On November 3rd, I had the good fortune of listening to Ashwin Mahesh. He humbled me. I wave my hands feverishly at the Chennai traffic, the pollution, the threats of dengue and chikungunya, etc. But, Ashwin Mahesh is doing something about it. He gave a talk that followed mine at the weekend contact classes held by the Takshashila Institution (I am a co-founder) as part of their 3-month Graduate Certificate Programme in Public Policy.
He presented on civic participation in public policy. This was not his title. I am just paraphrasing it. He talked about how citizens should both pressure and partner with government for delivery on urban and civic services.
He had done that in the case of a lake body near his apartment. He applied to the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation that he would take over its maintenance and upkeep. They did not know how to react because there was nothing to prevent such a private initiative but there was no precedence either. Eventually, they relented. Now, 27 such water bodies are maintained by citizens and they have now become places of recreation and relaxation and pleasing for the eyes than being breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
He plans to set up a Khan Academy type institution for ‘imparting’ education to interested citizens on how to make public policy.
So, in that speech, he showed how one could refine public policy-making into public making policy.
Hats off. Inspiring work.