Allow Local Adaptations of Centralized Models

The top-down model needs tweaking to deliver better

Given the energy with which Sikkim continues to host programmes under the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme, it would appear that the State has a major problem when it comes to ensuring access and care for its daughters or security for women at home. Sikkim has many problems, some even gender related, but letting the girl child be born, survive and receive an education is not one of them. An important issue no doubt if the national scenario is taken into consideration, but in a State with no reported case of female infanticide, one might wonder at the necessity of such elaborate events and robust funding on what is, let us accept it, a redundant issue as far as Sikkim is concerned. Clearly, North district was picked for this programme because of its uneven sex-ratio, and it would have been helpful if BB-BP was used to understand this imbalance in North Sikkim. This is clearly not because of female infanticide and probably more due to more of the men-folk moving to East Sikkim in pursuit of careers and prospects and presence of armed forces made up primarily of single men in the district. This probably means that men enjoy more freedom to relocate for education, careers and business, and if that is the case, shouldn’t this be the focus of Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao funds and interventions?

This is shared here to highlight the disconnectedness with which centralized planning looks out for the country. India’s daughters, by and large, need saving and access to education, but that is not necessarily the case everywhere that the programme is force-fed. In areas like Sikkim, it could have easily been ratcheted up some notches to speak more about gender equality, empowerment and rights; it could have moved beyond the unimaginatively routine official events and roped in activists and women leaders to push the envelope of gender rights a little further. But that did not happen. May be its time will come too, but this reference was made not to speak only about the BB-BP initiative, and is cited here to highlight how the pressures of implementing imported models saps everyone of the energy to work out local solutions for local issues. For example, while a girl-child’s right to live is not threatened in Sikkim, her right to education often gets compromised; securing the best education for the daughters when a choice has to be made is quite often sidestepped. It is in this direction that Sikkim’s energies need to be focused more and it would be unfortunate if the BB-BP was deployed only to reinforce an existing access to literacy. In that sense, it would helped more if centralized planning provided the overall ideology and allowed local adaptations to build on them.

Something on these lines was attempted a few years ago when Delhi announced that it was looking at releasing funds directly to the gram panchayats based on developmental agendas set up by these micro units in line with the developmental push. That said, the decentralisation process already underway in some states, including Sikkim, will achieve little if the decentralised components are not allowed the freedom to change, adapt and modulate projects and schemes to suit the needs, aspirations and ground realities of the areas they represent. Agreed, if this happens, the control that central agencies have over line organisations will weaken, but that is how things should be when one is decentralizing anyways. The parent body should decide policy and leave the implementation to the grassroots level workers who understand the severity of the problems and know which solutions will work. They are not handicapped for initiative or skill, it is only access to funds that limits their effectiveness; as does a more trusting environment which is why they are straitjacketed with guidelines and instructions. Give them the funds and an overarching policy framework to work under and see how everything that the top-down model failed to deliver can actually be rather easily achieved.