the word policy-making very frequently. Firstly, because policy-making has the
capacity to substantively transform our lives or completely ruin it. Secondly,
and most importantly because I want ‘us’ to talk about it, to question it, be
critical of it and most of all “demand it”. Politics as I have been endorsing
should mean policy-making, and democracy is valuable because it gives the
voters an opportunity to choose good policies and sanction bad ones.
Unfortunately, politicians neither talk about policies in elections nor know
what it means and how to make it. Well, isn’t the meaning of “public-policy”
self explanatory- policy for public?; you will ask. Yes and No. It is not as
simple as it is literally meant to be.
I was a kid my grandmother used to tell me stories of kings, in which they used
to go on a walk and give random orders to their ministers, “the king loved the
flower so much that he ordered, I WANT THIS FLOWER ALL OVER MY KINGDOM”. This
is how public-policies are made (if at all they are made) even today in our
state. But this isn’t policy-making, this is misuse and misdirection of funds
and misuse and abuse of the “people’s mandate, people’s power”. And in the
better functioning regions outside and inside the country (like Kerela), this
kind of policymaking is unthinkable.
I want to talk to you as what I originally am- an international development
practitioner. Real development is only based on “evidence-based policy making”.
Policy-makers and practitioners intervene in people’s lives through
policy-making. These interventions may have unwanted effects and may do more
harm than good. Therefore, “prescriptions and proscriptions” for people have to
be based on very rigorous “empirical evidence”. It is highly irresponsible to
intervene based on wishes or theories unsupported by reliable empirical
evidence. These evidences are based on thorough analysis and are indispensable
to understand the potential consequences of any intervention, which could be
economic, social, physical, psychological and so on. And this is
non-negotiable, because “people matter” and their hard earned taxes matter too.
policies that are implemented all around the world, are studied for years by
academics/researchers extensively to understand how beneficial they are and
this pool of knowledge and evidence needs to be well analysed before
implementing a policy, that too through the lens of the geographical, cultural,
social, economic context, where it is implemented. If there is no evidence that
a policy has done any good around the world, it simply cannot be adopted. In
Bihar, interestingly, polices that have failed all around the world are opted
in an easy going manner as the ‘political class fancies”. My question- is Bihar
an authoritarian dictatorship or a monarchical state?
practice needs to be stopped and questioned. Rationality, scientific evidence
based knowledge, in fact any kind of knowledge has lost its place in politics
in Bihar. However, WE must keep it alive because a society stops developing the
day “knowledge and discourse” is either disregarded or ridiculed. People die
daily because of this inefficient and incompetent irrational style of
governance and we cannot afford being ignorant about what our fellow citizens
are facing, because we are safe only till we are next.
Priya Choudhary | President, Plurals | MA, Development Studies, Institute of
Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK | Master of Public
Administration, London School of Economics & Political Science, UK