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Policy Making Sans Skill

In countries like even commonplace jobs call for learning proper skills and getting trained. Back home even policy and decision making end up in raw and untrained hands, writes G Palanithurai

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Mar 17 2016 4:16PM | Updated Date: Mar 17 2016 4:56PM

Policy Making Sans Skillphoto: Hrishikesh bhatt

Unlike other countries Germany is one country where even commonplace jobs call for learning proper skills and getting trained. Back home even policy and decision making end up in raw and untrained hands because of lack of will and absence of institutions to impart right skills for such a crucial task. Besides others this sadly afflicts our elected representatives too. And the cost of this apathy is so heavy as to call for urgent action, writes G Palanithurai

Bursting crackers is a joyful act that everyone does in our social setting during festivals. But in Germany it requires certification from an institute. When I was in Germany as a visiting professor I came to know this fact while witnessing a cracker festival in Cologne city. And it was even more amazing to see burying and burning of dead bodies in the cemetery and crematorium respectively by a set of professionals in a professional way in the heart of the city itself. For the above acts, these professionals should get needed certificates from the certification institute. For them any act is a professional one. It was curious to see that more than 380 such professional skills approved by the Government of Germany. But in India, not even fifty skills have been approved by our Government. 
Policy making is a highly professional and skillful act and it is being done in the legislative and decision making bodies with the participation of the elected representatives of the people without having any professional training given to the elected representatives.  This has been indicated many times by the scholars who have done research extensively in the area of Indian legislative behavior and performance. I have also done an empirical study to analyse the role and perception of the legislators. This included Tamil Nadu. In this regard, I interviewed 174 Members of Legislative Assembly when M.G. Ramachandran was the Chief Minister. It was published by Konark Publishers. In this work, it was concluded that the poor performance of the elected representatives was attributed to poor perception of the legislators on the role to be performed by the elected representatives both inside and outside the legislature. 
Performances of the elected representatives have gone down not only in quantity but also in quality. Substance, content, style and methods are also qualitatively weak and poor. It is because our legislators have not been consciously trained for higher level legislative debate in the House and political discourse outside the House. In this regard, it has been indicated that there is no policy to skill our elected representatives. There is no policy to train our members of National Parliament, members of State Legislatures and members of Local Bodies both urban and rural. 
At least for local body leaders there are training institutions all over the country despite absence of a training policy. But for the Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures barring the Bureau of Parliamentary studies and training located in parliament annex building there is no specialised training institute. Even the Bureau of Parliamentary studies has neither requisite capacity nor the Members of Parliament are interested in attending training in this institute. 
There is yet another interesting aspect one can notice among our Members of Parliament and Legislatures that they generally do not like to be trained. The moment they become Members of any house, they feel that they are leaders and attending training is beneath their dignity. They feel that they have to speak and others have to listen. Any leader showing any interest in training is news. When Chandrababu Naidu in his previous regime organised such a kind of training for the legislators, it was very big news in the media. When Rajiv Gandhi asked the Members of Parliament to attend the programmes organised by the academic institutions, they were news for the media. These are imperatives and essentials for the elected representatives to perform the roles and responsibilities in the legislative bodies. 
Legislative business is the most professional business as it decides the fate of millions of people which requires skill not only for communication but to do the work within the framework of rules of the houses. Even valuable ideas pertinent to policy or decision may not reach the policy maker if that idea is not put within the framework of rules of the house. Every member of the house either in Parliament or State Legislature has to perform two major functions theoretically. In the best interest of the country and best interest of the people they have to do interest aggregation and interest articulation. They have to collect the problems and issues of the people for onward transmission to the decision making bodies. But while doing this job, the members have to put them into the framework of rules of the houses. It is not an ordinary work. It needs research acumen. The works involved are worth research in nature. 
Further, in my opinion there is no manual for Members of Parliament or State Legislature supplied to each and every member that can be easily understandable to them. Simplifying the practice manual to the level of an ordinary member is yet another need. How to organise their office for legislative work and constituency work is yet another professional job. Many of our representatives of the people do not have professional offices to enable to discharge the responsibilities both in the House and outside the House. Professionally equipped office will alone enable them to connect with people, connect with information, connect with institutions and connect with needed data. Technically qualified people can alone help the representation of the people. To manage the technical office the elected representatives should have capacity. It is to be enhanced. 
Once Edmund Burk was representing Bristol constituency in England’s parliament, but his speeches in the parliament became a subject of learning in the universities. For a meaningful work in Parliament and in State Legislature lot of framework is needed. Hence, training is the imperative need. It is not a one-time affair but a continuous one. It requires a policy and an institution. Senior Members of Parliament and Legislative Assembly based on their experience can be made as resource persons for this training. Equally senior bureaucrats and academics who have done creditable research work on Legislative behaviour can be drawn as resource persons. A permanent academy has to be set up at Delhi and State capitals for offering such a kind of training. It can be in collaboration with world reputed leadership schools like Kennedy School of Government, Leadership school in Singapore National University or Leadership school in Upasala, University of Sweden. Customised courses could be evolved by involving world level scholars who are on the job for several years. 
G Palanithurai is an academic activist besides being Professor and Dean Gandhigram Rural Institute, a Deemed University in South India.