Monitoring and Evaluation in Sustainability

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Where do we stand in terms of sustainable goals in India?

India has played an important role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has been effectively committed to achieving the SDGs. Government schemes and organisations have actively focused on the elimination of poverty, gender equality, climate change and resource mobilisation for SDGs.

Further, special efforts have been made to restructure the federal governance structure of the country through cooperative and competitive federalism. State Governments are playing a prominent role in advancing the national development agenda. Nevertheless, how far has this implementation taken India in terms of improvement through these objectives? The picture still remains unclear.

Policy Implementation- A Necessity

The centrality of sustainability in public policy is perhaps best symbolised by the shift from Millennial Development Goals (MDG) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the UN as the target of policy during the 2015–2030 period. India’s bold Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), communicated to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change include substantially reducing the emission intensity of GDP, tapping non-fossil fuel energy sources and creating an additional carbon sink.

The main messages for India’s Voluntary National Review of SDG implementation encapsulate the effect made with respect to 7 Goals, with interconnections across all the 17 SDGs. The primary focus of India has been on the following.

GOAL 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

GOAL 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

GOAL 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all it ages

GOAL 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

GOAL 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

GOAL 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

GOAL 17: Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Environment and ecological sustainability concerns have now begun to get embedded in every aspect of development since the fear of environmental depletion is rising extremely fast. India’s development record so far has seriously neglected the sustainability aspect- whether in terms of nature, or people or economic structures. While in international negotiations, and in all fairness, India makes strong arguments against restrictive regulations being imposed, the environment in Indian cities is now palpably one among the worst in the world and the health hazards of simply breathing the city air are becoming increasingly obvious in several urban areas.

Source: Karsten Wurth on Unsplash

How is the Environment Impacted? — The Idea of Sustainability

Our water resources are depleting drastically and quickly, although our forest cover seems to be improving as compared to earlier. As urbanisation occurs inevitably, congestion in our cities is rising dramatically. The load of waste production, generation and lack of space for proper disposal is another issue faced by these areas. We simply do not have enough road space to keep up with the vehicle sales burgeoning. The shift to public transport is not a matter of choice but will soon be the only option.

Many cities are suffering due to lack of planning and prediction of development. Gender inequality, an area of policy apathy and neglect has led to warped sex ratios and social problems. In the economic arena, jobs have seriously lagged income growth. India’s recent GDP has created less than 3% more jobs during the same period. Looking at a lens of long-term perspective development, there are several risks that need to be managed. As far as survey figures are concerned, almost none of them match the figures intended to be achieved. The target is somewhere halfway, making the goals seem incomplete with any purposeful intent.

The general awareness of the Indian public on sustainability issues is definitely insufficient, which probably lies at the core of many problems. For instance, indoor air pollution caused by traditional biomass-burning stoves is one of the biggest killers but it rarely features among the major concerns. Gender inequality and lack of women’s empowerment is an important issue here related to awareness.

Sustainability – environmental or otherwise – often comes as an afterthought in public planning or project planning, whereas it ought to cut across and permeate all policies and projects. The Indian environment and setting are quite unique and there is need to look for and promote innovations in India rather than transplant solutions from elsewhere. One of the roles of the government — mostly states and local, not just at the centre — ought to be to build a sustainability-conscious society: emphasising on the notion of sustainability and responsible consumption and lifestyle in school education and possibly carrying it right through to higher education. Gender inequality needs to be dealt with on an urgent basis. Job-creation needs to be the top economic priority.

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Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Public Policy: A Key Amalgamation

Integrating Public Policy, Sustainability and CSR in business education is the need of the hour. The awareness of public policy, government systems and goals of policy like sustainability is surprisingly low among today’s youth studying in these areas. This is particularly surprising since these are critical factors for long-run business success. As private-public partnerships proliferate from infrastructure to social sectors, the chasm of mistrust between the two parties is a serious hindrance. This is a consequence of lack of communication between the relevant parties.

In reality, anticipating, managing and influencing policy movements are key aspects of making impact, especially in India. Whether out of global pressures or judicial decisions, pro-sustainability policy moves are likely to strengthen and set this as a top priority. An informed partnership between public and private agencies along with the Government would prove to be useful in terms of sustainability.

If policymaking continues to relegate sustainability purely to the domain of technocracy and technological innovations, it will miss out on the transformations occurring in the socio-political systems and impacts of these systems on the environmental altogether. Our war is most likely to be over the finite and increasingly exploitative resource depletion of the planet. “Already there are many recent instances before us within our own country — repression unleashed by the West Bengal government to control the Bhangar land rights agitation, water wars, public health crises, mounting farmer suicides and recurrent drought in relatively well-off and greener states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu as also in the most backward regions like Bundelkhand.” (Garima Maheshwari, The Wire).

Unless policymaking can factor in these realities in terms of implementation and goal setting, which are increasingly becoming key political issues in the country — India will miss the target of SDGs on many fronts. The SDGs will require strong ownership by countries, robust implementation plans for each country, and enough financing. They will be effective only if they are incorporated into national plans. In India, for instance, an effective national plan, along with sub-national and local plans, will be crucial to address the variation in areas such as maternal and child mortality rates, nutrition and employment in each state.

India has a deep-rooted and growing tradition of philanthropy, trusts and partnerships. Increasingly today, businesses are recognising the need for partnering with various government and non-government organisations to work towards collective improvement. This sector has significant expertise that can be applied to addressing India’s most challenging health, sustainability and overall development challenges.

 

Feature Image Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

Ayesha Mehrotra is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and a passionate environmentalist. Through her writing on this platform, she hopes to encourage all generations to understand the importance of equality, liberty, justice, and happiness.

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Law and Justice in the Digital Age

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The massive scope of e-justice in today’s world.

 

Those who litigate in Courts say that litigation is a waste of time, money and paper. All three of these and the burden on Courts can be drastically reduced by making the entire procedure more technology friendly. The E-Courts Project, which was conceptualized on the basis of the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary was submitted by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India, with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts. Once successfully implemented, this could drastically change the ease of access to Courts.

Positive Effect of Technology in the Judiciary

1. Paperless Courts: The Indian courts are seen to be littered with countless files and endless stacks of paper. E-litigation, as has been prevalent in Singapore, has been seen to drastically cut down on paper by introducing technology in the courtrooms. It includes an electronic filing service (allows court documents to be filed), an electronic extract service (allows lawyers to obtain extracts of court documents), a facility to electronically serve processes on parties and an electronic information service. This not only helps the Court reduce the paper trail but also helps lawyers keep proper track of all Court documents.

2. National Data Grid: A National Data Center could be established to hold all information concerning pending work, filings, stages and disposals, and subject matters of all cases. The system could automatically compare and help lower Courts speedily render justice in cases where there exist precedents and stop infarctus cases from being filed.

3. Transparency: One of the biggest problems in the lower judiciary currently is corruption and the underlying lack of transparency. Digitization of records and removal of the human element of filing would drastically reduce corruption and ease the burden on common people.

4. Ease of Access: Currently, certain District Courts all over India do allow the filing of Court fees online in the form of E-Challan, and they also do update the case status of ongoing cases on the ecourts website. However, the number of Courts properly utilizing this facility is far too less. Law was meant to help the common man and a complicated procedure of filing only discourses genuine litigants.

5. Under-trial Prisoners: If an online database would regulate and track how long an under-trial prisoner has spent in prison and fast-track cases where a person has been imprisoned for long periods without a trial, it would drastically reduce the burden on prisons and free under trials. Also important is that in cases where the Petitioners/Complainants have caused unnecessary delays by taking adjournment, an e-system could automatically schedule the case for dismissal and clear up pending cases.

6. E-Witness Examination: Courts have already started accepting Cross-Examination and testimonies over the use of electronic mediums such as Skype. But such usage, for now, is limited to only the Supreme Court. If such infrastructure could be provided to other Courts, it would reduce the time of both the litigants and the Court.

The dismal fact behind this mini revolutionising of law and justice in this digital age is that despite campaigns like Digital India, a majority of the Indian citizens are woefully ill-equipped to understand or take advantage of any technological benefit. The dream of E-Courts and E-Justice cannot be fulfilled until the average society is properly educated to take maximum advantage of its benefits.

 

Feature Image Credit: Department of Justice

 

Sourya Banerjee is a part of the Mentor Panel at One Future Collective.

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Photography as a Therapeutic Art Form

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Sometimes it takes an external lens to see our insides more clearly.

 

By capturing an image, people can share their opinions, feelings, their imagination, frustration and interpretation of life. Photography is a medium of communication. It is a visual record which can help individuals document, reflect and revisit a journey. Photography can also be used as a tool for the healing and transformation of an individual, and this can be seen as a therapeutic activity.

PhotoTherapy is a practice conducted by trained mental health professionals that use people’s personal photographs, family albums, and pictures taken by others as catalysts to deepen insight and enhance communication during their therapy or counselling sessions. This practice is carried out by people, either by themselves when a trained therapist or counsellor is not needed or through guided assistance. People also use photography to improve social interaction, self-knowledge, to understand their relationships with friends and family. It can be used to become more aware about their inner journey — often, a photograph taken of the outside world could give us indications of the taker’s inner journey. PhotoTherapy or Therapeutic Photography can both be used with any kind of photographic imagery. Technology allows this method of therapy to be extremely accessible to all. There is no extra equipment involved — just a person and device that can capture an image. This makes it both convenient and beneficial for the photographer. One does not require a high-resolution photo, because that is not the aim of PhotoTherapy.

A lot of times, it happens that human beings cannot understand their emotions. The aim of PhotoTherapy is to give a person another set of lens with which they can view the world. The process of taking a photograph could reveal patterns, for example, with respect to the method or subject chosen, the colours, and the lighting. PhotoTherapy, therefore, helps people interact with their own unique visual reality. Photography shows us images that may depict how we really feel and brings to light the often-guarded thoughts we keep in our minds. This helps us to become mindful of the present moment, and also to our own thought processes. Developing mindfulness in photography is therapeutic because it helps liberate a person from feelings that may have been previously misinterpreted.

Photography allows us to pay more attention to what we hear, feel, think, and see. Photography can help us to appreciate everyday experiences. What used to be ordinary for me, changed after I took a photo of it and created a memory of the image. Engaging with our world through a man-made lens is cathartic.

Photography can help unleash artistic and creative skills. Knowing that you are capable of doing something despite the challenges and setbacks is definitely therapeutic. Because the focus is less on skill and more on using photos as a medium to explore the world, people are freer. Without inhibitions, without the fear of failure, our creativity flourishes. PhotoTherapy helps to regain self-esteem and understand one’s experiences.

PhotoTherapy shows us that it is important for people to be able to express ourselves and not feel afraid or suppress our vision. Photography gives us a picture that is an external manifestation of our own thoughts. It is important because it allows us to see ourselves through the pictures we take.

Sometimes it takes an external lens to see our insides more clearly.

 

Feature Image Credit: Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

 

Mubaraka Motiwala is a Research Associate (Gender Justice) at One Future Collective.

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