Budget special 2019 - Govt planned to give 6000 rs / year for distressed farmers

Started by Admin(Portal), Feb 08, 2019, 04:29 PM

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This story explains why Rs 6000 a year pension to farmer creates more problems than it solves

Years ago, a school called Bharat in a mid-sized town faced a tough situation. Many students were unable to clear the 35 % passing grade. The situation was tough. Frustrated students were under pressure from their families and the broader society - several committed suicide.

The administration of Bharat - alarmed by the situation - did a deep-dive to understand the root causes of the challenge. Here were the facts -

1.      Diversity - Bharat had a diverse student body. A few students hailed from economically rich families, majority were from the poor strata.

a.      The suicides and academic challenges were largely limited to poorer students - who found it difficult to clear the 35% threshold.

 2.      Study patterns - The rich students had access to amenities like advanced library books and took extra classes. Unburdened by chores of life, the rich students had a lot of free time to study and prepare better - leading to better results and higher pass percentages.

a.      According to officials, the poorer students weren't any less intelligent - they simply couldn't dedicate enough time to studies as they were burdened by household chores. Financial challenges eliminated their access to extra classes or advanced books in libraries leading to poor academic scores.

3.       External factors - Examinations were set up global boards that were outside Bharat administration's direct control. As such, the assessments varied in toughness from year to year - some years were more intense than others leading to a further drop in pass percentages.

a.      The only way this could be addressed was if Bharat's administration could follow its own curriculum and assessments. That needed scale and quality - Bharat didn't have that scale at global level. 

Bharat's administration realized it couldn't do much about external factors. To handle the challenges under its direct control, Bharat's offcials came up with a solution. They reduced the pass percentage from 35 to 30.

A year later, the situation hadn't improved much - complex external situation led to exams being way tougher than the prior year. Students were still frustrated and concerned parents kept calling. The authorities brought the pass percentage down further - this time, they made it 25.

The upshot? The graduation rate improved a bit, but now new challenges emerged from unexpected sources. Rich students perceived the pass percentage as low - they reduced their academic efforts and stopped using resources like library and extra classes. In fact, several of them took the system lightly and abused the resources. Parents of these kids were concerned. Meanwhile, studies showed that the overall quality of academics had nosedived. Worse, the low pass percentage hardly benefitted the poor, the real beneficiaries unwittingly were the rich kids, who neither need the benefits nor asked for it.

Alarmed authorities realized the challenge of a "one-size-fits-all" approach. With academic elections fast approaching and worried they might be voted out of power, authorities of Bharat designed a "needs-based" system - the pass percentage was resurrected to 35. However, poor students (defined on the basis of annual parental income) were given 5 grace marks (effectively bringing their pass percent to 30 vs 35 for rich kids). They also announced a targeted Rs 6000 per year incentive to these students to access libraries and take extra classes. Authorities were thrilled - they felt that this targeted handout would level the playing field.

Their hopes were dashed soon. While a few were excited, majority of the poor students felt 5 grace marks was lower than what they expected - they felt this small a number didn't justify the tough academics. Several poor students were frustrated at being treated like beggars. Meanwhile, unexpected problems arose. Rich students cried discrimination. A few rich kids resorted to manipulating their incomes to show themselves as poor - leading to distorted handouts.

While these efforts provided a quick relief balm, the root cause wasn't addressed at all. The real challenge of poor kids was the lack of access to resources like additional classes with top teachers and advanced books in libraries - this was the real reason they couldn't perform as well as rich kids. They argued Rs 6000 a year handout wasn't enough to pay for these resources. Bharat's authorities agreed addressing the root cause should be the long term vision but argued they had no time or money for such long term solutions especially in an election year. They suggested that instant remedies were required to reduce student/parent frustration - something they hoped these handouts would achieve. They further argued that this "targeted" handout was the trailer - they promised a great movie if they were voted to power.

A year later, everything remained the same except for four far- reaching changes -

1.      Years of handouts had compromised the quality of graduating students - and thereby the academic system. Outgoing students found it difficult to get jobs - the very reason why the academic system existed.

a.      The very foundation of the academic system fostered a culture of mediocrity.

2.      The handouts system focused the attention of the students away from excelling at academics - instead, everyone focused on getting higher and higher targeted handouts for their "target" group.

a.      The quality of academics - the reason why handouts started in the first place - was all but forgotten.

3.      The handouts further widened the gap between rich and kids - the rich thrived while the poor students languished without access to better facilities - the opposite of what was expected.

4.      With all the expenses to manage handouts, Bharat's finances deteriorated so much that they had very little money left to solve the issue at the root level and fulfill the big vision.

The concerned authorities soon realized that -

The movie failed to live up to the expectations of the trailer.
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Raja Jamalamadaka is a TEDx and corporate speaker, entrepreneur, mentor to startup founders, winner of "Marshall Goldsmith award for coaching excellence" for being top 100 coach to senior industry executives, a board director and a member of CXO search panels. He was adjudged a LinkedIn Top Voice 2018 for being one of the platform's most insightful and engaging writers. His primary area of research is neurosciences - functioning of the brain and its links to leadership attributes like productivity, confidence, positivity, decision making and organization culture. If you liked this article, you might like some of his earlier articles here:

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