B-schools in India must offer courses on public policy for political leaders

B-schools in India must offer courses on public policy for political leaders
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First Published: Sun, Dec 14 2008. 09 49 PM IST

Updated: Sun, Dec 14 2008. 09 49 PM IST
In the recently concluded elections in Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the incumbent chief ministers defied the anti-incumbency trend which had almost become a rule for the past many years. The pro-incumbency vote in these states mirrors the growing use of management techniques by our politicians in identifying voter concerns, measuring their satisfaction and working on strategies to increase voter loyalty. They need to now graduate to the next level of leveraging the country’s intellectual capital for better governance.
Our political leaders are now increasingly relying on opinion research to gauge voter mood like any good business organization that constantly measures the satisfaction level of its customers and takes necessary steps to minimize their dissatisfaction. This professional approach is a recent development in Indian politics, a welcome departure from the culture of raking up emotive issues just before the elections or relying on the charismatic personality of a few leaders. Taking this approach forward, our political leaders should elevate the governance standards of the country. Just like a symbiotic relation with academic institutes helps industry, a good interaction between our institutes and political leaders can enhance the quality of governance in the country. For this to happen, our academic institutes should first be prepared by creating necessary intellectual capital.
Very few Indian business schools have programmes on public policy. Some, such as the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, the Management Development Institute in Gurgaon, have programmes on public policy and have been training our bureaucrats and to a very limited extent even our politicians. We need more such programmes and with a broader scope.
In my view, a good public policy programme should document the best practices of governance all over the world at various levels. The participants should first be made aware of the technologies and methodologies available or utilized for improving the quality of life of citizens. We are now in the era where technological advancement in different areas such as communications, energy generation, biotechnology and genetic engineering have thrown open enormous possibilities to eliminate poverty. All we need is a proactive and professional leadership that is keen to learn.
Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s career is a case in point. He didn’t have either a charismatic personality or an impressive intellectual or political background; rather, it was as shoddy as is typical of an Indian politician. It was his interface with management professionals that transformed him into a progressive leader. As chief minister, he was in many ways a pioneer in applying management techniques in running a state. He assumed the title of CEO and prepared a Vision 2020 document for the state; every department was given targets and their performance measured. IIM Ahmedabad was hired to assist in designing and implementing e-governance for the state.This made citizens’ lives easy as they could pay utility bills, register births and deaths, and conduct many other dealings with the government using information technology. This greatly helped in reducing corruption and fraud especially in property transactions in the state.
In Delhi, the Bhagidari scheme that is based on the principle of collaboration of multi-stakeholders such as citizen groups, non-governmental organizations, and the government has been successful in improving the quality of environment, education and health care in the state.
Institutes can also create an interface between political leaders and social entrepreneurs. Some of the activities of our entrepreneurs need to be replicated on a larger scale. In the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, for example, an entrepreneur has converted about 1,600 acres of arid and unproductive land into lush green plantation. His team used check dams and water harvesting techniques to fill the aquifers. They used technology pioneered by Israel, such as drip and sprinkle irrigation, to grow selected plants that consume the least amount of water. All the waste, including waste water, is recycled either in producing manure or in generating energy. There is no usage of chemicals. Cow urine is used as pesticide, cow dung and organic manure that is produced using earthworms is used to cultivate different varieties of fruit trees and plants. There is ample use of solar energy to meet the plantation’s energy needs.
We also need to learn a lot from some developed countries about waste and energy management. Countries such as England are encouraging households to generate renewable energy by buying the surplus generated by them. In some cities, a great deal of energy needs are being met by municipal waste which is converted into electricity.
Our management institutes that choose to develop programmes for bureaucrats and political leaders should develop case studies of successful public and private initiatives all over the world. They should be seen not only as a source of information but also as a source of ideas for better governance.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at businesscase@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Dec 14 2008. 09 49 PM IST