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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. 








Does attending preschool benefit Indian children at a later stage? by Saikat Ghosh

Despite having one of the world’s largest early childhood education and care program named ‘Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)’ in operation since 1975, the impact of such provisions on children’s later development is still largely unknown in India. Empirical evidence from India suggests that attending preschool makes children more sociable but does not improve their cognitive ability.

Does Early Childhood Education (ECE) matter?

Childhood is the most important phase of human life and the strong foundation made during the early years can lead to improvements in children’s cognitive and social development. It has already been witnessed that ECE contributes substantially to children’s development and well-being and children attending early education programs is associated with improved performance in school1, 2. ECE is considered extremely effective for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as it can narrow the gap in early development between children from different socio-economic classes3.

On the contrary, evidence also suggests that early, extensive, and continuous nonmaternal care may have some development risks for young children and the larger society4, 5. Although ECE may increase cognitive skills at school entry, it may also increase behavioural problems and reduces self-control6. Therefore, there also exist some sort of disagreements regarding the effects of ECE programs on children’s development.

Based on the above backdrop, a study was recently conducted to understand whether attending preschool provide any benefit to children at the later stage of their life. Based on a sample of 1369 first graders, the study took place in India which is home of approximately twenty percent of the world’s child population in the age group of 0-6 years. The key question asked in this context was: do the children who attended preschool possess greater skills at the primary school level? Children’s accumulation of cognitive and social skills was assessed by respective class teachers using twelve indicators such as their attention towards class, ability to remember lessons, friendliness towards peers, etc.

Does attending preschool help Indian children?

The results from the study suggest that the ECE provisions in India are able to contribute to child development, but only partially. Children who attended preschool were found performing better, but this association was not uniform over different skill types. Although attending preschool seems to help children in improving their social skills, there was no such effect with respect to cognitive skills. Furthermore, in contrast to the parental notion about the private preschools being better than the ICDS ones, there was no such evidence found of any of the preschools having a relative edge over the other.

Given the fact that not only preschool attendance but also the quality of the preschool matters, one can hold the quality of preschools in India as responsible for not being able to provide any cognitive incentive to children. The focus of the ICDS programme seems more on the feeding aspects than on promoting behavioural change in childcare practices. The people responsible in these settings are often not very well educated and do not have the required skills to take on this responsibility7( p.30). Besides, the curriculum followed in the private preschools were also criticized for its quality and suitability for children8, 9. Therefore, both types of preschools seem lacking the quality to contribute to children’s cognitive development.

On the other hand, regardless of the quality of care and curriculum, attending preschool allows children to interact and communicate with peers and integrate themselves. Normatively, first friendships are established during the preschool years, and the acquisition of social skills such as helping and sharing, etc. during preschool predict later school engagement and academic success10, 11.

Therefore, by providing an improved and more scientific curriculum to the children, ECE provisions in India can help children in greater skill accumulation. Taking into account that parents mainly send their children to preschool for early education and school readiness12, emphasizing on the educational component of the ICDS programme could attract more parents towards it. Given the fact that the ICDS programme is mainly targeting the marginalized section of the society, expanding its coverage and improving the quality of service provisions would certainly help children from the disadvantaged backgrounds to build a strong foundation.

  1. Weiland, C. & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Impacts of a prekindergarten program on children’s mathematics, language, literacy, executive function, and emotional skills. Child Development, 84(6), 2112–2130.
  2. DeCicca, P. & Smith, J. D. (2011). The long-run impacts of early childhood education: Evidence from a failed policy experiment. National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 17085.
  3. UNICEF (2016). The state of the world’s children: A fare chance for every child. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf
  4. Belsky, J. (2002). Quantity counts: Amount of child care and children’s socioeconomic development. Development and Behavioural Pediatrics, 23(3): 167-170.
  5. Belsky, J. (2001). Developmental risks (still) associated with early child care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry & Allied Discipline, 42(7): 845—859.
  6. Magnuson, K. A., Ruhm, C. J. & Waldfogel, J. (2004). Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?. NBER Working Paper No. 10452
  7. UNESCO (2006). Select issues concerning ECCE India. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong foundations: early childhood care and education.
  8. Kaul, V. & Sankar, D. (2009). Early childhood care and education in India’. New Delhi: NUEPA.
  9. Swaminathan, M. (1998). The First Five Years: A Critical Perspective on Early Childhood Care and Education in India. New Delhi: SAGE.
  10. Howes, C., Hamilton, C. E., & Philipsen, L. C. (1998). Stability and continuity of child-caregiver and child-peer relationships. Child Development, 69, 418–426.
  11. Ladd, G. W., Price, J. M., & Hart, C. H. (1988). Predicting preschoolers’ peer status from their playground behaviors. Child Development, 59, 986–992.
  12. Ghosh, S. (2019). Inequalities in demand and access to early childhood education in India. International Journal of Early Childhood. DOI: 1007/s13158-019-00241-8

    Image Credit: Jay Galvin on Flickr

About the Author:

saikatDr. Saikat Ghosh is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LifBi), Germany where he is leading a project focusing on early childhood education in India.  He is a former ISS Graduate (2011-12) and awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Bamberg in 2018. His research interest centers on poverty, education, inequality, and social policy analysis with a particular focus on developing countries. Formerly, he has worked for the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS), Germany, UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, and the State Government of West Bengal, India.

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Do teachers discriminate in occupational expectations and grading? by Shradha Parashari

Marks assigned by teachers tend to motivate students, have bearing on their career choices, admission to universities and affect students’ self-esteem. Existing literature shows that teachers may hold preconceived stereotypes and implicit biases based on their students’ ethnicity, caste, class, and sex, which influence the grades that the teachers award. Consistent with that, my own research among 120 teachers in 8 private and 11 Indian government schools found evidence of teacher discrimination on the basis of students’ caste and socioeconomic status. 

Marks assigned by teachers tend to motivate and incentivize students (Van Ewijk, 2011). Even basic in-class tests are important for students and in the long term are likely to have a bearing on their career choices (Hanna and Linden, 2012). Lavy (2008) points out that marks given to students by teachers not only determine students’ class ranking and admission to universities, but also act as a reward or punishment that can either boost or lower students’ self-esteem.

With regard to teacher influence on test scores, existing research suggests that teachers hold preconceived stereotypes, implicit biases that affect teachers’ expectations based on students’ ethnicity, socio-economic status, caste, sex and physical attractiveness which may influence the grades that they award. Psychological research shows that teachers may look hard for errors while marking essays or tests of minority students so that the results conform to their expectation. That is called an expectation confirmation bias (Sprietsma, 2012).

Experimental studies in the economics literature confirm this. For example, Hanna and Linden’s (2012) study on India shows that teachers assigned lower marks to low caste students relative to high caste students. Similarly, Sprietsma (2012) shows evidence for Germany of low marks assigned to essays written by students with Turkish names relative to essays by students with German names. Tenenbaum and Ruck (2007) find that US-American teachers hold lower expectations for minority African-American students relative to their Caucasian peers.

Consistent with these findings, my own research in 8 private and 11 government schools among 120 teachers in Delhi found evidence of teacher discrimination in occupational expectations (expectation of career paths of students) and grades awarded on the basis of students’ caste and socioeconomic status. To uncover this discrimination, I utilized a randomized experiment.

The experiment of the study was conducted in three stages. In the first stage, students were randomly selected and invited to write essays on the topic “My future career ambition” in which student’s described their background, occupational paths/career paths and challenges to achieve those career paths. In the second stage, I randomly manipulated students’ caste and socioeconomic status on the set of essays. The last and third stage involved visiting schools and requesting teachers to mark essays on a score of 100 and rate occupational expectations (expectations about student’s career paths) on a score of 5. The findings from my research are in line with existing literature on teacher discrimination in schools.

Discrimination confirmed

I found that teachers discriminate in holding occupational expectations and grading. Teachers assigned lower occupational expectations for essays assigned to low caste and low socio-economic status relative to high caste and high socio-economic status. However, high socio-economic status mitigates the effect of low caste. Consistent with this bias in occupational expectations estimates show a bias in grading which is consistent with Sprietsma’s (2012) findings that lower expectations of teachers against  minority students might further perpetuate discrimination in grading.


Pic 2.png

Figure 1 and 2: Mean teacher’s occupational expectations and Marks

Essays assigned low caste and low socio-economic status characteristics are assigned 3.64 points lower marks relative to essays assigned to high caste and high socio-economic status. Given the ultra-competitive nature of schooling in India and the importance of grades in determining access to higher education, a 3.6 point disadvantage is substantial. There is also a trade-off between caste and socio-economic status. Belonging to high socio-economic status lowers the extent of discrimination faced by low caste students as marking bias falls by 0.8 points for low caste and high socio-economic status students. The research further explains the origin of these results and finds that the discrimination against low caste students arises from a majority number of high caste teachers in the sample and not from the low caste teachers.


Education has the power to transform lives of students who belong to minority classes and castes. However; they may not be able to reap advantage of education if teachers discriminate in occupational expectations and grading. Since discrimination is associated with feelings of inferiority among students and low self-esteem adversely affects their admission to universities, their career choices and their overall development (Hoff and Pandey, 2006), teacher discrimination is a matter of concern. There is an urgent need for proper training mechanisms in schools that address teacher discrimination, requesting teachers to take implicit bias tests, educating teachers about stereotypes and implicit bias that might bias teachers’ expectations against minority students and perpetuate discrimination in grading. Further formulating a policy of standardized objective grading can also aid in minimizing discrimination in grades awarded.

Link to the author’s research paper: https://www.iss.nl/en/news/teacher-discrimination-occupational-expectations-and-grading-shradha-parashari

Casteel, C.A. (1998) ‘Teacher–student Interactions and Race in Integrated Class-rooms’, The Journal of Educational Research 92(2): 115-120.
Ferguson, R.F. (2003) ‘Teachers’ Perceptions and Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap’,  Urban Education 38(4): 460-507.
Hanna, R.N. and L.L. Linden (2012) ‘Discrimination in Grading’, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 4(4): 146-168.
Hoff, K. and P. Pandey (2006) ‘Discrimination, Social Identity, and Durable Inequalities’, American Economic Review 96(2): 206-211.
Lavy, V. (2008) ‘Do Gender Stereotypes Reduce Girls’ Or Boys’ Human Capital Out-comes? Evidence from    a Natural Experiment’, Journal of Public Economics 92(10-11): 2083-2105.
Sprietsma, M. (2012) ‘Discrimination in Grading: Experimental Evidence from Primary School Teachers’,            Empirical Economics 45(1): 523-538.
Tenenbaum, H.R. and M.D. Ruck (2007) ‘Are Teachers’ Expectations Different for Racial Minority than for European American Students? A Meta-Analysis.’, Journal of Educational Psychology 99(2): 253.
Van Ewijk, R. (2011) ‘Same  Work, Lower Grade? Student Ethnicity and Teachers’ Subjective Assessments’, Economics of Education Review 30(5): 1045-1058.

Image Credit: Shradha Parashari

ShradhaAbout the author:

Shradha Parashari is an ISS alumna of the 2017-18  MA batch and a Research Associate at Energy Policy Institute at University of Chicago-India. This blog is concerned with the author’s award-winning research that was conducted under supervision of Professor Arjun Singh Bedi and Professor Matthias Rieger.









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