1st Edition

The Last Mile Turning Public Policy Upside Down

By Amarjeet Sinha Copyright 2024
    310 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    310 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    The Last Mile explores the gaps and dichotomy between drafted policies and their implementation, and the last mile challenges which often make public services inaccessible to the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. It provides an in-depth overview of the dynamics between communities, research and consultation and the implementation of policies for development.

    Rich in empirical data and case studies from different government programmes and reports, this book examines the implementation of government service programmes for poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, and income generation for the poor, among others, from a people’s perspective. It highlights the need for policies and institutions to align their methods to community needs. Offering guidelines for redesigning as well as solutions to counter challenges related to lack of trust and effective communication, human resource management, capacity development, redressal mechanisms, and facilitating the last mile connection, the author delineates effective ways for integrating new technologies in policy implementation. The book also addresses legacy issues in institutions and re-orienting policy for better governance, transparency, and building trust.

    Part of the Innovations, Practice and the Future of Public Policy in India series, this book, by a senior practitioner, will be an essential resource for students and researchers of development studies, sociology, public policy and governance, economics, and South Asian studies.

    This book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF at http://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.


    1 A Poverty-Free India: Building Systems for Outcomes

    2 The Historical Legacy

    3 The Diversity of Geographies

    4 High Growth, Ease of Doing Business, and Well-Being

    5 Improving Ease of Living of the Poor

    6 Why Incomes Matter

    7 Women’s Well-Being and Livelihoods

    8 Women, Work, and Well-Being

    9 Vulnerable Social Groups, Inclusive Policies and Programmes

    10 Policy and Programme Formulation in Basic Education

    11 Revisiting Skills for Full Employment

    12 Higher Education: Meeting the Challenge

    13 Policy and Programme Formulation in Health

    14 Making Quality Health for All a Reality

    15 Poshan, People, and Panchayats

    16 Improving Governance of Programmes

    17 Community Connect, GPDPs, and Rankings

    18 Human Resource Reforms

    19 Poverty-Free Gram Panchayats

    20 Improving Well-Being of Urban Poor

    21 Why We Need the PM’s Human Development Council

    22 Global Warming: Local Churning

    23 A Poverty-Free India: Concluding Remarks

    24 An India for All


    Amarjeet Sinha is currently a member of the Public Enterprises Selection Board, India. He was earlier posted as advisor to the prime minister of India till 31 July 2021. A retired Indian administrative service officer, he has over 40 years of experience working in government, largely in the rural and social sectors. He has had the unique distinction of having played a major role in designing the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (India’s main programme for Universal Elementary Education), the National Rural Health Mission, and in bringing about governance reforms in programmes for rural areas covering livelihoods, employment, housing, social security, skills, rurban development, and road construction. He is also the author of An India for Everyone – A Path to Inclusive Development (2013).

    "For decades, policy makers have been frustrated with the wide gap between intent and impact. This gap between hope and reality is a drag on India’s growth as last mile becomes a dotted line. This book, based on his rich experience of dealing with these challenges, is a masterclass in understanding why these gaps exist and what possible alternative approaches should be adopted to get better outcomes. Amarjeet makes a strong case for delegation and democratization. A compelling argument which cannot be ignored."

    Vineet Nayar, Ex- CEO HCL, Founder Sampark, a Trust for frugal innovations in elementary education on scale and author of ‘Employees First, Customer Second’, Harvard Business Review Press, 2011

    "A segmented approach to analysis and a fragmented effort for implementation of programmes often undermines the work of academia and administrators when issues of human development are addressed. As a distinguished civil servant, Amarjeet Sinha has brought an enlightened understanding of the multi-dimensional complexity of human welfare to his work in key domains of education, health and rural development. His approach to elucidation of intricate issues and implementation of insightfully designed solutions reflected both the rigour of an academic mind and the vigour of a problem solving change maker. Above all, he has been a passionate democrat who has ardently advocated decentralised, community led initiatives for social development. This book brings us his distilled experiential wisdom and guides us in charting a path for India’s journey towards sustainable and equitable development."

    Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, Renowned Cardiologist and Public Health Specialist, Ex- President, Public Health Foundation of India; Ex- Professor of Cardiology at AIIMS and Chairman, High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage (2010)

    "In ‘The Last Mile – Turning Public Policy Upside Down’, Amarjeet Sinha weds his academic excellence with his passion for inclusive, community based, and gender sensitive social development and presents before us a body of work both brilliant in its insight and wisdom, which flows out of his grassroots experience and his expertise in planning and management. I found the book very insightful and rich in parameters for a more holistic and people oriented approach to social development. As I read the book, especially the section on Women and Community Connect, I felt a deep gratitude to the author, for his insistence on the fundamental truth that women must have equal space and voice in all development efforts and on the active participation of the community as a non-negotiable in any social development. This book is an excellent, indispensable resource that needs to be used by all those entrusted with the great responsibility of planning and administration of the development initiatives of the country, as well as by those responsible for the implementation of these programmes. "

    Sister Sujita, Sisters of Notre Dame, Patna; a pioneer in bringing Mahila Samakhya to Bihar and in her work for the well-being of families belonging to the Musahar community, while living among them in Bihar.

    "Amarjeet Sinha has played extremely critical roles in policy formulation and programme implementation across the Ministries of Rural Development, Health and Education.

    His heart and soul has always been with the poor and down-trodden. The book combines the author’s expertise and empathy to focus on the importance of the "last mile", be it for delivery of programmes, or the use of technology, or the inclusion of all social categories, or even for the execution of infrastructure projects." 

    Sumit Bose, Retired Finance Secretary, Government of India and Government of Madhya Pradesh and Distinguished Social Sector and Civil Society Policy Maker and Professional

    "After a full and productive working life in government, both at state and national levels, Amarjeet Sinha brings a unique perspective to this book – a combination of practical experience and academic zeal.  His work across different sectors – health, education and rural development has given him wide exposure in dealing with implementation challenges but also reinforced his faith in the need for systemic and institutional change.  The book is a "must read" for administrators, practitioners, academics and all those who are keen to understand nuts and bolts of India’s development and change."   

    Rukmini Banerji, Pratham Education Foundation and Pioneer behind the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER).

    "Amarjeet Sinha's book makes a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the reasons why India's development strategy has been much less successful than it should have been in areas such as health, child nutrition, education and expansion of rural livelihoods. The author draws on his personal experience in working in these areas both in the central government and at the state level, to outline a course correction. He goes beyond the usual recommendations for more resources being directed to these areas to emphasise the need for greater flexibility in the design of these programmes and also the involvement of the community. What is particularly heartening, is the evidence martialled, to show that where this has been attempted, the response is very encouraging. Since implementation of all these programmes is largely in the hands of state administrations, both politicians and administrators at the state level as also journalists covering these areas, would benefit from reading the book."

    Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Retired Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and one of the architects of the 1991 Economic Reforms

    "Only 15 paise reaches the beneficiary, said a former Prime Minister. Here is an insider’s perspective of a sensitive, listening, and constantly learning bureaucrat. The author, in a rare case, is transparent and personal in asserting his convictions about public policy that should be made for Dalits, Women and Adivasis, the last mile communities, to truly realize India for All.  He has been keen to implement better so the intended policy benefits reach the last mile.  To borrow from Hannah Arendt, ‘no public servant’s life is possible without a world which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other public servants. Public policy making in this sense is a collective venture, even as it appears as an act of a single person’. However, the leadership is about change-making.  How your personal convictions are converted into policy and then how that is implemented is the most interesting "execution" process to learn from. What is at play here therefore is the change-making process by a leader bureaucrat". 

    Ved Arya, Founder, SRIJAN and Buddha Institute and National Convenor, RCRC

    "The book would be a useful reference text in the academic courses on Public Policy, Rural management and Development Practice in the Indian Universities. Its richness in terms of what has happened in the actual implementation of flagship programmes in recent years is likely to make it a preferred reference book. It would also be a handy reference book for the development practitioners in India, both within the government and in civil society organisations."

    Dr. Jugal K. Mohapatra, Administrator and Economist, Retired Chief Secretary of Odisha and Secretary Rural Development and Distinguished Public Policy Analyst and Commentator

    "An outstanding book on all aspects of social development in India that captivates and keeps alive your curiosity throughout. Amarjeet Sinha who had himself designed many development programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Rural Health Mission, has brilliantly analysed the reasons behind India’s success in improving livelihoods in the last two decades, and has also given practical suggestions how to focus on community participation and promotion of women’s self-help groups for even better results. A compelling and must-read book for all those interested in India’s growth through the empowerment of marginalised groups."

    Dr. N. C. Saxena, Retired Member Secretary of the Planning Commission, Retired Director of LBSNAA, Mussoorie and Respected Public Policy Commentator