S M Sehgal Foundation has a programme in Nuh (erstwhile Mewat) district in Haryana to promote good rural governance by promoting transparency. Nuh, adjoining Gurgaon, the glittery IT hub of the country, figures at the bottom of Niti Aayog's 101 most backward districts of India. The programme looks at the gaps in delivery mechanism of the district authority. It has identified the absence of public knowledge about government programmes and constitutional rights as the main reason for bad governance.
The programme creates village level stewards for good governance through intensive training. They handhold common villagers for their problems while engaging with government offices. These problems range from delay in pension disbursement to land titles to improper distribution in Public Distribution System (PDS) to agricultural loans to school management problems.
This is done at various levels. The village stewards advice the villagers, help in paperworks and accompany them to government offices if needed. Then there is a call centre where villagers can call in to get information about procedures and programme details. The call centre records all complaints and can tell in real time the nature of complaints from each block and village. They can also monitor quantum of problems arising out of each departments. And then there is a highly popular FM radio station that plays the great role in transparency by constantly telling people about programmes and eligibility and rights. There are periodic judicial fair where student volunteers from law schools come and help villagers to carry out complex legal paper work.
We made a video on this programme. It is one of our favourite shooting because it really inspired us about how transparency and information can deepen democracy and bring better governance.