New Delhi: The Economic Survey for 2018-2019 had a word of praise for the Modi government for successfully using behavioural economics to popularise key schemes such as ‘Swachh Bharat’ and ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’.
According to the survey, the success of the two initiatives proves that behavioural change insights can be leveraged to effect greater social change.
In a chapter titled “Policy for Homo Sapiens, Not Homo Economicus: Leveraging the Behavioural Economics of ‘Nudge’”, the survey dwelled on the use of “nudge” policies — those that “gently steer people towards desirable behaviour even while preserving their liberty to choose” — to change people’s mindset.
Arguing that people were not “homo economicus” who always make the optimal choice, it stressed the importance of behavioural economics for more informed policy-making.
‘Success stories through behavioural change’
According to the survey, Swachh Bharat, which has encouraged people to end open defecation, was different from other sanitation schemes in that it relied on behavioural change.
Highlighting the success of the mission through various statistics, it underlined the role played by “swachhagrahis” or sanitation volunteers, who were locals with social ties to the villages where they operated, and thus proved to be good ambassadors.
The mission, the survey added, appealed to people’s emotions with pitches that likened open defecation to consuming one’s own excreta (since flies that sit on excreta often also land on food).
As for ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, the survey praised the role of initiatives such as ‘Selfie with Daughter’, which saw thousands of social media users click and post photos with their daughters in response to PM Modi’s appeal to protect the girl child.
The BADLAV agenda
Based on these insights, the survey also set out an “ambitious agenda for social change”, including moving from ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ to ‘BADLAV’ (Beti Aapki Dhan Lakshmi Aur Vijay Lakshmi), from ‘Swachh Bharat’ to “Sundar Bharat”, ‘Give It Up’ in case of LPG subsidy to “Think About the Subsidy”, and tax evasion to tax compliance.
To achieve all this, the survey recommended the creation of a behavioural economics unit at NITI Aayog. Further, it added, all programmes must undergo a behavioural economics audit before they are implemented, says the survey.