The annual SKOCH State of Governance review assesses how Indian states have fared the previous year. We look at grassroots projects, government policies, administration initiatives and citizen engagement. Like every other aspect of public life, the dominant factor influencing state governance in 2020 was the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every year we evaluate projects for the difference they have made in people’s lives. The research process includes expert juries, peer reviews, focus groups and conversations on the ground with beneficiaries. Each project is judged within a particular governance category. Each state’s performance in these categories contributes to its overall rank in our annual review. The aim of this exercise is to understand both the macro and micro tiers of governance. We look at decision-making at the state level through the prism of lived realities. As we studied state governance in 2020, we began to notice certain trends. Covid-19 disrupted state governance in 2020 but while some sectors like Tourism & Culture struggled, understandably, others prospered under pressure. Some have done surprisingly well and inspired this series.
The Evolution Of Governance In 2020
The following table is a sectoral analysis of state governance in India. It shows a category-wise breakdown of the total number of projects per year. These sectors are yardsticks for assessing administrative function. And so, it is interesting to see where states are doing well and what might need more intervention. The table covers a 5-year span from 2015-2020 so we can trace the evolution of governance in recent times. It also shows how drastically things changed for state governance in 2020.
|Shifting Governance Priorities: State Governments From 2015-2020|
|Projects Ranked Per Year (%)|
|Ease of Doing Business||0.74||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.22|
|Finance & Revenue||0.12||0.92||1.24||2.63||4.05||10.09||2.06|
|Food & Civil Supplies||0.00||1.28||1.44||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.52|
|Governance (General Administration)||2.83||7.88||2.06||8.88||9.80||9.21||5.73|
|Police & Safety||12.92||9.34||1.44||0.00||3.04||0.00||6.44|
|Power & Energy||2.21||3.30||2.47||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.80|
|Social Justice & Social Security||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.97||0.00||0.00||0.22|
|Tourism & Culture||0.00||0.37||0.41||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.15|
|Women & Child Development||1.35||1.47||1.65||2.30||0.00||0.00||1.27|
|Total number of projects studied||813||546||485||304||296||228||2672|
|Response to covid||24.97|
|Number of Projects Related to Response to Covid||203|
Covid-19 Dominates Governance In 2020
It is plain to see that Covid-19 obviously dominated state governance in 2020. 24.97% of all state governance in 2020 projects fall within the Covid-category. The authorities at all levels straightaway sprang into Covid-specific action by March 2020. The number of Covid-response projects we studied this past year are a testament to people’s spirit of service. In light of how hard authorities have fought against the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that some of the most impactful 2020 schemes were Covid-related projects by local administrations and the police. To begin with, authorities focused on lockdown protocols and the supply of essential products and services. In addition to that, we study schemes concerned with developing healthcare infrastructure, counselling services, addressing non-Covid health problems etc.
District Administration Improves In 2020
The most surprising development however is how district administration has matured. In fact, it looks like governance in 2020 has taken a sharp turn in favour of decentralisation. To illustrate, we see that a whopping 40.34% of the year’s projects are credited to district administrations. This particular finding stopped us short and inspired this new series: a sectoral analysis of state governance in 2020. We are studying new patterns and movements across these sectors to interpret what they might mean for the future of administration.
District administrations have shown great initiative in both Covid and non-Covid fields. For example, a highly impactful Non-Covid Health scheme is the Mission Indradhanush vaccination program in Ahmadabad, Gujarat. For the Covid segment, we have Khagaria in Bihar, recognised for using creativity to fight Covid with boat ambulances. Additionally, in the Agricultural niche at the district level, Gujarat and Odisha ran highly impactful projects to help farmers. It would be fair to expect authorities at all levels to be exhausted but that has not been the case. In fact, districts have done remarkably well by taking charge of their own needs in 2020.
State Governance In 2020 Marked By Robust Policing
Our men in khaki have long been the most recognisable arm of civil authority. And this has never been truer than it was in 2020. The police served unflinchingly during the worst of the pandemic. The Police & Safety segment is the third-highest performer of state governance in 2020. The police have been instrumental in enforcing lockdown protocols, facilitating essential services and liaising with local administrations. To sum up, policemen have been the most accessible point of authority this past year. They have been integral to educating people about the virus and counselling communities.
The Rajkot City Police, Gujarat, is one of the many examples of transformational policing during Covid. The force used drone cameras, ANPR systems, undercover police officers and the ‘Safe Rajkot’ app to monitor the situation. The Gujarat Jail Department is another example of effective state governance in 2020. The department’s efforts were aimed at keeping inmates, parolees and persons on bail and furlough safe from Covid. The e-Mulakat system lets inmates communicate with family without risking exposure. Video court sessions instead of in-person appearances also decreased risk whilst saving time and resources.
Governance In 2020
Municipal governance is another sector we’ve observed improvement in this past year. And e-Governance has increased with social distancing protocols making traditional operations unsafe. The Water and non-Covid Health segments also deserve a mention here. Only time will tell whether these changes are simply a response to the pandemic or a sign of shifting tides. This year we are going to be taking a closer look at some of these administrative functions. It will be interesting to compare state governance in 2020 with 2021 and map trends.