Putting Laws into Practice: The Case of Rainwater Harvesting

What happens when a law is passed in a vacuum?  The answer: it doesn’t get implemented.

What happens when the government throws rules and regulations at people, without giving them the tools to apply them, or without developing enforcement mechanisms to measure adherence?  The answer: nobody complies, and nobody cares.

This is exactly what is happening with the rainwater harvesting law.  Wait, what rainwater harvesting law?  See, I didn’t know about it either –  apparently, in 2001 the Central Ground Water Authority made it “mandatory for every household to have a rooftop rainwater harvesting system wherever the groundwater level is below 8 metres.”  In addition, the new bylaws mandate water harvesting in all new buildings built on plots of 100 square meters and above, and require that buildings with a daily discharge of 10,000 liters or more incorporate wastewater recycling systems.  What a great concept, right?

But, again, here’s the golden question – how does it work in practice?  Here are some thoughts from Ajay Kharbanda, a Delhi resident who is a practicing rainwater harvester:

Everyone thinks, why spend money on this when he is anyway getting his daily supply of water. But people do not realize that nothing is permanent.

Neither do buildings have the incentive to abide by these regulations, as there seem to be no stipulations regarding enforcement or penalization.  How, then, is this system supposed to work?  What type of program must the government implement, and with what types of incentives / penalties in order to make the law effective in practice?

An example is Indore, which gives a 6% rebate in property tax to all those who adopt rainwater harvesting.  What do you think?  What other methods are necessary for legal theory to turn into everyday practice?

Source: Times of India

Entrepreneurship Encouraged by the Government

iGovernment reports that the Indian government is encouraging the growth of entrepreneurship in several different ways, from public private partnerships to employment generation programs. In its Eleventh Plan, macro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) clusters will be promoted.

The Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana will assist potential 1.5 lakh first-generation entrepreneurs in completion of various formalities and tasks necessary for setting up of their enterprises and to facilitate them in completing the required formalities during the course of Eleventh Five Year Plan.

To tap into young minds, the government will provide financial assistance to universities to run entrepreneurial clubs. Additionally, initiatives to energize traditional industries are included in the Plan.

A scheme for enhancing productivity and competitiveness of Khadi industries and artisans has been proposed, apart from a scheme for rejuvenation, modernisation and technological upgradation of coir industry.

India is quite famous for its five-year plans, and the trend from focusing on just economic and infrastructure development to also including social and human development is promising.

Eco-Wise: Braving New Frontiers in Waste Management

Waste management is a significant challenge for India, specifically in urban areas, where the accumulation of trash leads to the prevalence of preventable diseases in poor, underprivileged populations. In order to address this issue, change is required on both a systemic and individual level, as the cause of the problem is rooted not only in lack of sanitation infrastructure / policies, but culturally accepted behavioral norms as well. In other words, not only do individuals not believe in maintaining the integrity of public spaces, but there is no formalized system in place to ensure that waste is collected and disposed of properly. Unfortunately, if there is no sense of personal responsibility, as well as no concept of proper trash disposal (neither the infrastructure to support this notion), how can we even begin to take the next necessary steps towards recycling and reuse?

As part of its “Climate Connections” series, NPR recently featured India’s first waste-recycling company, EcoWise Waste Management, the “leading provider of waste and environmental services” outside the Delhi area. To date, the company has achieved the following:

Headquartered in Noida, the company’s network of operations includes 15 collection operations, 2 transfer stations, 2 waste-to-compost plants and 5 recycling plants. These assets enable Eco Wise to offer a full range of environmental services to nearly 1.5 lac residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers. We collect and treat 40 tons of waste on a daily basis, which would otherwise be found lying on the roadside or make its way to the landfill site.

  1. Our activities diverted more than 2,400,000 tons of waste from ending up in land fill sites just last year
  2. With 80 manual rikshaws and 8 trucks running on bio-diesel we operate the cities largest fleet of clean vehicles
  3. Eco Wise is the only company in India that has its own waste segregation and treatment site.
  4. Our operations have permanently shut down more than 15 road side dumps in Noida.

The question, then, is this – if private actors are able to do (efficiently, cost-effectively, scalably) what government entities are supposed to do, how can the government capitalize on the insight of these entities? We’ve talked about PPPs on this site before, but what potential is there for these types of partnerships in the sanitation sector? (More after the break) Continue reading

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health: According to a report, India is not on track toward the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child and maternal mortality. The number of children who die before their fifth birthday stands at 76 per 1,000 live births, while the goal is 38.
  • Government Schemes: The Gujarat state government’s Jyoti Gram Yojana, a program to ensure 100 per cent village electrification, increased employment and reduced migration from rural areas by 33 per cent. The government is considering scaling up further and replicating in other areas.
  • Energy: India is one of the three countries in a renewable energy project by Osram, a lighting company, where solar-powered lanterns and battery boxes will replace kerosene lamps in villages.
  • Agriculture: In some positive news following the concern of rising food prices, the government estimates that India’s total food grains will be a record 227.32 million tons, which is 10 million more tons than last year.

Evening Edition

For your reading pleasure:

  • Government and Inflation: After meeting with the Cabinet Committee on Prices, PM Manmohan Singh announced a multitude of measures to rein in inflation. In related news, rising prices could deal a significant blow to the US-India nuclear agreement due to the potential for political fallout.
  • Microfinance: VC Circle reports that Lok Capital, a micro-finance focused VC fund will be in investing $1.25 million in Delhi based MFI Satin Creditcare Network Ltd. Staying with Microfinance, Govt. of India is introducing a scheme called ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ (RSBY), which will provide cashless health insurance to families living below poverty line, using smart-card technology (via igovernment.in)
  • Higher Education: Economic Times reports that 29 Indian students from colleges across the country have been chosen to participate in the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program (GSGLP). They get a $3000 grant and a chance to participate in the Goldman Sachs Summer Leadership Institute.

Remote Blogging: Skoll World Forum 2008 — What is the role of government?

In the Innovation and Change in Government Culture workshop, one of the major themes was which problems or issues should government address and which should they ignore or stay away from. This is a very important concern, especially since much of the impetus for social entrepreneurship comes from those areas where the public sector is downright dysfunctional.(Source SocialEdge)

Professor David Gergen [Director, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard] opened this session by noting that social entrepreneurs and governments are not always natural allies. The role of social entrepreneurs is often to fill voids in the governmental provision of social services. Thus governments may perceive social entrepreneurs as competitors, or usurpers of the government’s rightful role, while social entrepreneurs are often prideful of their independence, perceiving the government as a failure. Yet as entrepreneurship becomes a more powerful social force, the two institutions must find new and creative ways to engage with each other. There is the potential for both great conflict and great synergy.

Continue reading

Super Early Morning Edition


The Manmohan Singh government, which is battling inflation, has another worry at hand: a shrinking job market. While the government at the Centre has not been able to rein in prices, it has admitted that rupee appreciation against dollar has resulted in the loss of about 20 lakh jobs.

In an effort to provide electricity to every rural household in the country the ministry of new and renewable energy has decided to provide a generation-based incentive of Rs 12 per kilo watt hour for electricity generated from solar photovoltaic and a maximum of Rs 10 per kWh for electricity generated through solar thermal power plants and fed to the grid from a grid interactive solar power plant of 1 mega watt and above.

Progress in detecting new cases of tuberculosis is slowing, threatening to increase the risks of transmitting drug-resistant strains, the World Health Organization said Monday.  India, China, Indonesia, South Africa and Nigeria rank as the top five countries in terms of absolute numbers of tuberculosis cases.  The W.H.O. said there was a shortfall of $2.5 billion of the $4.8 billion needed this year for overall tuberculosis control in low- and middle-income countries.

A professor, a team of students led by Beena Sukumaran, and an environmental engineering have made new pedal-powered grain crusher that promises to become an effective and cheap food processor unit for the economically disadvantaged communities of the world.  It could help generate income for individuals traveling from village to village.

Late Night Edition


Government on Wednesday claimed in the Rajya Sabha that over three crore families had benefited from the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) programme and Rs 8,000 crore had been transferred to the accounts of the beneficiaries. 

Lok Capital LLC, an India focused microfinance venture capital fund, has raised its fund size by about 80 per cent to $ 22 million from $14.5 million (as of November 2007). The investors in this final close is not known.  Lok Capital has already invested a total of $3 million in two MFIs – Janalakshmi in Bangalore and Spandana (alongwith JM Financial) in Hyderabad.

Google has launched a dedicated portal of Google services for non-profit organizations. Google for Non-Profits offers “a one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization’s mission in a smart, cost-efficient way.” This site includes ideas and tutorials on ways Google tools can be used to promote non-profits, raise money and operate more efficiently.

More headlines after the break. Continue reading

Development’s Double-Edged Sword

In a largely critical piece on India’s development titled On the Road to Disaster in India in the World Politics Review, Parag Khanna paints a picture which questions the country’s rising status. Moreover, Khanna charges the government with a lack of planning that is leading to haphazard development.

To get straight to the punchline:

For all the good news about India, there is one fact its leaders cannot transcend no matter which deity they pray to: A country is an organism, not a Lego set. Zones of development and zones of depletion cannot be kept separated. It is a race between the two to engulf the other, and in India the outcome is far from certain.

Is Khanna’s critique accurate? Despite all the innovation and development in India, will the government’s actions (or lack of) negate any progress?

Farmer Suicides Continue

As an update to a previous post, “Seeds of Discontent,” InfoChange India reports that despite the recent government loan waiver package for poor farmers with less than 2 hectares of land, farmer suicides continue:

 Even as the UPA government works out the nitty-gritty of the Rs 60,000 crore loan waiver for farmers, announced in its 2008 Union budget, farmers in Vidarbha and other parts of Maharashtra and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh continue to end their lives.

 Vidarbha remains a grim statistic, with 24 farmers from the region reported to have committed suicide since February 29.  Elsewhere in Maharashtra, eight farmers killed themselves.  In Andhra Pradesh, adjoining Vidarbha, 38 farmers have ended their lives since the loan waiver was announced, according to state revenue department figures. 

The government claims there is no connection between the loan waivers and recent suicides, but local community members in these regions differ –

 A young farmer Jayarami Reddy (35) of Marrikunta village in Kurnool district and his wife Saraswati committed suicide three days after the loan waiver announcement when they realised they did not qualify for it.

 Satyanarayan Reddy of Kodur village, Krishna district, had 4 acres of land and his loans from private moneylenders totalled Rs 2 lakh. The local moneylender succeeded in getting him arrested, resulting in two months’ rigorous imprisonment for the farmer. After his release, his creditors threatened to send his wife to jail. This proved too much for the 45-year-old farmer who committed suicide on March 9. 

The land size stipulation in the government waiver remains a point of contention for critics.  For more information, go here.

A “Renewal” for India’s Disabled

As mentioned in a previous post entitled, “Treating More than Diarrhea,” the condition of  India’s mentally and physically disabled population, in terms of the provision of basic amenities or medical services, is dismal.  As per official data, India has 21 million disabled people, but non-government agencies are less conservative in their estimate, and place the figure at 60 million.  Even though the rights of the disabled are protected by the Persons with Disabilities Act (1995), India lags behind in providing such services as, for example, wheelchair-friendly buildings.    

In an effort to ameliorate this problem, the Indian government has recently launched a groundbreaking national interactive disability web portal.  The site is named Punarbhava, which means “renewed being”, and has the aim of serving as an information/resource platform for people with disabilities, as well as those who work with them.  According to an article posted on Yahoo, the website features the following:

 The portal is categorized mainly into three segments: the first segment will be a National Disability Register that will give statistical information on the disabled population in India. The second segment of the portal covers the resources, which include available online courses, catalogues knowledge repository of audio, video and Braille files in Indian languages, books related to disability and news magazine. The third segment is proposed to have Grievance Redressal mechanism through Web Court. In future, this will redress the complaints related to Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, National Trust, and Rehabilitation Council of India . It also proposes to provide transaction assistance. 

Even though Puranbhava is only the first step, the provision of services through the government potentially has the effect of ushering in a more “inclusive” era of rights, services, and provisions for the disabled population.  The hope is that through official, government-sponsored programs, cultural and social norms regarding disabilities will also begin to change.

Reclaiming the Land

As brought to our attention by InfoChangeIndia, the phenomenon of urban migration is a multidimensional issue, with social and economic repercussions, both for rural and urban India. As described in an article entitled, “This Land is Ours!”, as a result of urban migration, women in rural communities are undergoing changes in terms of their roles within the family structure:

The village [Narsenahall, Karnataka] is part of a nationwide trend in agriculture, which over the last few years has seen huge changes. While more and more men are migrating to urban areas and large industrialised farms looking for paid work, women stay in the village and are increasingly taking over cultivating the land. According to estimates by Bina Agarwal, an academic researching and writing about women and land rights, almost half of the land in India is now farmed by women. The changes mean that in the rural areas the vast majority of women — around 85% — are now farmers.

Continue reading

Caged by the Public Sector

Over the past three years, the Indian economy has surged at an average rate of 9% per year, thereby bolstering India’s image as a formidable economic force on the global stage.  However, in order to sustain both economic growth and human development, the Economist, in its latest issue entitled, “What’s Holding India Back?”, contends that India must institute and enforce significant reforms in its bloated public sector.  Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s commitment to “administrative reform – at every level”, including the formation of a commission to look into the matter, even P. Chidambaram, India’s Finance Minister, admits that for the most part, the commission’s deliberations have been “academic.”  In an article entitled “India’s Civil Service: Battling the Babu Raj”, the Economist contends that this trend threatens to stifle economic growth:

 Some economists see India’s malfunctioning public sector as its biggest obstacle to growth. Lant Pritchett, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, calls it “one of the world’s top ten biggest problems—of the order of AIDS and climate change”. 

There is a very human dimension to this issue, as bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption takes a bite into government schemes intended for the poor.  In fact, the impact of India’s recently proposed development spending schemes, termed “inclusive growth” by the government, are expected to be diluted by gross inefficiencies in the public sector.  In a separate article entitled, “What’s Holding India Back?” the Economist informs readers of the following:

 In his budget, Mr Chidambaram duly handed out extra money to a long list of worthy schemes, from school meals to rural road-building. But as he himself conceded, outlays and outcomes are not the same thing. Standing between the two is an administrative machine corroded by apathy and corruption. The government’s subsidies fail to reach the poor, its schools fail to teach them and its rural clinics fail to treat them. 

Continue reading

Midday Newsfeed

Headlines from around the town:

To mark the International Women’s Day, Indian anti-poverty network Wada Na Todo Abhiyan has released a report highlighting the recommendations of the Women’s Tribunal Against Poverty held in October last year. The charter against poverty reinforces the demand for women’s access to power, resources and services.

Quite a few debates are currently raging in the disability rights movement. Special schools or inclusive education, community based rehabilitation or institutionalised rehabilitation, job reservations or none

Google is adding more and more mapping tiles for India. India is now getting digitized and we are seeing new google mashups for India… Currently the site covers new construction projects for Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Pune, Gurgaon and Noida.

Government of India has an online Grievance forum. The govt. wants people to use this tool to highlight the problems they faced while dealing with Government officials or departments like Passport Office, Electricity board, BSNL/MTNL, Railways etc.

Select Headlines from OneWorld South Asia

Here are links to articles addressing a variety of issues. All are from OneWorld South Asia: