Insight from Civil Society Engaging
with Science and Technology
Policies for the Polity - The Legacies that Limit
Presentation by M. V. Sastri
How are policies
formulated in this country?
Is there rationality
in policy formulation?
Do we take into
account actual experience?
Do we take into
Do we commission
studies so that focused policies can be formulated?
Even if such
commissioned studies are available, do we use them in policy formulation?
to all these questions are somewhat skeptical. It would be an understatement, if
I said that my conclusions do not surprise me, primarily because I view them in
a certain historical context. Our policy formulators have been chosen from
the very section, which is singularly unqualified to throw up any well-informed
policy formulation. And the advisors, on whom they have to depend, are not, by
and large, the ones who care much about how they should go about their job.
Where is civil society
in policy formulation? Civil Society is no doubt asked to help in policy
formulation, but this is not because their experience is necessarily regarded
highly by policy formulators but because there are various pressures which have
to be accommodated. The pressures are from several national and international
sources that insist civil society views be taken into account. So at least a
general impression is created that this is being done. In most cases, the time
allotted for civil society experiences to be taken into account is very
limited. This reflects the low value that is given to any meaningful
consultative civil society process.
Returning to the first
question - how is policy formulated? The answer is, polices are not formulated,
they just happen. Rather, we are driven into certain policies without much
I will conclude in a
lighter vein with an anecdote which relates to one of the now defunct socialist
republics in Eastern Europe. There is a change in regime. An elderly Minister is
given by his deputy a plan to spend the equivalent of Rs. 100 crores for
improving the quality of primary schools and Rs. 10 crores for improving the
quality of prisons. The experienced minister reverses the plan and sanctions 100
crores for improving prisons, and ten crores for improving the schools. His
justification being, he and his deputy are more likely to return to the prison
but never to a primary school!
This may be
apocryphal, but it certainly reflects how polices could be formulated, certainly
in former socialist countries, and perhaps in India too!