Parliamentarians are usually in the news for all the wrong reasons -seeking higher salaries or getting subsidised food, power and perks and, of course, creating bedlam on the floor of the House. But things could change. A cohort of MPs have now got together to bring some fresh energy into constituency development work with the help of a think tank.
Sparc or `Supporting Parliamentarians in Analysis and Research in Constituency’ project involves engaging 20 talented professionals (average age 26-27 years from top schools who have worked in firms like BCG and Microsoft) to work with MPs on development issues in the constituency .
The impact could be significant affecting an average of 22 lakh people per constituency as each MP has Rs 100 crore at his or her disposal. NGO Swaniti Initiative’s Rwitwika Bhattacharya said, “The goal of the programme is to support MPs while also nurturing the next generation of leaders in governance. An associate in the programme will be working for a year in an assigned constituency to design and launch development programmes that will better deliver public services to the most vulnerable.We are looking for the most promising problem-solvers for the Sparc programme.”
Parliamentarians like Gaurav Gogoi, Kalikesh Singh Deo, Anurag Thakur and Rajiv Pratap Rudy have signed up. According to BJD’s Deo, the researchers could provide useful help in data mining and create a developmental model that could be scaled up.
“As an MP, we have access to enormous amount of data. We need to use it effectively. I also hope to use this opportunity to concentrate on issues like malnutrition and infant mortality rate which are usually neglected areas,” he said.
Deo, who has been the prime mover in the Sparc project, also helped initiate the Lamp or `Legislative Associate for MP’ project some years earlier.
Congress MP Gogoi said the central and the state governments had over 200 social welfare schemes. “It is impossible for an MP to develop a cohesive plan.
“So, additional resources are always required in the form of experienced professionals to identify appropriate schemes for the constituency ,” he said. The Sparc programme is not the only one.
Several states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana have launched fellowships to bring in young people who can use technology and subject expertise to address public grievances, provide out-of-the-box solutions or data collection.
In Haryana, the Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGAs) programme has brought in 21 governance associates who act as a monitoring group, which reports directly to the CM, while in Maharashtra, CM Devender Fadnavis brought in 40 people to advise the state on ongoing projects. The Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat governments have also been running similar programmes.