Frequently Asked Questions - IndiaGoverns

Frequently Asked Questions


What is IndiaGoverns trying to do?

IndiaGoverns Research Institute aims to:

  • Make the development discourse between elected representatives and citizens better informed and backed by specific data, rather than only relying on perceptions;
  • Enable citizen groups and elected representatives to use such government data to strengthen their demands for greater government intervention on development issues relevant to them.

There is so much data that the government collects that remains in the files and is not accessible to citizens. First, it is important to get this data out so people know what the government records say on various programmes and development parameters. Second, organising this data along MLA constituencies is useful because that enables citizens to take up issues with their elected representatives.

But would it not be better to talk to the government officers locally, rather than MLAs or other elected representatives?

Government officers are responsible for implementation of government programmes. But, in theory, they are not directly accountable to citizens. They are accountable to elected representatives.

Where is IndiaGoverns getting all this data about development? Is the data complete and accurate?

IndiaGoverns accesses data only from government sources. Every effort has been made to collate data accurately from government sources. If there are discrepancies in the data, then it is because that is the data that has been reported by government. In such cases it would be useful for citizens and MLAs to discuss this with government and look for complete and accurate data on all issues. Indeed, one of the desired outcomes of this initiative will be for government to make available to the public accurate and consistent government data on all subjects.

What is the role of an MLA?

Strange as it might sound, there is no ‘official’ definition of the role of an MLA in Karnataka (or for that matter any other state in India.) This creates a problem of expectations among ordinary citizens with regard to their MLAs. In theory, the MLA’s has the four broad roles he needs to fulfil:

  • legislative – the role of making laws.
  • oversight – to make sure that the state government is doing the right things.
  • representation – representing the voice of citizens from his constituency in the assembly.
  • budget scrutiny and approval – carefully studying the budget before approving it (which enables the government to spend money on programmes.)

So if MLAs do not have formal responsibility of fixing potholes or drilling bore wells, why are we trying to hold them accountable for these services?

In most cases, when candidates come to speak to voters at the time of elections, there is very little said about development issues in a specific manner. See some sample speeches here. The idea is to provide specific development data to politicians and citizens so that the discussion at election time and later will be about specific development issues, instead of very general rhetoric. So the central idea of IndiaGoverns is to shift the debate to specific development issues.

Having said this, it is a fact that MLAs in Karnataka have formal roles in local committees of various kinds. They are part of the Zilla Panchayat meeting, have oversight responsibility on ration shop committees, etc. In all these forums, it is hoped that the MLA will speak about development issues that the citizens in his constituency raise from time to time.

What will be the expected outcome of an effort like this?

The central idea of IndiaGoverns is to shift the debate to specific development issues. If it is possible to get citizens, media, NGOs, and other stakeholders to actively track development indicators in a constituency, then it will ensure faster response of MLAs to issues and concerns of the people.

What needs to be done to make this a success?

There are several things that are required to make this a success.

  • Continually collate data from government sources and present it in a manner so as to make it easily understandable to citizens.
  • On an ongoing basis, organise meetings between MLAs and the communities so as to provide a platform for discussing the data that the government is reporting.
  • Smart engagement with media, NGOs, student community, etc. These are some points that are integral part of building up this movement.

Why is this effort not trying to reach out to and engage with government civil servants, instead of elected representatives?

The government civil service is not elected by the people. While several citizens continue to engage with the civil servants at all levels, there is a positive role that an elected representative can play by using his formal authority and informal influence for the benefit of the people in the constituency.

What if the MLA says he does not believe in the data?

Government collects significant amounts of data. And it is common knowledge that data collated from one source in government may not match with data on the same issue collected from a different source. If an MLA does not believe in the data that has been put out by the government, then he is expected to raise the issue with the government authorities and demand clean and reliable data.

How will the data be used by various stakeholders such as citizens, NGOs, media, MLAs, etc.?

The government data provided by IndiaGoverns can be used by a number of stakeholders. The MLA can use it as a basis of discussion with communities in his constituency and also with the government to make a case for the constituency. The community meetings can be opportunities for the MLA to identify the development priorities articulated by the citizens. His political opponents could use this as a means to show that not much has been done in the constituency during the term of the current MLA. The media can use the data to highlight the issues for their readers from time to time. NGOs can facilitate community meetings with the local MLA and get him to respond to any pressing concerns that might come up in the development data for the constituency.

Who can organise meetings at the community level?

IndiaGoverns is a strictly non-partisan initiative, focusing only on development of the constituency. This is not for or against any political party or any individual. Any person who wants to discuss development issues in the constituency can take initiative and hold meetings at the community level.

What if the local MLA is not interested in looking at data of the constituency or be part of community meetings to discuss the development of the constituency?

At IndiaGoverns we believe that every MLA wants development in the constituency. If for any reason the MLA does not appear to be interested in looking at development data, it will be up to citizens, media, and other stakeholders to find other ways of using data to discuss issues in the constituency in as many forums as necessary.

This is a great initiative. I would like to see such analysis for Bihar, my state. Do you work only in Karnataka?

To start with IndiaGoverns is focussed on Karnataka. It is important to do similar work in as many states as possible. If you think you can help build a base in any other state in India, please contact us at info@indiagoverns.org