Wednesday, June 27

Is this how the government really works?

On Monday Abhishek and I went along with N and L to meet some government official at the Ministry of IT. I was quite kicked and excited! I had heard multiple (mostly not very positive) anecdotes on how it can be do deal with the government. So here I was all ready to see it in action!

Over the last 8 years or so we had set up a number of our learning centers at 6 locations throughout Delhi. Unfortunately, only 1 exists today. The other 5 had lost their funding and hence were shut down. The one that was still standing was on the verge of being closed because the payment on that was overdue. The 'buyer' was (of course) the government. The Ministry of IT had initiated the meeting because they were considering reviving the 5 learning centers that were shut down. At our end, we had an additional agenda of collecting the late payment that was overdue.

So we drove to the Central Secretariat where the Ministry of IT resides. While Abhishek and N parked the car, L and I went to the reception to get passes made. There were 4 women there, 2 of which had their heads down and were sleeping! After getting the passes we wandered through the building onto the 9th floor to meet the official. The official met us 10 minutes late but he acknowledged that he was late and apologized. I was quite surprised considering that many people never bother apologizing for making others wait. So I instantly liked him.

Anyhow, the official's conversations were mostly with N. The rest of us just took a back seat and observed and chipped in once in a while when necessary. The official was quite bright. He definitely seemed like a guy who cared to make a difference. I was sitting there with a very positive attitude of him and the government in general.

We started talking about our learning centers but soon the conversation wondered off to another project the Ministry of IT was close to implementing. It had to do with setting up 50 computer centers across Delhi. These computer centers would cater to the youth in marginalized communities. The goal was to engage the youth into doing something more productive in order to deter them from entering into a life of crimes. So the computer centers would impart some sort of vocational training. So N and the official dug into this idea deeper. N tells the official that other states, including Rajasthan, have implemented similar ideas but were not successful. The official was a little taken aback by that and asked N to please explain why they were not successful. So N continued to tell his views and what he knew about this.

The whole time in the back of mind I'm thinking, is this government official serious? Did him and his staff seriously plan the launch of 50 centers without any market research? We should not have had to tell them of other states or organizations that have implemented this idea. We should not have had to tell them about the (wrong and naive) assumptions they were making about their idea. We should not have had to tell them them whether this idea has been successfully (or not successfully) implemented anywhere. They should have done thorough research and helped alleviate our concerns that we raised with the idea. How can they put so much money into implementing something they don't even have a business plan for? Forget the money, they don't even know if the program will have the intended impact it was designed to have?

Now we know where a decent amount of our tax rupees goes - in poorly planned but well-intentioned projects.

And oh, about reviving the learning centers and paying our dues - that's something the official said he'd follow up with us in 2-3 days (max).

~ Raina

15 comments:

Suraj said...

It is good that you guys posted this blog link for alumni, otherwise would not have known what is happening to people in our batch.
The government apathy to ground realities is understandable. It is a question of incentives. The official in question gets paid to implement programs not to see the effectiveness through, which by the way can be done with some cooked up statistics.

Sanjeev said...

Hey Guys,

It is such a pleasure to see you make a head way not withstanding the madness that reigns supreme in this Jungle of sorts.

Congratulations you make us proud...keep it up!!

Cheers!
Sanjeev

Rhapsoder said...

lol @ Raina..
You'd be surprised. My company is a billion dollar company from the US. It has been doing exactly what you said. Blowing up money on poorly planned projects without doing much/any market research.

Santosh Srinivas said...

Thanks for your wishes Major!

Hey, btw, we look forward to McKinsey's Pro-Bono consulting :)

PrajK said...

Thanks for putting up the blog! I'll definitely keep reading. Good luck working with the government...after my time in DC I realized that I definitely do not want to do that:)

Vivek Manjeri said...

Raina & co.
Nice work you guys are doing , reading your last post was an eyeopener of sorts. I mean a real life experience you guys have posted on poor planning. Gosh ,we could do wonders if such initiatives are backed by solid market research. All the best guys !

Man-Jerry

shivendu said...

Funds being wasted in poorly planned projects is really something to cherish upon as far as they dont get syphoned to non-existent one's. :P

-Shvndu

Raina said...

@ rhapsoder
i guess i feel a little better about the government's inability to do thorough research after hearing that a billion dollar corporation is just as bad. :)

Raina said...

@ prajk
i think u should still plan to work at the government and help change it. :)

Raina said...

@ vivek m
thanks alot for reading. i agree, imagine all the wasted resources because of the poor planning. all our tax rupees. :(

rajat said...

I am glad this blog is out. I think the apathies of the government officials are now almost a rhetoric. We need to come up with solutions now that the given problems of the government is well known to everyone. Also if any change can be brought about, it is us who have to initiate it which i believe cannot happen unless we ourselves enter the system. The youth with good intentions, and intelligence (common sense) will now have to take the initiatives as an insider and not a fence observer. We need to start making policies rather than just being an implementer of the same. Good wishes to all of you who are being instrumental in bringing about this change. Let me know if I can help you in any kind through the means of visual communication.

Anonymous said...

It's inspiring to see you guys working towards making a difference in the lives of the so called 'less fortunate'. Your absolutely right our governments need to have a better plan and respect for tax-rupees but at least their intentions are pure. In the US our tax dollars fund wars whether the people support them or not!

Raina said...

@rajat
Thank you for your comments. I agree with you when you say that the youth and those who complain should and need to enter the gov't system. It's very easy for all of us to complain about the things we see wrong. But I don't think its right to just complain if we aren't willing to take steps towards improving those shortcomings.

Piyush said...

The basic problem here is that people who are trying to implement these so called "non-profit" projects have no sense of purpose. For them, it is just a job that brings in a check. Government should work actively with NGO's to get these projects to the masses.

Only when people with a same sense of purpose collude will these projects be fruitful. Mother Teresa once said, "We can get a lot of money for our projects, but, it is the volunteers that we seek. They make the difference".

Raina and team, I think you all are doing an excellent job in identifying the issues and helping raise them.

Kerri said...

Good words.