Sowing the Seeds of Good Governance

Focus area: Good Governance
Locations: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha

Background: Millions in development dollars disappear into India’s black markets and the pockets of corrupt officials, while entire swathes of the country starve for basic infrastructure.  In 2004, IDRF supported Transparency International India (TII)’s investigation into the millions of rupees of tax revenue that were lost in property transactions in Delhi.  The findings of the TII report drove the Delhi government to make policy changes. Subsequent to this success, IDRF has been working with TII to help eradicate corruption and improve government accountability and transparency in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha – areas notorious for the exploitation of tribal and rural people.

TII’s program, Pahal, has been bringing good governance to remote villages, by easing information flow to rural areas, facilitating government service delivery, and strengthening local government bodies. Through tools such as social audits and citizens’ charters, the program ensures that government money is spent on equitable development. Working with TII and local allies, villagers have recovered money lost to corruption and enforced fines on officials who solicited bribes. Villagers are renewing democracy by participating in gram sabhas (village assemblies), running for elected office, and demanding accountability.

Social Audit in Chhattisgarh

In preparation for a social audit, villagers in Chhattisgarh verify local government records.

Social Audit in Chhattisgarh

Locals check government records for proper payment for work done under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Some of Pahal‘s strategies:

Right to Information (RTI):  Villagers use the RTI Act to ensure the proper implementation of development programs and government entitlements.  In the model district of Mochha, Chhattisgarh, people are using RTI to secure employment, scholarships and pensions for the elderly. They also pressured government doctors and school teachers to show up at work regularly. Villagers in Madhubani district, Bihar used RTI to expose a solar-light scam, leading to charges against 200 corrupt officials.

Rights Awareness Training: The Pahal program provides training to make people aware of their rights and available government services.  After trainings in Jharkhand, women from self-help groups were the very first to demand government services and run for elected office. In Jharsuguda district, Odisha, villagers began seeking regular healthcare after learning about free government clinics.  Self-help groups and mothers’ committees took up the responsibility of enforcing and monitoring of these programs.

Development Pact in Bihar village

People in Jhanjarpur district, Bihar, compile their development pact in preparation for a national election

Pre-Election Development Pact: Before an election, TII helps communities prepare development pacts which reflect their local development priorities.  Then villagers ask candidates to sign in support of the pact, so they can hold the candidates accountable after they take office.  In Chhattisgarh, tribal candidates who supported the development pact won a surprise victory in a panchayat election, triumphing over the higher-caste candidates who had held power for decades.  This victory, thanks to an informed electorate, has fundamentally altered the power dynamics of that community.