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Inside Delhi’s Doorstep Public Services Delivery Scheme by Sushant Anand

Informal brokers and middlemen are essential for the delivery of public services in India. In 2018, the government of Delhi launched a programme that seeks to formalise these informal public service providers through an external agency. Examing the programme, Sushant Anand finds that despite its rising popularity, traditional methods are still prevailing. He points out a number of challenges the government has yet to overcome.

My blog published in 2019 discussed brokers and their role in the delivery of public services. The Government of NCT Delhi (GNCTD) in 2018 launched a programme that seeks to formalise these informal public service providers through an external agency. While 40 services were covered in September 2018, this was soon increased to 70 (across 12 departments) by July 2019, and a scale-up to 100 was expected to be reached by the end of 2019. I take a look at the working of the doorstep delivery of public services project.

As part of the project, citizens can call ‘1076’ and book an appointment with a mobile sahayak (facilitator). The mobile sahayak visits the service seekers’ residence at the given time and collects all requisite documents for the service, submits these documents with the concerned department in exchange of Rs 50 as facilitation fees. The sahayak then collects the final certificate from the government department, and delivers it back to the citizen to complete the transaction.

The services in this project include provision of certificates from the revenue department, driving licences and related services from the transport department, and availing access to certain social sector schemes. Most of these services are in high demand, and it can take days for service seekers to apply for and obtain important documents that can be essential to get benefits from government welfare schemes.

As per an annual report card, the GNCTD claims to have been able to service approximately 99.5 per cent of the 2,00,000 requests booked. As many as 13 lakh calls (1.3 mn) were made by the public. The facility currently operates with more than 125 mobile sahayaks, 100 call centre executives, 11 supervisors, 35 dealing assistants and 25 coordinators[1].

The institutionalisation of informal broker practices does incentivise assistance to the general public, however, there still are some teething issues observed through a year of the project’s operations.

  • Technical readiness: The launch of the scheme was accompanied by a series of glitches in the system due to fluctuating demand and the backend team modified the software multiple times. The mobile sahayaks and the call centres were also initially working in silos, and delivery of services reportedly suffered due to lack of coordination.
  • Traditional methods are still more popular: While the scheme was primarily launched to minimise the complexity of Government to Citizen (G2C) services from multiple departments through intermediaries, it was seen that more than 50 per cent of applications were still made directly at the window.
  • Rationalising resources: The scheme also faced issues with respect to planning its human resource base as most sahayaks initially quit their jobs due to low wages, and it was difficult to replace them. Among the requirements was for sahayaks to have their own motorcycle for conveyance, which is difficult to fulfill.
  • Understanding scale: Even as 1.3 million calls were made to the toll-free number, only 200,000 requests were booked and 150,000 were successfully resolved. While the churn rate of successful completion was high, it appears that the scale and demand of services was underestimated, resulting in only 15% cases being booked out of the total calls received.

Source: Hindustan Times, 16 July 2019

All the challenges have important lessons. Donald F. Kettl, a scholar of government and administrative reforms, has suggested that New Public Management (NPM) (such as the doorstep delivery of public services project) aims to “remedy a pathology of traditional bureaucracy that is hierarchically structured and authoritatively driven”. The accommodation of the role that brokers have played in service delivery in this case can be considered as a good example of NPM techniques. The government has attempted to eliminate rent-seeking, and create a leaner, incentive-driven local administration.

Ketll suggests that the six key characteristics of the NPM approach are productivity, marketisation, service orientation, decentralisation, policy oriented and being accountable by design. NPM clearly articulates a result-oriented relationship, specifying performance in a clear manner.  This scheme was understood to be one-of-a-kind offering in India. While I would acknowledge it to be a constructive innovation by the GNCTD, the lack of technical capacity, public readiness and average resource allocation makes it less likely that the project will become a norm.

Any government service, when offered to the public, largely aims to ease public life or welfare, taking into account some degree of compatibility for uptake and reception by its beneficiaries. For a megacity like New Delhi, strong migration patterns, ad hoc living conditions for many, and the comfort associated with informal systems of access to public service delivery can become additional challenges.

This article was originally published by the Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research.

[1]‘Delhi Government delivered on 99.5% of doorstep service requests,’ Hindustan Times, 10 September 2019. Access it here.

sushant.pngAbout the author:

Sushant Anand is a senior officer at the Accountability Initiative. He has a vast spectrum of experience to work in areas including health, education, WASH, resource management and climate change in organisations like FICCI, IPE Global, Ipsos and TERI.
Sushant is a public policy professional by training and completed his MA in Development Studies from the ISS. 








Brokering India’s public service delivery by Sushant Anand

Informal mediation peopled by brokers, touts, middlemen has over the years embedded itself within public service delivery. Even as they are not within the government system, brokers have come to play an important role, and have reshaped it. The Municipality of Delhi is no exception. Through this article I discuss as to who are these people, and how do broker practices impact governance?

I met Pankaj Sharma, 36, while researching a paper on informal institutions. For the past 15 years, he has been assisting people to complete their documentation for any work they may have at the zonal office of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in Karol Bagh, a popular locality in the national capital of India. He is not employed by the government, and carries out his business sitting on a boulder or under a tree. He likes to be known as a consultant, but came into this line of work by accident as a result of unemployment.

Driven mainly by patronage networks, brokers, fixers or touts behave as ‘gatekeepers’ may block or expedite access to public services based on the payment of a fee based on his/her special position as an access provider (Kumar & Landy, 2012: 130-131). Brokers and other such informal networks effect a new understanding amongst citizens seeking to make use of public services – services that are out of reach for citizens if not for them.

With respect to the citizen’s services at the South and North Municipalities of Delhi, service seekers had trouble finding their way in the maze of departments at the institutional premises, and thus preferred approaching the broker at a nominal fee. The officers within the institutions viewed these brokers as a complementary part of the service delivery owing to the fact that these are legal consulting type entities. The brokers themselves, however, felt that they should be institutionalised as service partners due to the high volume of services seekers, usual technical glitches, steep learning curve for officials to keep up with systemic interventions, and the general acceptability of the public.

The Helmke & Levitsky (table below) framework of 2004 offers an understanding of the linkage between the existence of informal institutions and formal government systems.


The typology provided by Helmke and Levitsky (2004: 728) is based on the outcomes of informal rules and effectiveness of the formal rules in a given context. The outcome variables dictate whether the result of these rules are in line or against what one may expect from strict adherence of formal rules. The effectiveness variable on the other hand is the extent to which the formal rules are realised in practice. It is understood that where the rules and procedures are ineffective, the probability of enforcement will be low (Helmke and Levitsky, 2004: 728).

The study findings based upon service-seeker surveys & interviews confirmed a direct dependence on these brokers outside any and every municipal office in New Delhi. A sample of 30 service seekers across two municipal zone offices conveyed that 80% of them usually approached brokers to speed up the process of their work at a minimal fee irrespective of their economic status. While the less educated clients seemed more vulnerable to exploitation, the educated, upper class clients too waited for their turns for calculation of property tax, if not for arrangement of paperwork to obtain birth/death certificate. There seemed to be a process oriented equilibrium where an imperfect system seemed to be working well, both at supply and demand side.

The modus operandi of broker-led governance was further mapped against the recent doorstep delivery of public services policy initiated by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to understand the inherent complexities in the system of delivery of public services. The doorstep delivery of public services was a set-up where mediation was institutionalised as part of the system to prevent exploitation of service seekers by the brokers who established ‘temporary power centres’ that could exacerbate access problems (Media reports in 2017-18). The public institution arrangement had been plagued with weeding brokers and touts, especially to ease the citizens off the red tape myriad, information asymmetries and bureaucratic violence (Gupta, 2012) especially in matters related to water, electricity and transport authorities.

Mediated governance has no accountability to its users but brokers are usually risk averse and efficient in delivering services to ensure the leverage of positive marketing and, maintaining their space in the ‘mediation market’. In other words, the system is far from being transparent as nobody knows the legitimacy of the means used by fixers. The mediation of public services may well be offering services to citizens at a price in the short-term, but it is a larger reflection of the lack of capacity, complacency and poor design of service delivery systems in the long-run.

This is a shortened version of an article published here by the Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research.

Gisselquist, R.M. (2012) Good Governance as a Concept, and Why this Matters for Development Policy. WIDER Working Paper
Gupta, A., 2012. Red tape: Bureaucracy, structural violence, and poverty in India. Duke University Press.
Helmke, G. and S. Levitsky (2004) ‘Informal Institutions and Comparative Poli-tics: A Research Agenda’, Perspectives on politics 2(4): 725-740
Kumar, G. and F. Landy (2012) ‘Vertical Governance: Brokerage, Patronage and Corruption in Indian Metropolises’, ‘Vertical Governance: Brokerage, Patronage and Corrup-tion in Indian Metropolises’, Governing India’s Metropolises, pp. 127-154. Routledge India


sushant.pngAbout the author:

Sushant Anand is a senior officer at the Accountability Initiative. He has a vast spectrum of experience to work in areas including health, education, WASH, resource management and climate change in organisations like FICCI, IPE Global, Ipsos and TERI.
Sushant is a public policy professional by training and completed his MA in Development Studies from the ISS.