- The unavailability of Census and Household Consumer Expenditure (HCE) survey data is causing difficulties in policymaking in India.
- The census enumeration, originally scheduled for 2021, has been postponed to 2024-25.
- Furthermore, the results of the National Statistical Office’s HCE survey for 2022-23, expected to be released by December this year, might be delayed until after the general elections in 2024.
What is Evidence-Based Policymaking (EBP)?
- Evidence-based policymaking, also known as data-based policymaking, involves using factual information and credible evidence to make policy decisions rather than relying on political opinions or theories.
- This approach relies on relevant data and evidence to develop policies, such as using reliable healthcare data to inform healthcare policy decisions.
- Evidence-based policymaking is widely considered as a fundamental aspect of good governance.
Why rely on EBP?
There are several reasons why evidence-based policymaking (EBP) is essential and beneficial:
- Facts and Credible Evidence: Making decisions based on reliable data ensure that policymaking is grounded in objective information and not influenced by personal beliefs or opinions.
- Supplementing Political Opinion or Theory: Evidence-based approaches prioritize empirical evidence and research findings over subjective political opinions or unproven theories.
- Informed Decision-Making: Utilizing accurate and reliable information enables policymakers to make well-informed decisions with a comprehensive understanding of issues.
- Better Policy Outcomes: Evidence helps identify effective strategies and interventions, leading to policies that are more likely to achieve their intended goals and produce positive outcomes.
- Targeted Resource Allocation: By considering evidence of effectiveness, policymakers can allocate limited resources strategically. They have focus on interventions that have a proven track record of success.
- Accountability and Transparency: EBP fosters transparency and accountability by providing a clear rationale for policy decisions based on objective information. This earns public trust and allowing for scrutiny and evaluation.
- Continuous Learning: Evaluating policies based on evidence promotes a culture of learning. It allows for the identification of what works well and areas that require improvement. This leads to iterative policy development.
- Public Health and Safety: EBP in public health and safety ensure that decisions are informed by scientific evidence, helping to protect and improve the well-being of the public by preventing harm and mitigating risks.
Impact on Electoral Politics
- Prevention of decisions based on vested interests: Evidence-based policymaking holds policymakers accountable and prevents decisions driven by ideology, opinions, or political interests.
- Enhanced public trust: Evidence-based policymaking increases trust by using rigorous analysis and data, enhancing the legitimacy of government actions and policies.
- Evidence-Based Campaigning: Candidates use evidence-based research for effective campaign strategies, addressing voter concerns and tailoring policies for electoral success.
- Voter Engagement and Education: EBP informs voters with evidence-based information, empowering them to make informed choices based on data and research.
- Policy Evaluation and Improvement: EBP promotes regular evaluation of policies based on evidence, appealing to voters prioritizing evidence-driven decision-making and policy effectiveness.
Challenges and Concerns
There are several challenges and concerns related to evidence-based policymaking in India:
- Delay in the release of data: Despite adopting advanced data processing technologies, there has been a growing delay, sometimes spanning years, in releasing collected data. This renders the data less useful for timely policy intervention and reduces public scrutiny, undermining accountability. For example, the government refrained from releasing data collected through the Socio-Economic and Caste Census in an extreme case.
- Issue of comparability: Changes in the estimation of GDP over recent years have made it impossible to compare data over time. While adjustments to computation and survey methods aimed at improving accuracy are welcome, in this case, the revisions were seen as driven more by political considerations than the need for accuracy.
- Reliance on multiple surveys and datasets: In the absence of surveys like the HCE survey, policymakers rely on other datasets that often provide contradictory signals. This lack of consensus hampers understanding of poverty and inequality trends over the past decade. Different studies present conflicting findings, such as varying estimates of rural poverty during the strict lockdown of April-June 2020.
Where can India utilize EBP?
|Sector||Government Schemes||How EBP can be used|
|Healthcare||Ayushman Bharat, National Health Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission||Utilize evidence-based interventions, allocate resources effectively, and monitor health outcomes|
|Education and HRD||Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Digital India for Education||Inform curriculum development, teacher training, and interventions for improved learning outcomes|
|Agriculture upliftment||PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, Soil Health Card Scheme, PM Fasal Bima Yojana||Enhance productivity, promote sustainable farming practices, and address farmer challenges|
|Social Welfare||PM Jan Dhan Yojana, PM Awas Yojana, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)||Ensure effective targeting, equitable distribution, and improved outcomes for marginalized communities|
|Infrastructure||Smart Cities Mission, Bharatmala Pariyojana, PM Gram Sadak Yojana||Prioritize investments based on data-driven assessments of infrastructure needs and urban planning|
|Environmental Protection and governance||National Clean Air Program, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, Swachh Bharat Mission||Address environmental challenges, mitigate pollution, and promote sustainable development|
|Skill Development||Skill India Mission, PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana, National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme||Align training programs with industry requirements, improve employability, and meet skill demands|
|Digital Governance||Digital India, e-Governance initiatives, Aadhaar||Enhance service delivery, ensure data security and privacy, and leverage technology for effective governance|
|Financial Inclusion||Jan Dhan Yojana, PM Suraksha Bima Yojana, PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana||Expand access to financial services, promote inclusive growth, and reduce financial vulnerability|
|Employment Generation||Make in India, Stand-Up India, Mudra Yojana||Identify growth sectors, target job creation, and support entrepreneurship based on market demand and skill gaps|
- Establish a National Evidence-Based Policy Institute: Create an institute to promote research, evaluation, and capacity-building in EBP, collaborating with universities and organizations to generate and disseminate rigorous evidence for policymaking.
- Develop a National Evidence Bank: Create a centralized platform to store and share research findings, evaluations, and data, ensuring policymakers have easy access to credible evidence for informed decision-making.
- Encourage Collaborative Research Partnerships: Foster collaborations between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to conduct joint studies, facilitating the integration of research findings into policy processes and enhancing relevance.
- Implement Mandatory Evidence Assessments: Require major policy proposals to undergo systematic evidence assessments, evaluating existing evidence, identifying gaps, and enhancing proposed initiatives’ quality and effectiveness.
- Invest in Research and Evaluation Capacity: Allocate resources to strengthen research and evaluation capabilities within government agencies, providing training programs to build evidence use skills among policymakers and civil servants.
- Foster Collaboration with International EBP Networks: Engage with global networks like J-PAL and the Campbell Collaboration, leveraging their expertise and best practices to enhance EBP in India.
- Promote Open Data and Transparency: Encourage transparency through open data initiatives and mandatory publication of evaluation reports, enabling scrutiny, replication, and accountability in decision-making.
- Embed EBP in Policy Education: Integrate evidence-based approaches into policy school curricula and training programs, equipping policymakers with skills to critically evaluate evidence and apply it in policy formulation.
- Encourage Public Engagement: Facilitate public participation in policy-making through consultations and forums, incorporating diverse perspectives and local knowledge in evidence synthesis and policy development.
- Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks for policies and programs, enabling regular reviews to assess effectiveness, make evidence-informed adjustments, and learn from successes and failures.
- Evidence-based policymaking holds significant potential for bringing about high-impact changes in people’s lives.
- To eradicate poverty and improve economic performance, education, healthcare, and social assistance, systemic institutionalization of evidence-based policymaking is imperative.
- Timely and accurate data form the foundation of effective policymaking, enabling policymakers to make well-informed choices.
- Measures must be taken to strengthen the statistical system, ensuring its independence and safeguarding against external influence.
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