Karnataka's pioneering Knowledge Commission, shuts itself down
INDIATECHONLINE SPECIAL: RIP Jnana Aayoga!
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 decidedto 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 ambitiousvision that the central government entrusted to India’stelecom pioneer Sam Pitroda, the KKCwas a lean organisation whichworked with minimal infrastructure, but peopled with amotivated 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 ofpeople 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 ofmany 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 ofthe encyclopaedic Kannada language knowledge portal Kanaja www.kanaja.in . The commission alsoput in a lot of effort tocome up with more up-do-date versions of the Karnataka Libraries Act, a draft Universities Bill anda proposal for a State Youth Policy.
When the originalthree year termwas about to expire in September 2011, the state government extended it till June 2013and reconstituted the Commission. In late 2012,a document with the Commission’s recommendations in various disciplines was put up on its website.
These wereformally handed over to the Chief Minister last week – with the surprise announcement that the commission would stand dissolved by end February, even ahead ofthe completion of its current term in June end. Some media reports attribute this to the upcoming elections in the state.
This appearsto be a very strange act of enforced self immolation. A Commission like this, by its very nature is apolitical andneeds a continuity for a decade or more, if the radical changes it seeks, are to happen. The salutary presence of the Commissionwas a must, if allthoserecommendations 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 stateshas been throttledbefore it could fulfil its objectives. (Rajasthan, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states and the Delhi Governmentadapted 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 datethis 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)