Will a day come when India’s poor can access government services as easily as drawing cash from an ATM? . . . [N]o country in the world has made accessing education or health or policing or dispute resolution as easy as an ATM, because the nature of these activities requires individuals to use their discretion in a positive way. Technology can certainly facilitate this in a variety of ways if it is seen as one part of an overall approach, but the evidence so far in education, for instance, is that just adding computers alone doesn’t make education any better. . . .

The dangerous illusion of technology is that it can create stronger, top down accountability of service providers in implementation-intensive services within existing public sector organisations. One notion is that electronic management information systems (EMIS) keep better track of inputs and those aspects of personnel that are ‘EMIS visible’ can lead to better services. A recent study examined attempts to increase attendance of Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANMs) at clinics in Rajasthan, which involved high-tech time clocks to monitor attendance. The study’s title says it all: Band-Aids on a Corpse . . . e-governance can be just as bad as any other governance when the real issue is people and their motivation.

For services to improve, the people providing the services have to want to do a better job with the skills they have. A study of medical care in Delhi found that even though providers, in the public sector had much better skills than private sector providers their provision of care in actual practice was much worse.

In implementation-intensive services the key to success is face-to-face interactions between a teacher, a nurse, a policeman, an extension agent and a citizen. This relationship is about power. Amartya Sen’s . . . report on education in West Bengal had a supremely telling anecdote in which the villagers forced the teacher to attend school, but then, when the parents went off to work, the teacher did not teach, but forced the children to massage his feet. . . . As long as the system empowers providers over citizens, technology is irrelevant.

The answer to successfully providing basic services is to create systems that provide both autonomy and accountability. In basic education for instance, the answer to poor teaching is not controlling teachers more . . . The key . . . is to hire teachers who want to teach and let them teach, expressing their professionalism and vocation as a teacher through autonomy in the classroom. This autonomy has to be matched with accountability for results—not just narrowly measured through test scores, but broadly for the quality of the education they provide.

A recent study in Uttar Pradesh showed that if, somehow, all civil service teachers could be replaced with contract teachers, the state could save a billion dollars a year in revenue and double student learning. Just the additional autonomy and accountability of contracts through local groups—even without complementary system changes in information and empowerment—led to that much improvement. The first step to being part of the solution is to create performance information accessible to those outside of the government. . . .

Question: The main purpose of the passage is to:
  1. argue that some types of services can be improved by providing independence and requiring accountability.
  2. find a solution to the problem of poor service delivery in education by examining different strategies.
  3. analyse the shortcomings of government-appointed nurses and their management through technology.
  4. critique the government’s involvement in educational activities and other implementation-intensive services.

Option: 1

The author seems to be focusing on service improvement by empowerment. Option 1 captures the main idea aptly. Firstly, it speaks of service improvement of some type of services, secondly it speaks of how that service can be improved: by providing independence and requiring accountability. Thus option 1 is the best choice.

Option 2 goes out because the author has not examined different strategies in the passage; Moreover, education sector is just an example through which the author seems to be communicating his key idea of empowerment and accountability

Option 3 goes out because it misses the focus of the passage. The focus is not the shortcomings of nurses, but how service delivery can be improved.

Option 4, though close, misses the main idea. The author is not critiquing the government?s involvement. Rather, his focus is on what can be done to improve the services.

Question: In the context of the passage, we can infer that the title “Band Aids on a Corpse” (in paragraph 2) suggests that:
  1. the nurses who attended the clinics were too poorly trained to provide appropriate medical care.
  2. the electronic monitoring system was a superficial solution to a serious problem.
  3. the clinics were better funded, but performance monitoring did not result in any improvement.
  4. the nurses attended the clinics, but the clinics were ill-equipped.

Option: 2

These types of questions have become quite common in CAT RC. The question wants the answer ?in the context of the passage?. Though the phrase has been used as a title of a book, in the context of the passage it suggests that it was a superficial solution to a more serious problem. The other choices are focusing too much on the nurses and the clinics, but that is not the main idea of the passage. In the context of the passage, the example of nurses is just a small suggestion of a superficial solution to a bigger problem. We should not forget that the question asks us to answer in the context of the passage.

Question: The author questions the use of monitoring systems in services that involve face-to-face interaction between service providers and clients because such systems:
  1. are ineffective because they are managed by the government.
  2. are not as effective in the public sector as they are in the private sector.
  3. do not improve services that need committed service providers.
  4. improve the skills but do not increase the motivation of service providers.

Option: 3

The author in the second last para says that the solution to services that need face-to-face interaction is to hire people who want to teach. In other words, he suggests that we should hire people who are motivated to carry out the job.

Question: According to the author, service delivery in Indian education can be improved in all of the following ways EXCEPT through:
  1. use of technology.
  2. access to information on the quality of teaching.
  3. recruitment of motivated teachers.
  4. elimination of government involvement.

Option: 4

This is a slightly confusing question. To answer such questions correctly, we must read them carefully. The question says that service delivery can be improved in all of the following ways except, so we have to pick a choice in which service delivery cannot be improved. Both options 2 and 3 are evident in the passage and are likely to improve service delivery. Now we have two choices: use of technology and elimination of government involvement. We can see that the author has said in the first para that technology can certainly facilitate service delivery in a variety of ways. So the author suggests that technology is helpful but up to some extent.

Elimination of government involvement has not been implied or stated anywhere in the passage. Thus 4 is the best choice

Question: Which of the following, IF TRUE, would undermine the passage’s main argument?
  1. Empowerment of service providers leads to increased complacency and rigged performance results.
  2. If absolute instead of moderate technological surveillance is exercised over the performance of service providers.
  3. If it were proven that service providers in the private sector have better skills than those in the public sector.
  4. If it were proven that increase in autonomy of service providers leads to an exponential increase in their work ethic and sense of responsibility.

Option: 1

This is an easy question. The author right across the passage talks of autonomy and empowerment, but if it turned that empowerment leads to increased complacency and rigged performance results, then the author?s position would be considerably weakened. Thus 1 is the best choice.

CAT 2018 Reading Comprehension Questions