Is it possible to measure governance? If yes, how can you measure something as complex as governance?
It was with this background that the idea of the Public Affairs Index (PAI) evolved at the Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a not-for-profit think tank committed to good governance. PAC is based in Bengaluru and focuses primarily on community participation and capacity building of service delivery mechanisms with an enhanced focus on the ‘last mile’. Over the last 24 years, PAC has pioneered Social Accountability Tools (SATs) like the Citizen Report Card (CRC), the Community Score Card (CSC) and the Climate Change Score Card (CCSC).
In simple terms, PAI is a data driven tool which ranks the states of India through the governance lens. To avoid bias, PAC collected data only from Union Government Ministries and Departments. After applying a robust methodology, we arrived at the index, which ranges on a scale from 0 to 1, where 0 is the worst performing state and 1 the best performing state. It is indeed worth mentioning that the quantum of data sets employed to calculate the index was very large, with each data set reflecting the diverse aspects of governance.
The first PAI report was launched in 2016 and ranked the Indian states considering 68 indicators spread across 25 focus subjects which culminated in 10 broad themes. The launch of PAI 2016 garnered great media attention and was noticed by State Governments, academic institutions, forums and administrative institutions. Motivated by this attention, it was decided that PAI would be one of PAC’s annual features.
The second PAI report was launched in 2017 with 10 themes, 26 focus subjects and 82 indicators. PAI 2017 was a significant contribution to the literature on governance in India, due in part to the inclusion of a special chapter on inequality.
PAI 2018 was launched on the 21st July, 2018 and was well received by the public and media. Almost all the leading newspapers discussed the implications of the rankings! This time the media coverage was even bigger, due to the inclusion of a special chapter on children of India. PAI 2018 is an amalgamation of 10 themes, 30 focus subjects and 100 indicators. It also includes a special section which deals with the trials and tribulations faced by the children of our country.
I must emphasise that PAI has evolved over time. We have increased the number of indicators from 68 to 100. Not only this, but every year PAC focuses on key issues facing our nation. For example, in 2017 PAC focused on inequality and, in PAI 2018, the focus is on children of India with a rights based approach.
The findings of PAI 2018 are very interesting. Kerala scored a hat-trick at the first position, followed by Tamil Nadu. Telangana is a new entrant to secure its rank at the third position. Among the small states (states with less than 2 Crore of population), the hilly northern state with difficult terrain, Himachal Pradesh, stood first, followed by Goa and Mizoram.
It gives me immense joy when I look back and see the spinoffs from PAI. For instance, the State Government of Himachal Pradesh has invited PAC to develop a similar index which would measure governance at the district level. PAC is also in the process of signing an MoU with the Centre for Management Development (CMD), Trivandrum, an independent, professional registered society, sponsored by the Government of Kerala, to develop an Industrial Friendliness Index for the districts of Kerala. This index seeks to measure the factors that affect industrial growth in Kerala. In addition, PAC is also working with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to develop a nationwide human rights index. These instances keep us motivated to further develop PAI.
I will conclude with two key findings that are evident in the length and breadth of the study. One, states that have invested consistently and substantially in social sectors like health and education are performing better in overall governance. Second, the disparity between the north and south is widening. Are we regressing to a flailing state? – a critical question one should ask.