What I have put down for
the first question -there is a scope of definition in the question itself in
terms of talking about policy in general and not restricted to any sector.
So who drives policy?
leadership, private individuals, specialist, business houses, civil society and
last but not the least international politics drive policy making. Policymaking is a big
eclectic activity. The movement of knowledge over time from public to private
sector institution means vested interest in big policy. Among such institutions
a lack of a long term objective over short term gains itself dictates inputs
into policy making - this is one of the points that has emerged.
The next point is the lack
of innovation or to incorporate innovation or the need for innovation. That is
something which is very telling about the policy making process. There was one
doubt that was expressed. Every five years there is a large gathering of
different kind of experts. But how does it help in terms of the five-year plan
that is made is questionable. This led on to a discussion
on the policy process itself. The role of civil society in setting the right
agenda at the beginning of the policy making process. This is what Sreekumar was
talking about in his presentation yesterday. Setting an agenda way ahead is more
crucial rather than being responsive or reactive to the policy making process.
Now with the reduction of the entire activity within the state, shortsightedness
is slowly entering the social sector. This is what Kalamani was talking about.
And with the increase in the commercialisation of the welfare sectors, as
services grow, you will find that such policies are also driven by commercial
What constitutes knowledge?
Some of the generic points
that came up were: 1.
The rival centralised system of policy making itself starts defining the
scope of knowledge.
Knowledge means the content or material knowledge. One is not talking
about organising knowledge.
Technical knowledge seems to be more recognized than all other knowledge.
Knowledge becoming intellectual property. This is a new shift in paradigm
and this resulted in public institutions attempting patented kind of research
rather than looking at research that will lead to common good. This is one of
the areas of concern that came up. 2.
Another point that came up is knowledge from social sciences that did not
permeate policy. For e.g. People of Indian origin, generate a vast amount of
knowledge about our own communities. How much does this knowledge (which has
been generated through genuine research in terms of large amount of data
gathering) reflect in the policy process? How much of this knowledge actually
make a difference?
The corollary to this is
the question of science and scientific research and scientific publication.
While we were discussing this point it came out that, earlier academic knowledge
was driven by recognition. The most recognised publications donít publish their
work in India. Also that International publication did not have an Indian
agenda. The priorities of research
as perceived by the international journals do not coincide with the national
priorities of India. An example is the case of research papers on infectious
diseases, whereas 40 Ė45% of the medical cases admitted in India are for
infectious diseases, it is only 3% in the U.S., which means if a research paper
is presented to any international journal by an Indian researcher on this
subject it would be considered of a lesser value than a paper on say some other
health issue of significance to the U.S. or western countries.Ē -Dr.
Arunachalam, Scientific Advisor to PM, 2004.
Another question that is raised is why is it that we
donít have international publications published from India. If we can have
international movies being released in India we can also have International
publications in India. Why havenít we seen a publication that sets an
international agenda on science and technology emerging from India?
How are community
experiences being showcased?
Peopleís knowledge and
experiences get recognition only at the local level and are not taken into
account in policy formulation in the larger context. For example immediately
after the Tsunami the agricultural land recovery in the Nagapattinam region was
largely through peopleís knowledge. This was acknowledged by the vernacular
media but it was not understood or articulated in larger policy work. How
peoplesí knowledge could help in a disaster situation, was not even discussed.
Similarly domestic violence policies have reflected civil society concerns but
adequate tools for implementation or regulatory mechanisms have not been put in
themselves involved in policy influencing.
This is perhaps possible
only at the Panchayat level because as one goes up the ladder, one finds lesser
and lesser levels of mass knowledge holders in the community. One significant
point that came up was that civil society representatives also carry research
capacities or have produced researched material but these are not factored in
the policy making. Was there involvement of
academicians or specialists in the process and did it add credibility. Looks
like some do and some donít and some better not. All academics have an agenda
and it could lead to wrong decisions. We have the example of how the Sonora
Wheat (claimed to have more lysine content) was developed by subjecting the
parent Mexican Sonora Wheat to radiation. The technology was shelved
internationally but was resurrected by third world scientists. So we have such
examples from our own experiences.
Another point that I think
Sreekumar would like to elaborate on is the disproportionate influence of
consultants on policy.
Sreekumar: This is just to
elaborate the point that in many of the policy formulations which happened
especially in the industrial sector, external consultants have played a major
role. Just to give you an idea -about 10% of the money in the Orissa Power
Research Project goes to them. This is a lot of money because the whole project
is some 4000 crores. And these are all international consultants. They make the
plan, they make the programme, they make the projects, they make the evaluation
criteria etc. The issue that I want to raise for discussion is why is this
happening? If it is only because of donor funded projects then we are hiding
from part of the problem. Because definitely the consultant is pushed by the
donor agency but the other part of the problem is that our own knowledge
induction processes have become stunted or undemocratic. It is our own public
institutions that are undemocratic.
To participate and give
feedback in review mechanisms or even initiate them is one method of engaging
oneself. Specialist -researchers can also interact with civil society
organisations. They are at least interested in converting the problems of the
people into researchable problems.