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Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 12:14 AM (IST)

Khattar’s governance experiment

Sushil Manav
Nearly two years after Haryana involved young professionals in govt’s welfare works, there is cautious optimism about the initiative. The Good Governance Associates (CMGGA) for all 22 districts work closely with top district officials. There are apprehensions about ‘parallel system’ of governance

Sushil Manav in Chandigarh

A young Shailiza Mayal draws hushed inquiries from senior officers of Karnal as they sit for video conferencing on the Haryana government’s flagship programme, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. “Who’s she?” whispers an officer. His colleague whispers back, explaining Mayal’s position. The officer had heard about Khattar’s governance associates, but had never met one. 

There are 22 of them like Mayal, one for each district of Haryana. They are Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGAs). They are in their early 20s with a sound educational background and are drawn from top universities of the country. So, Mohit Soni, a CMGGA at Nuh, is a biotechnology graduate from Holkar Science College Indore. He is also a law graduate from Delhi University. Mayal is an engineering graduate from Savitribai Phule Pune University; Kritika is a history honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. She also holds a postgraduate degree in social work in criminology and justice from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

When the BJP swept to power in the state in 2014, Khattar, an old Sangh Pracharak, was suddenly catapulted to the post of chief minister. Nearly 15 months after coming to power Khattar introduced the concept of CMGGA. His government signed a memorandum of understanding with Ashok University, based in Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Sonepat. A few months before Khattar’s initiative, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had launched a similar programme — Chief Minister’s Fellows —in collaboration with the Indian School of Business (ISB). “I was impressed with Naidu’s experiment,” Khattar said.

Haryana appointed one CMGGA each in all districts in the first year of the programme’s introduction in 2016. The first batch worked till June 30, 2017. The second batch of 22 CMGGAs (Charkhi Dadri was elevated as a new district last year) and another, Ankit Jain, posted at the headquarters for coordination, joined duties on June 15. Sources said the overlapping 15 days were kept deliberately to allow new CMGGAs to acclimatize themselves with the work environment.

Such type of intervention in governance is unusual. So, there were questions: who are CMGGAs? How are they appointed? What are their perks and other entitlements? What is their mandate? 

Who are they?

Additional principal secretary Rakesh Gupta, who monitors the CMGGA programme in Chief Minister’s Office, describes the initiative as a strategic collaboration between the state government and Ashoka University, which seeks to promote good governance through strategic planning, training and capacity building, development research and documentation and knowledge management. 

As per the MoU, the Ashoka University facilitates the process of selection, recruitment, training, mentoring and monitoring the work of the Associates and also pays a stipend of Rs 50,000 per month to them under its corporate social responsibility (CSR). In the districts, the government provides them a vehicle for their job-related duties and an accommodation in the state rest houses.

“The CMGGAs’ selection is done through a three-step process that includes vetting their curriculum vitae and profiles, telephonic interviews and finally face-to-face interviews,” says Gupta. The aspirants must be a graduate in any stream and should be between 21 and 28 years of age.

Programme coordinator Ankit Jain says the one-year tenure follows a ‘field and forum’ approach, wherein, Associates spend seven weeks in the field in their respective districts. Then they gather at Ashoka University to collate their findings, brainstorm solutions and prepare their presentations to the Chief Minister. 

The Associates also receive constant training and support throughout the year and continue to learn through discussion forums, networking and other professional development opportunities. “Their work is further structured into three essential work streams —‘modules’, ‘capsules’ and ‘pilots’, each designed or facilitated by the CMGGA Programme Team. Each associate also undertakes additional projects to support the district administration,” says Jain.

The modules are assignments focused on the flagship programmes of the state government, and are conducted uniformly and simultaneously by Associates in each district.  For instance, the Modules include land revenue reformations and police service delivery reform, public grievances, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Swachh Bharat Mission. Modules typically run the course of an impact cycle, from initial research to ideation and implementation. 

“Capsules are short work pieces and vary depending on the needs articulated by the CM’s office. Pairs of Associates work on a range of problem statements such as social audits in Panchayati Raj Institutions, monitoring public works by urban local bodies, skilling for schedule and backward caste women, digitization of milk diaries and setting up e-panchayats,” says Jain. Depending on the needs identified through the capsules, these can be taken up as future work modules. 

Pilots are new products, projects or programmes initiated by Associates in collaboration with the district administration. Each Associate is encouraged to initiate two pilot projects in their district. Following the successful implementation of a pilot at the district level it can be scaled across the entire state,” says Jain.

Before leaving, the 2016 batch identified some best practices in their respective districts and compiled them in a compendium published by the government. 

The experience

Shailiza says her tenure as CMGGA gave her an opportunity to understand how the government works and what the challenges are. “As a CMGGA, I worked on the implementation of various projects across multiple departments. The CMGGA tenure has given us the opportunity to closely work with the top leadership in the district and support them in designing, planning, and implementing innovative projects,” says Shailiza.

Mohit Soni who is credited with introducing monitoring and motivation system in government schools in Mewat, says CMGGA programmes provided him the liberty to work on his innovative ideas in the field of education in the backward district of Mewat.

Sirsa resident Arun Mehta, who is general secretary of Helen Keller School for Visually Impaired Children in the town, describes how due to an initiative taken by CMGGA Priyanka Sinha, the lives of students have changed for the better.

“After noticing that they pursue their studies through old Braille books in the IT era, Priyanka visited National Association for Blind (Nabindia) in Delhi and after months of work, she was able to provide digital means of studies,” says Mehta.

‘Hindrance in governance’

Former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress says the CMGGAs are a hindrance in governance. “These are extra-constitutional posts and have no role in the administrative set-up. They can create confusion in the functioning of the administration.” 

INLD Abhay Singh Chautala, who is also the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, says the scheme is nothing but wastage of funds to accommodate government’s chosen people. “On the one hand, the state government is borrowing money for running its affairs, and on the other, it is wasting money on CMGGAs,” says Chautala.

Naveen Jaihind, state convener of the Aam Aadmi Party, asks: “When there is no governance in Haryana, what are the so-called good governance associates doing?” There are many who say that since CMGGAs work closely with the Chief Minister’s office, there could be a misuse of authority. 

An incident of “transgression of authority” by a CMGGA occurred in August 2016 when Manisha Bhatoria, who was posted in Hisar, was attacked by people when she accompanied a raiding party of the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam to stop an alleged power theft. She, however, managed to escape without injuries. It was alleged that since Manisha was not a civil servant, she was not authorized to enter anyone’s premises for a “raid.” The CM office said she had exceeded her mandate.

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