Karnataka's pioneering Knowledge Commission, shuts itself down

27th January 2013
Karnataka's  pioneering Knowledge Commission,  shuts itself down



Bangalore, January 28 2013 Two years and a month after it was created,  the Karnataka Knowledge Commission or Jnana Aayoga, a body created by the state of Karnataka , hard on the heels of the national level Knowledge Commission, has  inexplicably decided  to close down. It is  content with having made some 90 odd recommendations in the field of higher education, public health, community knowledge and geographic information systems --  and claiming that 17 of them have been taken to fruition.

The pioneering initiative among Indian states to replicate the ambitious  vision that the central government entrusted to India’s  telecom pioneer Sam Pitroda, the KKC  was a lean organisation which   worked with minimal infrastructure,  but peopled with a  motivated team headed by its chairman Dr K Kasturirangan, former Space Commission chairman and Executive Director  Dr M K Sridhar  --and drawing on the knowledge and experience of  people like Prof M S Thimmappa, former Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University, Prof S Sadagopan , Founder-Director of the International  Institute of Information Technology, Ex- Infosys   senior executive Mohandas Pai, N V Sathyanarayana, Chairman and MD, Informatics India  and Padma Sarangapani, Prof of Education, Tata Inst of Social Sciences. It never employed more than 9 full time researchers – preferring to draw on the voluntary efforts of    many experienced professionals.

The Commission,  functioning from a tiny office in the Vidhan Soudha secretariat,  reached out to experts through a number of task force working groups, mostly in areas of education, community knowledge and health. Its biggest achievement was probably the creation of  the encyclopaedic  Kannada language knowledge portal Kanaja www.kanaja.in .  The commission also   put in a lot of effort to  come up with more up-do-date versions of the Karnataka Libraries Act,  a draft  Universities Bill and  a  proposal for a State Youth Policy.

When the original  three year term  was about to expire in September 2011, the state government extended it till June 2013  and reconstituted the Commission. In late 2012,  a document with the Commission’s recommendations in various disciplines was  put up on its website.

These were  formally handed over to the Chief Minister last week – with the surprise announcement that the commission would stand dissolved by end February, even ahead of  the completion of its current term in June end.  Some media reports attribute this to the upcoming elections in the state.

This appears  to be a very strange act of  enforced  self immolation. A Commission like this,  by its very nature is apolitical and  needs a continuity for a decade or more, if the radical changes it seeks,  are to happen.  The salutary presence of the Commission  was a must, if all  those  recommendations were to be translated into reality.
Instead of strengthening and appreciating its good work, the state has seen fit to abruptly end it.  Those at its helm, may be obliged to make concurring noises, but the fact remains that the Karnataka Knowledge Commission,  a great idea and an example to other states  has been throttled  before it could fulfil its objectives. (Rajasthan, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states and the Delhi Government   adapted chunks of the national knowledge commission templates but stopped short of starting full fledged commissions. Maharashtra announced intent to start its own Commission but till date  this has not taken off).

This untimely end for Jnana Ayoga is  a sad development for India’s so-called ‘Silicon State’,  and in many ways a lost opportunity to blaze a pioneering path in IT-fuelled empowerment.  ( revised on January 29 2013)