I have had occasion to indulge in the same acts that you see in the photographs courtesy the Hindu. Earlier I would rebuke myself for “breaking the rule of law” and indulging in obscene acts like these. Even when there are subways present in the vicinity. Midway a doubt crept in. If hundreds of citizens are doing this, then there must be something wrong with the way the situation has been approached. Dwell deeper into the lessons of government intervention and sound public policy-making. The results are before you. Let me strike the point with an example. If you have had the occasion to look at the magnificent 9 lane Rajiv Gandhi Setu/flyover in front of AIIMS hospital you will feel good about the design. But look closely. Imagine yourself as a pedestrian trying to cross the flyover from one end to another. And you will find that there are no convenient routes. The subways are too far. So if in the process of crossing this “obstacle” the pedestrian suffers and takes recourse to the convenience of jumping across, is he wrong? This permeates through an entire spectrum of public policies. Should I not do this (from informal rent agreements with your landlord to shortening the passport process requirements) because it is against the policy OR is the policy an ass because it does not take into account how people actually behave?

I have come to the point where I feel convinced that institutions should take people into account and then design rules/ processes according to them. It is extremely demeaning for a tax-paying citizen of India to have to bend through a gate just to cross a road. All this on count of poor placing of road crossings, gates and subways. What is important is that the next time a gated road crossing is put up, look into the needs of people crossing the road by foot. The road is meant as much for us pedestrians as for cars. The government department making the crossing may find it easier to just put up a gate and disallow people (tax-payers) to cross it. It can even encourage misguided school children to go on demonstrating to pedestrians about walking within allotted boundaries. But the crux of the matter is poor homework on part of the institution manning it. It sought to resort to command and control rather than incentive compatible system. History shows that the latter have usually afforded better and sustainable results. The question is who is best suited to design incentive compatible systems – the government or a private agency in a competitive market?

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.

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Naveen Mandava

Naveen is Co-Founder at XamCheck, an organization that partners with schools, supporting them in processes they follow, with learning materials and processes that are all crafted to work together as an interconnected system to drive learning. He is a Doctoral Fellow from RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, United States of America. He has worked extensively on assessment based decision support for governments, non-profit organizations and schools chains in India and the USA for over 10 years. He has been a Lead Consultant with the World Bank’s Innovations for Poverty Action Consortium, a Policy Analyst with RAND Corporation and a Research Manager at Centre for Civil Society.