– R Suresh, former Director, Public Affairs Centre
In a moment of candour several years ago, Dr Samuel Paul bemoaned the state of management of public services in India: “…pride plays no place in the delivery of citizen entitlements, often it is viewed as a favour, an opportunity to abuse the asymmetry of knowledge to make a quick buck….” Samuel Paul constructed the Public Affairs Centre (PAC) as a model of pride in protecting the citizen from the vagaries of service delivery, and in ensuring her or his rightful place in the flow diagram of procedures and access.
PAC, established in the last decades of his eventful life, crystallised the phenomenon of social accountability and made real the avenues by which this could be achieved in ordinary transactions with governments, banks and bureaucrats. The creation of PAC involved the mobilization of a vast amount of goodwill founded upon a cheery optimism and faith in humanity. Dr. Paul utilized his enormous fund of connects with academicians, bureaucrats, researchers, and a number of students to invite them to co-habit a fresh space in Indian governance thinking, bringing with them a wide range of experiences with governments and service providers. He indulged the many ideas that flowed in, sifted them for feasibility, and chose those ideas that indicated potential for application in real life situations. Around this nucleus of work, a team was born, dedicated to the protection of the values of transparency and public responsibility.
This note only briefly captures the achievements of a glowing ember remnant from several fires lit in a lifetime of cultivating and conquering risk in several endeavours in many domains – research and analysis, strategy development, institution building, network and coalition building, and most of all, teaching with empathy and love. On the way, these fires lit minds, and more ideas. And in sum, these new ideas now stimulate the realm of innovation and reform in the management of public systems.
Dr Samuel Paul, with his wisdom and optimism, motivated and steered a vibrant team of young researchers at PAC, dedicated to the cause of equal opportunity and entitlement. The onus is now upon the rest of us to collectively shoulder a large task indeed – of keeping ourselves in good spirit while charting the mysterious ways of working of government. We are cheered by his memory and lightened by his enigmatic smile while going about this.