Stories of Policy Influence
IRMA: THE PESA STORY (Theme Coordinator: Prof. Ajay Dandekar)

Setting the Scene
The 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Constitution in India were landmark pieces of legislation which introduced the third tier of Governance in a most emphatic manner in the entire structure of Indian democratic praxis. The 73rd and the 74th amendments were passed by Indian parliaments by amending the constitution of India. They came into force on 24th of April 1993. By these amendments the third tier of the local governance was added to the first two tiers of the federal and the state structures. The major feature of the amendments was to significantly boost the grassroot democracy at the village level. These were extended to the Vth Scheduled Areas in the year 1996 after the Bhuria Committee submitted its report. The report recommended the extension of the Panchayat Raj Act to the areas under the Vth schedule of the Indian constitution. These were and are largely the areas where the tribal population of the country resides.  By such an extension article 243M (4) (2) of Part IX of the Constitution introduced Provisions of the Panchayat (extension to scheduled areas) Act, 1996 (PESA- Panchayati Raj Extension to the schedule areas). This Act extended the Panchayati Raj Act (The Panchayati Raj Act adds the third tier of governance. It provides for a major devolution of power of the state by advocating a transfer of 29 subjects to the local governments) to scheduled areas.

PESA is a unique legislation, often described as a Constitution within the Constitution that brings forth two totally different worlds - the governance system of tribal communities by their respective customs and traditions, and the constitutional praxis of the State. It provides to the state a democratic frame of reference that ensures complete participatory form of democracy.  

Panchayati Raj Extension Schedule Areas Act or PESA is a watershed in the governance structure of the scheduled areas of the country where the scheduled tribes are. As this act transfers powers directly to the people who are residing in the area. It transfers control over resources such as land, water, minor forest produce and minor minerals, to the people in the schedule v area. It deems that communities and people are competent to govern themselves. This is also the area that has been affected by the left wing extremism (Refer references for the details). The need to overcome the governance deficit was underscored by an IRMA report on “State of Panchayati Raj” that looked at the issue. This report was released in the year 2010. One specific chapter in the report dealt with the tribes, Pesa and issues of governance. It highlighted the failure of the process of implementation of the Act and the reasons for such a failure. This particular piece of writing seemed to regenerate the debate on PESA and its noncompliance by the state governments despite the Central Act that was passed in the year 1996.

One of the major achievements was to have an engagement with the National Advisory Council (the highest political think tank in India, One of the Faculty members was invited by the NAC working group on PESA to make contribution to the deliberations in the working group), where a working group was set up to look into the issues of implementation of PESA and make suggestions at the highest levels of policy making. A number of documents were provided to the working group and the theme coordinator too was a part of the working group on PESA. This enabled the IRMA to engage with the policy makers and out of that collective engagement the National Advisory Council finalised its recommendations on PESA.

Apart from the engagement with the NAC, on finalizing its recommendations on PESA, IRMA also engaged with a number of organisations and policy makers on ground to keep the debate alive. In the most recent development the IRMA theme coordinator for PESA was asked to contribute a chapter on policy issues in Government of India constituted committee. This chapter was duly accepted and incorporated in the five volume report that was released recently. (The report was released very recently where contribution was made by the theme coordinator in the report. See reference 4 for the title.)

Actors/ Partners
The IRMA has also been instrumental in forging durable relationships with policy players in various institutions that has enabled a healthy dialogue between us, such as the CSDS, RGICS, NAC and others.


  • Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas. Planning Commission. 2008
  • Ajay Dandekar and Chitrangada Choudhury, PESA, Left Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts. IRMA.2010.
  • Towards Holistic Panchayat Raj. 2013.

Setting the Scene
Digital Empowerment Foundation is working with the Chanderi weavers since 2009 to save the dying traditional handloom weaving art form, in Madhya Pradesh. The primary tasks involved skills enhancement in weaving, and textile designing, which would lead to income enhancement, and social well-being. Chanderi has a population of around 30,000 as per the 2001 census of which a third belongs to the weaving communities; of these communities, more than 60 percent of the looms belong to Muslim families. The Chanderi town is estimated to generate Rs 65 cores ($ 13 Million) of business annually.  Most weavers have admitted to their incomes have doubled up from Rs. 3000/- to Rs. 6000/- as a result of the Chanderi project. Moreover, the project has resulted in making the 90% of the weaver population reduce its dependence on master weavers (large businessmen who acted as intermediaries in the supply chain). Earlier poor wavers were dependent on the latter due to the lack of purchasing power to buy raw material, and did not own their own loom. The weavers also lacked the skills to create their designs, or even approach customers for orders.

As part of our project funded from IRMA’s IDRC-TTI grant, we wanted to understand how NGOs can link poor producers with large markets outside their geography so as to enhance the earnings of the poor producers. We undertook the field study of Chanderi Weavers in Ashok Nagar District, Madhya Pradesh.
Our case study showed how non-profit organizations like Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) could leverage the ICT to bridge the information separation between the market and the weavers by creating an ecosystem of partnerships with others such as Media Lab Asia (MLA), by working closely with Government of India’s Ministry of ICT, the weavers, and other intermediaries as stakeholders, to successfully improve the conditions of the weavers. They have created a brand name Chanderiyaan. They have been able to successfully leverage the ICT technology such as, card punching machine, CHIC, CARPET and CAD software tools to reduce designing time and improve the quality of work. They have now created an e-commerce website [] which is connecting the weavers with buyers. Currently, the government is supporting the project by way of a grant of Rs 11 million to DEF, and the Media Lab Asia (MLA) supports the project. It is benefiting about 10,000 poor families of weavers.

This study was presented at the Prime Minister’s Office in the second week of October 2012 to Mr. Ramadorai, advisor to PMO on skills development program, by DEF and MLA, to make a case for replication of this model in two more weaver clusters in India.

Mint Live & The Wall Street Journal published an article based on our study on 15 October. The weblink accessed on 15 October 2012

POVERTY PATHWAYS IN SIKKIM (Theme Coordinator: Prof. Ajay Dandekar)


Setting the Scene
The 12th Five Year Plan aims at achieving faster and more inclusive growth. As per the latest poverty estimates of the Planning Commission of India, the poor in Sikkim declined from 30.9% in 2004-05 to 13.1% in 2009-10. This rate of poverty reduction in Sikkim is the second highest in the country. There is little knowledge available of the direct connection between economic growth, present development paradigm and poverty. Why some households/individuals benefit more and some less especially in the wake of liberalization and privatization policies making inroads in India, is something worth exploring and studying especially as poverty debate becomes more and more acrimonious and the field becomes a contested terrain. Poverty is inherently dynamic. While certain households are escaping from poverty, others are falling back into the poverty trap. Achieving faster poverty reduction requires speeding up the pace of escapes while concurrently slowing down the rate of descents into poverty.

As part of the IDRC-TTI policy research project, an attempt was made to understand the concept of poverty from peoples’ perspective – both men and women in the state of Sikkim. With ethnic communities constituting majority of the population of the state, we thought it would be important to understand the concept of poverty there, and also to investigate the factors leading them in and out of poverty. The idea was to provide policy inputs to the government of Sikkim so as to help in preparing a clear road map for the Mission: Poverty Free Sikkim.

The Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim presided over the discussions where we presented our findings and discussed its policy implications with the concerned department secretary. In a letter from the Rural Management and Development Department, Government of Sikkim, they highly commended the work and the innovative way of finding the impact of Government schemes and programmes. They felt that the study integrated impact assessment at household level from agriculture, rural development schemes, education, health, etc. They have appreciated the findings and believe that this would be very useful for policy formulation, especially poverty alleviation and health programmes.


Setting the Scene
The thriving voluntary sector is providing the much needed social services to the vulnerable and the marginalized, and also deepening the process of democracy by empowering the people to articulate their views and assert their rights. Despite these hard earned achievements, the sector is not given its due recognition and appreciation of its efforts to improve social service delivery and manage the space for articulation of genuine public opinion. On the contrary there have been apparent attempts to restrict the work of the sector by amendments in the Income Tax Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. Though there is a National Policy on Voluntary Sector 2007, but it has not been implemented. As an important sector that contributes to social development, it is time that the government and the society recognize the need to give it its due.

In this context, Institute of Rural management Anand (IRMA) in collaboration with HelpAge India is working on a policy research project on Voluntary Sector in India: Challenges, Opportunities and Voices from the Field supported by the International Development Research Centre’s – Think Tank Initiative. As a part of this project, a national consultation of NGO leaders was organized in New Delhi at India Habitat Centre on 26 April 2012. The purpose of this consultation was to compile and highlight the important issues on the subject and present them in a form of a position paper for advocacy on the rights of the sector.

In the first phase, the findings of the research project were shared with the following government functionaries:

  • Concerned Member and Advisor of the Planning Commission
  • Concerned senior Officers in the Union Ministry of Finance and Law
  • Chairperson of Central Board of Direct Taxes

The findings are also shared with the other voluntary sector organizations like Voluntary Agency Network of India (VANI) that have been working in the field of rights of the sector for couple of decades.

This effort has brought together some of the important NGO leaders in the country and advocacy organizations to voice their views and concerns facing the sector. Encouraged by the response, as a follow up of this first phase, an effort is planned to engage further with NGO leaders, experts, officers, and advocacy organizations to strengthen the movement for creation of an enabling environment for the voluntary sector. We see this project a part of a long drawn movement to fight for the legitimate rights of the voluntary organizations. The strength of the project is that it brings together various credible stakeholders such as academic institution, NGOs and advocacy organizations, policy makers and planners together on a common platform. The group will try and find solutions to the challenges facing the sector. It will be a meaningful effort in the on-going movement for the legitimate demands of the third sector. It will act as a conduit between the voluntary organizations and the policy/decision makers. It will act as a communication tool for the voluntary sector organization that would facilitate the process that has been initiated by the Government to address the three major concerns of the voluntary sector organizations. The effort is strengthening the cause of the third sector by aggregating and articulating its demands better.

RURAL URBAN LINKAGE (Theme coordinator: Prof. Mukul Kumar)


Setting the Scene
The theme on rural urban interface at IRMA as part of TTI grant is working towards developing better understanding on the process of urbanization in policy and academic circles. There are multiple projects within it which are working on different aspects of urbanization in India. Some of these are peripheral urbanization, local governance, supplies of essential commodities for the cities, use of subjective well-being etc.

Studies have produced evidence to move in new directions for a better form of urbanization in India. In this regard the team has tried to involve many relevant actors from municipal and government organizations, academics and practitioners in sound discussion to move towards an ideal form of urbanization. Some of these issues are pretty difficult as they are linked to the larger economic changes happening at the global level and changing the course of urbanization suddenly would be difficult. Many of these forces are beyond the capacities of sovereign governments as well as these forces emerge from the global political economy. We have however made necessary academic and other efforts to push for changes which are smaller and less overarching in scope alongside working towards larger changes. This requires production of relevant knowledge and its dissemination in relevant circle. Some of our efforts are included in the following section


  1. The problems of erstwhile villages (villages assimilated in urban areas) in urban areas have been raised on different forums and in interpersonal consultations in different parts of the country. This has also been disseminated through a policy note of the institute. Many of these villages are not in good shape as urban civic services reach them very late; therefore a need for advocacy was being realized. In this process of becoming urban they lose out on certain benefits they had earlier been getting as villages. Many of these villages have developed as slums both inside and on the fringes of many cities. The problem was raised by Prof. Mukul Kumar with Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, the former Minister of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, who headed a Government of India committee under the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (ministry to take care of local self governance in rural areas). The committee was formed to recommend better ways for efficient delivery of public goods and services by leveraging panchayats (local self governments). Prof. Kumar was invited for a presentation before the committee. In the context of such transforming villages, Mr. Aiyar talked about panchayats in transition in the state of Tamil Nadu. Along with this issue many other suggestions were given to improve the condition of public services in panchayats. This will hopefully help develop some parity between rural and urban areas in terms availability of basic services and amenities.
  2. Prof. Atulan Guha alongwith a few colleagues at IRMA (who are consultants to the Third State Finance Commission) are part of the process of consultations which will help them write a report for Third State Finance Commission of Gujarat. State Finance Commission is a constitutional body and decides about allocation of revenues between the state government and local government units such as panchayats and urban municipal bodies. The report of the finance commission is itself a very important policy document for the government. Currently, this team is working towards recommending on the following:
    •  How much funds should go to local bodies (urban and rural)
    • How local bodies should generate their own resources
    • What should be their accounting practices
    • How asset management should be done by them
  3. These set of recommendations would possibly lead to better revenues for urban local bodies and better services in the state of Gujarat.

  4. A new urban development authority has been formed by the Government of Gujarat including towns such as Anand, Vallabh Vidyanagar and Karamsad. An institute of environmental design known as Arvindbhai Patel Institute of Environmental Design is in-charge of developing a development plan for Ananad Vidyanagar Karamsad Urban Development Authority (AVKUDA). This will include land use plan as well. Prof. Kumar has been consulted by the institute who advocated for ideas generated through studies as part of TTI in developing their plan. Prof. Pramod K. Singh has also been consulted in this regard. Most of urban development plans emulate bigger cities and follow modernistic compact models with mass transit systems. These plans have also little regard for the villagers and villages that are affected in the process. As there is a lot of agricultural land available in the region which farmers are less inclined to sell in this area there is a great possibility of designing urban spaces interspersed with agriculture land and urban farming. This is possible here as population load in this region is not very high. The attempt was made to ensure urban development without necessarily expropriating too much resource of villages falling in this area. The aim is to promote urban development without forgetting rural development.
  5. With regard to supplies of essential commodities a study on tomato supply was done in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh by Prof. M. V. Durga Prasad. After this study, automation of modified marketing procedures at Madanapalle tomato market with pricing model was suggested to Agricultural market committee officials at Madanapalle. Approval of such changes would come from Commissionerate of Agricultural Marketing, Hyderabad. Accordingly presentation had been made to the Commissioner as well as to the AP Chief Minister’s brother and his party worker. Commissioner was keen to approve the proposal once it reaches him from the agricultural market committee, Madanapalle. The congress party worker has asked Prof. Durga Prasad to send a copy of the proposal to him so that he will try to implement it in his constituency. Proposal of automation of marketing facilities requires a low allocation of Rs 33 lakhs. In this automation project, android based software will be used in a mobile gadget device. Recovery period of such investment is estimated to be just 19 days by charging just 10 paise per Kg transaction for all the three stakeholders.

Mukul Kumar. 2012. State of Erstwhile Villages in Urban India: A Policy Note. IDRC-TTI Working Paper. Institute of Rural Management Anand.

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