Make people focus of development : informs ex-IAS Sanjay Kaul 

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PUNE: Make people the focus of development instead of someone at the top deciding for the people, said Sanjay Kaul, ex-IAS officer and development policy analyst.

He was speaking at the discussion organised by Pune International Centre (PIC) on his book ‘An Alternative Development Agenda for India’, at Navalmal Firodia Hall, ICC Trade Towers, SB Road, Pune, on Saturday, November 4, 2023.

In the conversation with Prof. Amitav Mallik, Trustee, PIC, and head of PIC’s Environment, Energy and Climate Change research vertical, Kaul said households, livelihoods and jobs should be at the centre of India’s development agenda, especially in urban development, as in the coming decades people engaged in agriculture will move to urban areas.

 Attention should be paid to developing quality of life, in terms of housing, sanitation, water and other facilities, he observed.

He said development schemes of the government should be made electorally popular in order for them to be included in election manifestos and implemented in a way that benefits the poor. If the government focuses on fewer development programmes instead of having too many, it will have meaningful impact and implementation will be better, he observed.

Kaul pointed out that the current pattern of growth has problems as it creates inequality. According to him, a government welfare programme may be good but it will not be good if it is not working and therefore it needs to be identified why it is not working so that people can take advantage of the schemes.

He called for incentivising private builders to make low-income housing and creating denser urban settlements where the focus is on quality of life rather than mere urban development. Plotting development, he noted, will not be suitable in cities.

Criticising the obsession with metros, he said a better alternative would be introducing air conditioned buses for urban transportation.

Prof. Mallik criticised the obsession with GDP and highlighted the need to factor in the environment in development plans and warned that the next calamity will be climate related.

The discussion was followed by a lively question and answer session. Abhay Vaidya, Director, PIC, introduced the guest and spoke about the key topics discussed in Kaul’s book.

Sanjay Kaul is a development policy analyst, a former IAS officer (1979-2007), and corporate leader (2008-21). During his long tenure as a civil servant, Kaul worked in leadership positions across sectors – development, health, nutrition, education, child development, food and agriculture, and industry, including in the Prime Minister’s office. He was appointed Chairman of the Government of India Task Force on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and as an advisor on ECCE to the Government of Karnataka as well. He serves as a member of the Managing Committee of five schools managed by the Delhi Public School Society and was appointed Independent Director of SEWA Grih Rin Ltd. (SGRL), an affordable housing finance company.