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Competency in elected officials UPSC NOTE

 Indian scenario

  • India’s vibrant democracy thrives on the idea that elected representatives embody the people’s mandate

  • So, 795 MPs, approximately 4,123 Members of the Legislative Assemblies and and 31.8 lakh elected representatives in the local government, together formulate policies and ensure their implementation at the levels of the central and State government, raise the issues of the people in Parliament, Assembly, and Councils, and work on issues of importance as part of committees.

Education vs. Competency

  • At least 75% of Lok Sabha members and nearly 64% of MLAs are graduates. 

  • And considering their central role in policy-making and delivering public services, we often forget to ask a key question: what makes an elected representative competent? 

  • While educational qualifications provide critical skills, effective governance requires a spectrum of qualities in the form of behavioural, functional, and domain-based competencies

Importance of competency in elected officials

  • Behavioural skills are at the heart of political competency, enabling politicians to engage effectively with various stakeholders. 

  • Representatives must excel in communication, verbal and writing, and public engagement

  • Effective leadership and negotiation skills are vital in uniting diverse teams behind a shared vision and managing different stakeholders. 

  • For example, the success of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was influenced by the involvement of women panchayati raj leaders, who promoted behavioural change at the grassroots.

  • Second, functional competencies. Beyond being people-oriented, representatives must deeply understand the rules and processes underpinning legislation and policy implementation

  • This includes understanding their interventions in Parliament and State Assemblies, such as asking questions, initiating discussions, raising important policy matters, monitoring and evaluating policy implementation, providing suggestions, and ensuring efficient allocation of Union and State Budgets

  • Representatives must also be competent in translating citizen grievances and communicating those policy gaps to decision-makers

  • This will ensure that the voices of citizens are plugged into policy-making processes.

  • In 2022, a Member of Parliament raised a matter in Zero Hour about unregulated advertising and promotion of tobacco use on OTT platforms, which prompted the Ministry of Health to mandate anti-tobacco warnings on such content. 

  • Similarly, a Private Member’s Bill introduced in 2014 advocating for transgender rights led to the formation of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. 

  • So, legislative advocacy can influence policy changes.

  • Domain-based competencies are crucial for elected officials, and tailored to meet the specific needs of their constituencies and manage their unique portfolios effectively

  • For example, a deep understanding of health-care policy would encompass public health management, health-care laws, insurance systems, and global health trends.

  • Insights into infrastructure and urban planning are also fundamental, where understanding effective urban planning, transportation systems, public works, and sustainable infrastructure development are critical. 

  • Apart from these domains, awareness of the latest technological advancements and their implications on public services and economic growth are essential, ensuring that policy decisions are forward-thinking and inclusive of technological progress.

  • Further, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, the National Health Policy, the Mental Healthcare Act, and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules are recent examples of individuals shaping policies through domain expertise and commitment.

  • As we advocate a competency-based approach, we must be careful about the competency trap, where an excessive focus on specific skills might suppress the innovation and creativity needed to solve complex problems. 

  • Instead, we should foster an environment that promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills alongside technical expertise.

  • Promoting collaboration between representatives with diverse backgrounds and expertise will ensure a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling complex challenges. 

  • Imagine a team with expertise in rural development, economics, engineering, public health, and social justice working to design and implement better policies

Institutionalising the vision

  • To effectively institutionalise this vision, it is crucial to align these competencies with their specific roles, incorporating the Karmayogi Competency Model from Mission Karmayogi

  • This process involves identifying existing skill gaps and evolving training needs through consultation with elected officials, citizens, and domain experts

  • The resulting needs analysis should inform a comprehensive capacity-building plan that includes orientation and induction programmes, online resources, workshops, peer learning opportunities, and mentorship programmes

  • Regular impact assessments, conducted annually, are essential.

  • To facilitate this continuous learning, we can leverage existing resources from central and State training institutions such as Parliamentary Research and Training Institute for Democracies, National and State Institutes of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, as well as the Integrated Government Online Training platform and civil society organisations such as PRS Legislative Research, Participatory Research in Asia, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini. 

  • It is also essential to ensure that every elected representative from the local level onwards has access to necessary information and research support through dedicated research wings.

  • Ultimately, the success of competency-based politics also relies on a shift in public perception

  • Citizens need to demand more from their elected representatives, holding them accountable not just for their promises but also for their ability to deliver on those promises. 

  • We are reminded that the measure of a politician’s success is not just in the victories they achieve but in the vision they embody, the integrity they uphold, and the impact they have on society. 

  • As we move towards a Viksit Bharat, let us make competency a central pillar of political discourse, where effective leadership is not an exception but an expectation.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Competency in elected officials UPSC NOTE
Competency in elected officials UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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