats (GP) (elected village councils) in Gujarat were elected by consensus. That is, each council seat in these councils was filled by a candidate that faced no formal opposition.

The state government encourages consensus-based elections by providing untied grants to councils elected without formal opposition, that is, it directly rewards politicians who ensure that no other candidates stand for election. This financial grant increases discontinuously as GP population exceeds 5,000, from Rs. 200,000 to Rs. 300,000 for first-time samras GPs. The grant amount is even higher for the second- and third-time samras GPs, as well as GPs that elect all-women councils.

The state government does not delineate formal procedures or place any restrictions on how village residents should reach a consensus about their political representatives. Naturally, instances of creative approaches to reach a consensus abound. In 2011, the village Kumkuva in south Gujarat organised a private election to choose amongst three competing candidates and ensure the receipt of the financial grant (DeshGujarat, 2011). The village Vadavali, home to a substantial number of Hindu and Muslim families, has decided to divide the President’s five-year term equally between a Hindu and Muslim President (NDTV, 2017). However, survey evidence suggests that it is usually local elites who nominate candidates and mobilise consensus-based support to ensure receipt of the monetary benefits (Breman 2011, Bandi 2013, Ganguly 2013, Guha 2014).

Impact of Financial Incentives:

To estimate the impact of consensus-based elections, I exploit the fact that the financial incentives increase discontinuously as village population exceeds 5,000. I compare villages just below the population threshold with those just above to isolate the impact of the financial grant.

Three outcomes are examined in detail – political competition, since one of the stated objectives of the scheme was to discourage multiple candidates from running for political office; politician characteristics, to understand whether the grants crowded in individuals with different observable characteristics; council expenditure and MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act)1 beneficiary selection, to test for measurable differences in governance by the council so-elected.

Political Competition:

Did the samras grant actually incentivise village residents to choose their political representatives without official elections? The data suggest that it did. In response to a hike in the samras grant, the number of candidates per seat fell by approximately 0.7. This is a substantive decrease given that the average number of candidates per seat is around 2.5. The number of seats won without any formal opposition also increases by 2.3, which again is a large effect given that the average number of unopposed seats is just over 3.

Figure 1. A decrease in the number of candidates per seat in response to the grant increase

Political Selection:

The fact that official political competition decreased in a substantial way leads us to question who exactly was crowded into political office. It is entirely possible that those who would have been elected without the samras grant continue to be those who occupy political office. In this scenario, the eventual losers of the electoral race would be discouraged from standing for election in the first place.

However, the samras grant may affect who is elected to political office. If the grant facilitates public deliberation amongst village residents or the nomination and support of candidates by the local elite, we may very well see a difference in observable characteristics of elected politicians, such as age, education, gender, and occupation.

Figure 2. Changes in politician age and education in response to the grant increase


We can test for this change by looking at how the observable characteristics of elected politicians change when villages are faced with bigger samras grants. The grant increase crowds in politicians that are, on average, four years younger and have two more years of schooling. Despite additional incentives for female representatives, the grant increase does not usher more women into political office. I also test for effects on occupation, and find that the grant does not increase the proportion of candidates from agricultural labour, farming or business backgrounds. All of these effects are driven by seats that are not reserved for women.

Discussion:

Consensus-based elections could crowd in younger, more educated politicians for two reasons. First, the majority of rural residents may consider these characteristics to be desirable for an effective political leader, and public deliberation helps shift candidates with these characteristics into political office. Under this hypothesis, we would expect to see GPs that face higher samras grants enjoying better governance than GPs that face lower grants. Second, local elites may nominate younger, inexperienced candidates that serve as political figureheads. This explanation is consistent with survey evidence that indicates that the grant amount is only used to justify nominations by the local elite, who threaten detractors in the name of village development. Under this scenario, we would not expect to see governance improve. In order to separate between the two hypotheses and determine whether consensus-based elections have had a beneficial impact on governance, I turn to multiple measures of the performance of the elected council.

Government Performance:

To get a sense of the impact of the samras election grant on government performance, I test for changes in local expenditure and income generation close to the grant threshold. Total expenditure in the GP falls by Rs. 1,200,000, a decrease of over 50% of the average budget. This decrease is driven by a fall in expenditure categories that are directly controlled by the elected council, such as programme expenses of the agriculture, education, and health departments, as well as salaries and other administrative expenses. Expense categories that are chosen by and tied to grants received from the state and central government do not fall, which is consistent with the elected council having less control over these decisions.

Figure 3. A decrease in council expenditure in response to the grant increase

I also test for changes in the implementation of MNREGA. Existing work shows that while the Act is intended to guarantee one hundred days of employment to each rural household, in practice the amount and targeting of work provided is left up to local implementing authorities, and heavily influenced by the elected council (Gupta and Mukhopadhyay 2014).

The samras grant does not appear to affect how much employment is generated. This is consistent with most public works under MNREGA being approved at the block and district level. Targeting, however, is primarily the responsibility of the elected council. The number of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) households employed under MNREGA decreases in response to the grant hike. This extensive margin response also translates into an intensive margin response – person-days of NREGA employment for SC/STs fall. This finding is indicative of more regressive targeting of MNREGA employment, and worse governance overall.

Conclusions:

The results of this research inform policymakers about the impact of the samras consensus-election grants. The results indicate that financial incentives can induce village electorates to choose their political leaders without formal opposition. The grants also crowd in younger, more educated candidates and politicians. However, administrative and developmental expenditure in the village falls, and MNREGA employment is targeted more regressively. These findings are consistent with the fact that politicians that rely on the support of local elites, who have a greater say in elections based on community consensus, are not incentivised to appease village residents in order to get re-elected.

Note: MNREGA aims to enhance livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from Ideas For India (www.ideasforindia.in), an economics and policy portal.

Ashna Arora

Ashna Arora is a PhD candidate at the Department of Economics at Columbia University. Her research focusses on crime, labour markets, and political economy. Prior to her doctoral studies, she completed an M.Sc. in Quantitative Economics from the Indian Statistical Institute and a B.A. (Hons) in Economics from the University of Delhi.

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Delhi Alumni Association of Assam Prepares Research Report on Assam Floods

The Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) has helped in setting up Brahmaputra Study Centre at Gauhati University, Assam.

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi Alumni Association of Assam (DAAA) presented here today a Research Report on Assam Floods to the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh.

While appreciating the initiative by the academicians of Assam region, Singh said that floods in Northeast, particularly in the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur have virtually become a perpetual phenomenon, occurring year after year, and causing tremendous loss to lives and property.

A serious and comprehensive future strategy to avoid such occurrences, again and again, is urgently called for, he said.

Singh disclosed that the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) has, on its own initiative, helped in setting up “Brahmaputra Study Centre” at Gauhati University, Assam.

The Centre has also started functioning, he said, and informed that the first major research study, already initiated for the last few months, deals with the ways and means to control and prevent the occurrence of floods. For this purpose, he said, experts of international repute are also being involved for their inputs.

The minister said that the present government has always been in the forefront in coming to the aid of flood-related hardships of the people of Northeast.

This, he said, is borne out by the fact that last year, in the month of July/August, when there was extraordinary damage caused as a result of unprecedented rainfall, Prime Minister undertook a visit to the Northeast, where he personally reviewed the flood situation, particularly pertaining to the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and also announced on-the-spot financial assistance of Rs.2,000 crores.

Singh suggested to the members of Alumni Association to share their findings and inferences with NITI Aayog also, since now there is an exclusive NITI Aayog Forum for Northeast.

He said that he would arrange a meeting to discuss the findings of the research report by the senior officers of the Ministry of Northeast (DoNER), who can then, at their level, also discuss the same with the representatives of the NITI Aayog.

The minister also said that a number of options have been suggested in the past for prevention of flood-like situation. These include embankments along river Brahmaputra, dredging for de-siltation in large rivers, construction of a high gravity concrete Dam, etc.

However, he said, a final call can be taken only after studying the various aspects, including feasibility, cost-effectiveness and sustainable viability of any future arrangement.

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SILVER LINING: Naga Accord Final Draft Almost Ready

No change of state boundaries; autonomous Naga territorial councils for Arunachal and Manipur; a common cultural body for Nagas across States

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NEW DELHI: The Central government and Naga armed groups are said to have finalised the substantive portions of the peace accord which is likely to be signed before the monsoon session of Parliament.

The accord, according to officials does not change the boundary of states; provides autonomous Naga territorial councils for Arunachal and Manipur; a common cultural body for Nagas across states; specific institutions for state’s development, integration and rehabilitation of non-state Naga militia and the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

RN Ravi the Government Interlocutor informed the media that ‘Yes, we are pretty close to finalising the (Naga Peace) accord’.

Talks between Ravi and Naga bodies, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) — comprising the representatives of six influential Naga rebel groups — and NSCN-IM are currently taking place in Delhi. One issue still being negotiated is a “symbolic one”, wherein Naga groups are demanding a separate flag for the state.

The Centre has, however, made it clear to the Naga groups that it will not be able to concede that demand in the peace accord.

Besides Manipur, there will be an autonomous Naga territorial council in Naga-majority areas of Arunachal Pradesh but not for Assam.

The accord also provides for a common cultural body for Nagas across states which will be statutory in nature. This body, which is envisaged as a socio-political platform, with “no political role”, will have representatives from all Naga tribes.

The Naga armed groups will stand disbanded after the accord and the non-state armed militia who are eligible will be absorbed in central or state forces. Those who are not eligible will be rehabilitated by the government.

The accord also promises the removal of AFSPA from Nagaland as a logical consequence of these actions.


The accord does not involve any change in the boundaries of the states, thereby allaying fears in Manipur about the deal. It preserves the paramountcy of the Manipur state government while providing for an autonomous Naga territorial council in the state.


Besides Manipur, there will be an autonomous Naga territorial council in Naga-majority areas of Arunachal Pradesh but not for Assam. The accord also provides for a common cultural body for Nagas across states which will be statutory in nature. This body, which is envisaged as a socio-political platform, with “no political role”, will have representatives from all Naga tribes.

The more substantive issue before the Centre pertains to fears of a violent reaction in Manipur Valley where there is a genuine sense of insecurity about the deal.

The Centre and Manipur government are exploring ways to assure residents of Manipur Valley (which has 60% of state’s population with 10 percent of state’s land) that their land will be secure.

As of now, while anyone can buy land in the Valley, the sale of land is restricted in the hills, an area dominated by Nagas. A law for Manipur restricting the sale of land in the Valley could be announced simultaneously with the signing of the accord.

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