Public policy and political participation

(1) As I was browsing through the Urbanomics blog this morning looking for references on EPZ or SEZ performance, I was struck by his post on the declining level of political participation in States that have prescribed minimum education standards and hygiene standards. On the face of it, these two would appear to be welcome steps. But, the political participation in the States that embraced these measures has fallen. Therefore, is it now time to abandon these initiatives and re-embrace status quo ante?

This is the item that drew my attention:

5. In December 2014, Rajasthan passed legislation that mandated functional toilets and minimum educational qualifications (Class X for Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti, Class VIII for Sarpanch, and Class V for Schedule areas) to stand in local body elections. Haryana followed suit for Panchayat elections. The Supreme Court, in another example of kritarchy, upheld the legislations mandating minimum educational qualifications to stand in local government elections. The implications are profound.
The conditions have resulted in the shrinking of the pool of candidates who are eligible to contest. In Haryana, the education requirements—matriculation for the general candidates, Class VIII for women and Scheduled Caste men and Class V for Scheduled Caste women—has disenfranchised 78% of all men, 89.1% of all women and 62.1% and 67.5% of Scheduled Caste men and women, respectively, according to Census 2011 data… Of the 6,207 sarpanch elections across Haryana, 274 were won unopposed and 22 went vacant. It’s more or less the same story in Rajasthan where the January-February 2015 election saw 260 sarpanchs getting elected unopposed, compared to 35 in 2010.
The level of political participation fell across a range of parameters.
The post has other interesting links too.
Recording my thoughts that were triggered by this post above:
(1) It is a reminder that, in public policy matters, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and second, that there could and would be the scope for the law of unintended consequences to play out.
(2) The proposed measures can still be kept in force if, at least, it had driven aspirants to political power to build more toilets in their homes, neighbourhood, villages and to equip themselves with education through adult education, distance learning and other avenues. In other words, are the measures achieving their intended goals even if a cost had been incurred in terms of lower/declining political participation?
(3) If (2) were not happening, then it might be time to scrap the measures for there would only be costs and no benefits? That brings us to the issue of time-frame. There should be an intended (target) time-frame, when a policy is put in place, for it to show results.If the results are not forthcoming within that period, it would be time to review and scrap the policy.
(4) That brings me to the final point. When a policy is framed, in the Statement of Objects or after that, an explicit time-frame should be mentioned and second, to the extent possible, anticipated costs and expected benefits should be mentioned. It could be both qualitative and quantitative.
Both would enable purposeful policy assessment and critical evaluation facilitating decision on continuation or abandonment of the policy measures.

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