How data can empower MPs to serve people better

Source– The post is based on the article “How data can empower MPs to serve people better” published in The Indian Express on 17th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Government policies and interventions

Relevance– Data availability for governance

News– At present, timely and readily available data on critical issues related to population health and socioeconomic well-being is lacking at the Parliamentary Constituency (PC) level.

What are the various efforts for availability of data for governance?

The Government of India made a concerted effort to make a variety of data from current GOI schemes more accessible by launching National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDAP) in 2012.

In recent years, district-level data from GOI administrative data or independent surveys such as the National Family Health Surveys has emerged as a key input for policy deliberations.

A new interactive PC data tracker developed by the Geographic Insights Lab at Harvard University. For the first time, it has provided data on crucial population, health, and well-being estimates for each of the 543 PCs.

It includes a factsheet for each PC. The data underlying the PC dashboard comes from the NFHS-4 and NFHS-5.

Why does the availability of district-level data not help MPs?

District boundaries of India are not aligned in a straightforward manner with the 543 Parliamentary Constituencies of India. The districts and PC boundaries crisscross.

Even though there is substantial overlap in the names of districts and PCs, it doesn’t mean they have the same size and composition of population.

The lack of congruence of distinct and PCs populations makes it difficult for MPs to have access to accurate data related to important developmental indicators.

The Ministry of Rural Development issued an order in 2016 to all states and Union Territories to constitute a District Coordination and Monitoring Committee, chaired by district MPs.

It was charged with making the implementation and monitoring of central schemes more efficient. But the data still pertains to districts and not PCs.

What is the way forward for data accessibility for PCs?

Data-based monitoring and governance of populations is central to identifying priorities.

It is critical that MPs are empowered with appropriate data related to the populations they have to function effectively, efficiently, and independently without having to solely rely on the district administration.

A more durable solution would entail that all datasets be consistently geo-tagged for PC.

What is the importance of data accessibility at the level of PC?

Timely and accessible data at the PC-level can transform the work of MPs by highlighting the most critical issues and at-risk populations in need of targeted interventions.

It can also empower MPs to raise policy questions at multiple levels of governments, from the floor of Parliament to their frequent interactions with the district administrations.

It facilitates the MPs to independently initiate and sustain meaningful dialogue with civil society NGOs and other stakeholders to collaboratively address the issues most important to their constituents.

In a democratic set-up, the PCs offer a natural unit for policy deliberation and governance. Bringing timely and frequent data on issues related to population health and well-being to PCs can bring much symmetry and synergy between districts.

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