It is an extremely gratifying moment for Honey Bee Network because a policy change pursued for more than 10 years has been implemented at last.It is an extremely gratifying moment for Honey Bee Network because a policy change pursued for more than 10 years has been implemented at last.
Government of India has announced recently that under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), three best innovations by common people will get cash awards of Rs2.5, Rs1.5 lakh and Rs1 lakh from the MP for fostering ‘grassroots, bottoms up approach to innovation and development and to arrive at solutions for local problems which are sustainable and scalable’.
Way back in 2000, I and Dr Mashelkar had written a letter to all MPs seeking allocation of 10% of MPLAD funds (currently Rs5 crore) for promotion of grassroots innovations in their constituency. Several MPs wrote back appreciating the idea. Dr Manmohan Singh, then leader of opposition felt that the scheme would need change. The change has now come about. Ideas take long time to fruition. But persistence pays.
The current policy provides selection of the innovative solutions by a committee in a transparent manner headed by district collector or magistrate having six members from engineering, finance, health and sanitation, academia, industry and banking and financial institutions.
The procedure looks bureaucratic and the process for seeking out the ideas is not specified. The idea of putting creativity and innovation at the core of political consciousness has a great potential. It will inflame the hunger for continuous improvement in every social activity, make leaders listen to creative people and generate humility because many times solutions will come from illiterate or less educated people.
The cultural impact can be huge if these ideas are not just left in lurch after award but also implemented for further improvement through user feedback. NIF will track these ideas and wherever there is a fit with its mandate, it will take them forward for further development.
There is a provision for five more innovators to be given a certificate of appreciation. The faction and caste-ridden politics may find the background of many of the innovators quite surprising. To that extent, inclusivity in the imagination and implementation of ideas may increase. The administration may also become more responsive when it starts implementing ideas from below.
Some of the ways in which ideas can be scouted by the MPs and district administration are: a. encouraging students in schools and colleges to look for odd balls who have tried new ideas for solving problems, b. informing school teachers at the pay centre about the campaign and thus mobilising ideas through them, c. putting posters at bus stands, railway stations and in various public service offices, d. broadcasting information about the existing innovations to provoke and invite ideas through radio, cable TV and local newspapers and e. involving workers in Employment Guarantee Programme, other public and private works, MSME.
There will be some ideas, which are ready for implementation, but there will be many more which need to be supported before they become replicable. For such ideas, either District Innovation Fund or MPLAD Scheme should have provision for some kind of incubation support. If 150 ideas are supported in a district, 10 to 15 may qualify for recognition. NIF can take up technological ideas and SRISTI can help in cultural, administrative, educational and other ideas.
It will also require an exposure to the MPs about how grassroots ideas emerge. When we made a presentation to the MPs from northeast two years ago in Sikkim, most were unaware of the creative people in their own regions. India is embarking upon an extraordinary journey to engage with creative people for generating decentralised and diversified developmental innovative ideas from below.
The success of this scheme might change the nature of the polity and the tenor of transactions between state, market and society. I hope Members of Parliament from various parties will pay personal attention to this scheme and charge their own batteries by empowering creative people in their own constituency. A long overdue engagement between creative people and their representatives in the parliament has begun. The virus of cynicism can perhaps be contained through such engagement leading to celebration of creativity of minds on the margin.