This new PTF report, as its authors note: “Comes at an opportune time. Citizens of India are angry and frustrated at the pervasive and endemic corruption that is coming to light all the time.”
Authors Vinay Bhargava, Indira Sandila, Alexander Varghese and Harish Poovaiah, argue that “there is hope” – that innovative civil society approaches to promote good governance can yield significant benefits to the very poor. The report’s fundamentally positive conclusions are based on projects pursued by 14 civil society organizations (CSOs) working in four diverse Indian states in India (Odisha, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttarkhand) and covering more than 1000 villages.
Among the key reasons for the success of the Citizens Against Corruption (CAC) program in these villages, state the authors, were: “The key role played by NGO facilitators, raising community awareness, empowered citizen volunteers, constructive engagement by citizens with public officials committed to improve services, media support, and focus on programmatic results and solving problems faced by individuals.”
The projects embraced close to 90,000 extremely poor households and in a foreword to the new report by PTF and the Public Affairs Centre in India it is stressed that the “real heroes” are both the citizen volunteers who became engaged in the projects and the “the public officials who worked hard and selflessly to make a difference in the lives of real people living in remote and poor areas.”
The project completion reports by partner CSOs and independent evaluations by outside organizations found that CAC partners have been extremely effective at enhancing the transparency of public services and bodies. Awareness campaigns increased the number of applications to government rights and entitlements, citizens formed collective action groups and worked with local media to demand good governance, and citizen monitoring and vigilance improved delivery of services such as ration cards. The report demonstrates that with the proper investments and the right conditions, the strategy and approach of CAC can be replicated and scaled up successfully in the future.