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#2 from 2013: Challenges for India’s Livelihood Youth Skill Development in Rural Areas

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2013
This post was originally published on July 2, 2013

A critical element in India’s 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) is the generation of productive and gainful employment on a sufficient scale. The aim of such planning is to systematically absorb the growing working population in the unorganized sector of an expanding economy. This sector contributes about sixty percent of the country’s GDP. Infact, it employs workers in micro enterprises, unpaid family work, casual labor and home based work on a mammoth scale. In addition, it also absorbs migrant laborers, farmers, artisans and more importantly out of school rural youth.

In the last decade, the Indian economy has witnessed a structural transformation from agricultural activities to manufacturing and services oriented activities. A distinct feature of this transition has been a substantial decline in the absolute number of people employed in agriculture. However, according to the Planning Commission, a crucial factor in the migration of the labor force from rural to urban areas is its temporary nature and occurrence only in lean agricultural seasons. Besides, this large chunk of labor force is not available to participate in the manufacturing or the services oriented activities due to severe lack of appropriate skill sets. According to the Commission, the latter reflects rural distress, driven by the fact, that more than eighty percent of India’s farming households are small and marginal, tilling only less than 2.5 acres of land.

Strengthening the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India to Foster Participation, Access and Accountability

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The initiation and countrywide implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) represents a milestone in social policy and employment creation with its right based approach and focus on livelihood security. The flagship program has benefitted millions of marginalized rural households by providing them unskilled work and led to prevention of stress migration from rural areas in lean agricultural seasons. A UNDP/Carnegie Endowment for Peace study points out that from the scheme’s first year of operation in 2006-2007 till 2010-2011, job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion workdays distributed amongst 20 million households to 2.5 billion workdays for 50 million households.
 
In the above context, the 2013 performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) should be a timely opportunity to analyze the immense management and convergence challenges that a program of MGNREGA’s size poses. This is especially relevant in view of CAG’s observation that undertaking of non permissible works, non completion of works and lack of creation of durable assets during the period 2007-2012 indicated that the poorest were not able to fully exercise their rights under the program. 

One of the ‘bottom up’ features’ of the program is its reliance on rural local self government structures i.e. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to reinvigorate community driven participation and decision making in service delivery.  The first key institutional challenge, therefore, is to make MGNREGA’S program implementation effective by enforcing PRI ‘activity mapping’ (unbundling subjects into smaller units of work and assigning these units to different levels of government) that was set in motion after the historic 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1993.  Herein, the Central Government and the States of the Union, have to jointly actualize the principle of subsidiarity- what can be best done at lower levels of government should not be centralized at higher levels. Empowering PRIs especially Gram Panchayats (last mile units in villages) with funds, functions and functionaries (3F’s) is a critical incentive to build their institutional capacity for service delivery. This, in turn, would provide them the teeth to carry out their core responsibilities under MGNREGA such as planning of works, registration of beneficiaries, allotting employment, executing works, making timely payments, maintaining records of measurement and muster rolls.

Challenges for Community Radio in India's Rural Development

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

India’s 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) talks of challenges emanating from the economy’s transition to a higher growth path, the structural changes that come with it and the expectations it generates. One pertinent challenge in India, in the context of economic growth at the rate of 8%, is the extent of progress towards the multi dimensional process of inclusive growth. Without doubt, the latter should result in lower incidence of poverty, significant improvements in health care, universal access for children going to school and increased access to skilled development.

These parameters are more critical for an estimated 833 million people in India who continue to live in rural areas and a very large proportion of whom, both men and women, are either wholly or significantly still dependent for their livelihood on farm as well as non-farm activities. A plethora of centrally sponsored flagship rural development programs such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been given special impetus aimed at building rural  infrastructure and providing basic services with the aim of reducing poverty. These are mandated to be implemented by the provincial governments through institutions of local self governance in the gaze of the well oiled administrative district machinery and increasingly in collaboration with the civil society.

An unprecedented injection of public funds during the 12th Plan Period through decentralized governance, calls for a renewed focus on the dynamics of grassroots empowerment that could enable rural communities to access information about their rights and entitlements made available under these programmes, both by law and policy. This consequently also has implications for accountability in the reach and impact of the public delivery system that the poorest approach. The key question, thus is, what kind of an accessible communication medium, amongst today’s robust social media, should be utilized during the next four years extensively to sensitize and empower the poorest in rural areas in partnership with civil society?  Secondly, what are the governance challenges that need to be identified in the above partnership to make the benefits of the envisaged inclusive growth more transparent, participatory and bottom up?

Building Accountability in Tanzania: Applying an Evolutionary/Venture Capitalist Theory of Change

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been catching up on our accountability work in Tanzania recently, and it continues to be really ground-breaking. Rather than churning out the standard logical framework of activities, outputs and predicted outcomes before the project even starts, the programme, known as Chukua Hatua (Swahili for ‘take action’) uses an evolutionary model of change (try out numerous approaches, drop the less successful ones, scale up and develop the winners). It’s more like a venture capitalist backing ten start-up firms knowing that most will fail, but some will win big. This has been possible partly because DFID has been willing to fund such an experimental approach as part of its ‘Accountability in Tanzania’ (AcT) programme (props to them).

18 months into the programme, it’s good to see that Chukua Hatua is, errmm, evolving, according to programme coordinator Jane Lonsdale.

The first phase piloted six approaches:

Do Informed Citizens Receive More, or Pay More?

Philip Keefer's picture

One widely-accepted political economy research finding is that informed citizens receive greater benefits from government transfer programs. The evidence for the impact of information comes from particular contexts—disaster relief in India and welfare payments in the USA during the Great Depression.  Do other contexts yield similar results?  New research on the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets in Benin suggests:  “No.”  Instead, local health officials charged more informed households for bed nets that they could have given them for free.

The Benin context differs in three ways.  First, the policy is not the distribution of cash, but of health benefits.  Households’ access to information then influences not only their knowledge of government programs to distribute such benefits, but also the value they place on them. 

Second, the political context also differs.  In younger democracies, like Benin’s, citizens are more likely to confront additional obstacles, besides a lack of information, in their efforts to extract promised benefits from government.

Who ends up being more accountable - governments or citizens?

Stuti Khemani's picture

In our (justifiable) enthusiasm for transparency, we rarely ask whether information provision leads private citizens to help themselves, thereby relieving governments of their responsibilities. If so, we may not be quite there (yet) in finding tools that improve government accountability.

Take the case of community radio, a classic tool for information sharing for accountability in Africa. It is supposed to organize communities and (literally) give voice to the opinions and needs of the marginalized. It also carries public interest messages, communicating the importance of health, education, and democratic values. New data from Benin, a country with a vibrant community radio network, show that people in poorer and far-flung regions are able to access news and information, and share views, because of this medium.

But these data yield some surprising results.

In villages with greater access to community radio, where people are more informed about the value of services, they are more likely to invest their own, private resources in health and education. More informed households are more likely to purchase bed nets from government officials, paying for this public health good to combat malaria, even though nets are supposed to be distributed free.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Guardian
How citizens can make development happen

"The future of development lies in the hands of millions of citizens. It's a bold statement by Rakesh Rajani, founder of Twaweza, who was in London for the debate on the future of aid organised by the Overseas Development Institute. Only two years old, Twaweza, which means "we can make it happen" in Swahili, is attempting to do just that across three east African countries, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Rajani's strategy is to spread information, believing that crucial to the process of development is access to ideas. Twaweza focuses on what it believes are the five main routes for people to hear new ideas in the region: religion; mobile phones; mass media, in particular radio; fast-moving consumer goods; and teachers. Twaweza builds partnerships in all these areas to spread ideas, draw in new voices and open up conversations. It works rather like a venture fund, initiating ideas and getting new organisations off the ground. Rajani cites Amartya Sen's comment that poverty is not about a lack of money, but about a lack of options. His aim is to find new ways to intervene in people's lives to widen their options." 

Bantay Kurapsyon

Sabina Panth's picture

“Research on political participation has identified a number of deep-seated norms and values that are positively associated with the amount and quality of democratic engagement,” explains Delli Carpini, in the Handbook of Political Communication Research.  “One of the most central of these,” as Carpini points out, “is political efficacy, or the sense that one’s participation can actually make a difference (internal efficacy) and that the political system would be responsive to this participation (external efficacy).”  As I read this quote, I am reminded of a case in point that perfectly illustrates this theoretical concept.  

Kunda Dixit On Little Stations That Can

Sabina Panth's picture

Kunda Dixit is not only a household name among the media savvy, newspaper reading audience of Nepal but also a well-known figure in the international media community.   The Columbia University trained journalist worked for the BBC World Service, in UN and as Regional Editor for Inter Press Service Asia Pacific, before he returned to Nepal and launched Himalmedia, which has become a popular and credible source of information and analysis on democracy and governance issues in South Asia.  Mr. Dixit is also the author of a trilogy of books (A People War, Never Again, People After War) on the Nepal conflict that is regarded as a model for the media's role in post-war reconciliation. 

Recently, Kunda Dixit grabbed the attention of Sina, CommGAP’s program head, when he spoke about the massive role played by community radio in the democratic transition in Nepal.  Sina asked me to follow-up on the story for a blog post, which I did, but decided it is best served if I directly post my online interview with Mr. Dixit, which is as follows: