ANTYODAYA …The last mile, the last house, the last citizen…

April 14, 2014

Undoubtedly, the target of every policy in governance has to cover the last mile, reach the last house and benefit the last citizen. If not, then there is no meaning to declaring “Rights” or giving doles through “Schemes”.

The job of any government in centre is to see that it secures the ground basic sustenance for every individual in the country. The elements of “ground basic” may vary however, the following elements, more or less, find place in every definition whenever we speak of “Ground Basic Infrastructure” :

  1. Housing, with sanitation in the precincts
  2. School, within a set distance and population density
  3. Public Health Centre, with Infra to run daily OPD
  4. Police Station, with Infra to maintain lawful environ

Sounds basic, but governments till date have hardly been able to impress and the penetration levels in each of these areas remain dismal. Reasons could be many, red tapism and corruption to name a few; however, each planning commission and each 5 year plan cite cost as the reason to justify and glorify the results achieved.

So, on one hand we had glorious achievements of governments on paper, and on the other we have dismal penetration after 6 decades of independence. Well, obviously there are challenges..

a)      Creating ground up infra-structure is expensive. With all the fiscal pressures that the country has, mandating a program that provides a house, a school, a PHC and a Police station in every panchayat is a huge cost to the exchequer

b)      Provided the resources are arranged, there is no single agency that can implement this plan; neither could the supervision be entrusted to a single window; thus standardization across the size and scale of our country would be impossible

c)       Assuming that these two aspects are taken care of, raising infrastructure “ground-up” across the length and breadth of the country would be a process without mile-stones; the timelines would be stretched and uncertain

d)      Moreover, there would be too much red tape, too many departments involved in bringing this exercise about; sooner or later “lack of co-ordination” would kill the concept.

These are operational challenges which are all stemming from one single challenge that we as policy-makers need to overcome – CONVENTIONAL THINKING ..


Shyama Prasad Mookerjee “Immediate Infrastructure” Scheme

The moment we start thinking lateral, the plan becomes

  1. Economically Feasible
  2. Standardizable & Controllable
  3. Implementable within time frame
    1. With minimal co-ordination

Here we are talking about converting a negative into a positive and with precision standardization, with minimum stress on the exchequer and timely co-ordinated implementation. All this idea needs is some resource, but a lot of political will.

Our EXIM balance is negative, ie we import more than we export which is a stress on the economy; however, this also means that we have surplus of shipping containers which come in with goods, and then lie in our ports unused. These containers can be used to provide “Immediate Infrastructure” rapidly to cover the last mile, reach the last house and benefit the last citizen. These would be durable enough to stand and deliver till the permanent infrastructure is created “Ground Up” via the conventional methods following all procedures and bureaucracy.

This innovative use of shipping containers can give us

a)      Low cost standardized housing, with a portable toilet being made available for a cluster of such houses.

b)      All our relief/refugee camps can be converted to these dwellings which would be more durable and weather resistant than the current tent accommodations

c)       Schools in the far reached of the country can be built using these robust structures, thus cutting the distance that willing children have to cover to get educated

d)      Police Stations and PHCs in the remotest places could be commissioned  and operationalized in minimal time and cost

The logistics of transporting these containers, by road or air, is simpler than reaching multitude of building materials. Moreover, as these structures do not need foundation, the commissioning of the planned infrastructure is economical and speedy.

Moreover, this would not be experimentation as these structures have been used for similar purposes on multiple occasions. In fact, the idea has proven to work in most trying circumstances eg. Army Network Centres in forward areas, Medical consultation centres during disasters, Dwelling in Adventure/Experimentation zones like Antarctica.

In the current system, once an Infrastructure plan has been agreed upon, it goes through layers of administrative and financial approvals. The time taken compromises the delivery, and the governance loses credibility as the citizens are not benefitted. We are nowhere saying to do away with the conventional, but to have a focus on reaching and benefitting citizens in time.

This one innovative plan has the revolutionary potential to cut the “Decision to Delivery” time phenomenally.

This plan can enable the governance to cover the last mile, reach the last home, benefit the last citizen in the queue in a tangible, standardized, Time bound manner.

After all, ANTYODAYA is the mission that we all have … a mission that this plan can achieve!

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