Introduction:

John Wells Kingdon is Professor Emeritus and was Acting Chair of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Kingdon is a specialist in American politics, and has written influential books such as “Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies.”

What is the Kingdon’s Policy Window Model?

In his book Agendas, alternatives and public policies Kingdon proposed that for an issue to get on the political agenda, the following three streams must converge for an issue to get resolved:

  • The problem stream- is the condition recognized as a problem?
  • The policy stream – are there are implementable policy alternatives?
  • The political stream -are the politicians willing and able to make a policy change?

 

Only when these three streams converge together, a window of opportunity is open, and action can be taken on the subject at hand for resolution.

Effectively, if there is no solution to a problem, it would be impossible to get the political attention. There can be an excellent idea in the air, but if this is not answering any prominent problem, no political awareness raised. Finally, there can be a political will to solve a problem, but if no solution is available, nothing will happen. Political will comes from both predictable elements such as post-election (black money issues) and unpredictable ones like natural disasters (Delhi pollution). The three flux must encounter to get the political attention to use an available solution to solve an existing problem. Individual policy entrepreneurs are needed to build acceptance for answers and to create linkages between these streams of problems, solutions, and political will.

BANGALORE ISSUES: ILLEGAL FLEX BANNER/POSTERS

In Bengaluru city, illegal flex banner/posters, flex and banners have become a menace defacing the city and causing massive loss of revenue as well for the municipal exchequer. However, no strict attention is given to resolving this issue.

The city has a solution to this problem in the form of ‘The Karnataka Open Places (Prevention Of Disfigurement) Act, 1981’. The Act has the following provision:

Penalty for unauthorized disfigurement by advertisement.- Whoever by himself or through another person affixes to, or erects, inscribes or exhibits on, any place open to public view any advertisement without the written permission of the local authority having jurisdiction over such area, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.”

But we know that this solution has not addressed the problem of illegal hoardings/flex/banners due to lack of implementation of this provision at the ground level. The situation is almost like neither the problem exists nor the rule of law as these advertisements with abandon!

Applying the Kingdon’s Policy Window Model to this scenario, the streams can be identified as follows:

The problem stream– this situation is not recognized as a problem, but for few public-spirited citizens and organizations.

The policy stream –  There is a current legislation though somewhat weak, is not favoring implementation as the problem itself has not been recognized. Further, their usage by political leadership and this issue not being a natural disaster prevents it from attracting attention.

The political stream – In the absence of illegal flex banner/poster being a recognized issue and the solution by itself being weak, a political system is not responsive to resolving this issue. Whatever little action taken by the administration under pressure from public-spirited citizen groups ends up more ornamental without a lasting solution to the real issue.

THE WAY FORWARD

In order to bring necessary political attention to the menace of illegal flex banner/posters, the following roadmap could be tried to bring the three streams into consonance:

The Problem Stream:

  1. Bring up regularly in the media, both written and visual, the issue of illegal flex banner/posters by focusing on issues that the public feel important: few examples could be, loss of revenue and consequent higher taxation, corruption, visual pollution, accidents due to distraction, tree felling due to flex banner/posters and loss of green cover. In essence, using an issue of importance, raise public consciousness in a way that politicians can no more ignore this issue.
  2. Hold regular ‘kill bill’ kind of campaigns to inform government & political system that we are watching and involving citizens to spread the above message.
  3. Publish data on actual revenue collection vs potential, to highlight financial issues, as this can draw public attention.

The Policy Stream:

Promote stronger and alternative solutions for effective handling of the problem of illegal flex banner/posters such as:

  • Making the punishments more severe by way of higher fines and steep escalation for repeat offenders.
  • Increasing the number of legal flex banner/posters and using digital ways for their monitoring.
  • Transparent and e-based policy auction for flex banner/posters.
  • Systematic change of the policy on what gets printed in the city and more restrictions to be placed on the ones coming from outskirts
  • Bringing the politicians to consensus through use of digital forms of advertising of political activities, and reserved places for such flex banner/posters inwards.
  • Private flex banner/poster [non-political] need to be regulated by penalizing the companies that are displayed. It will deter them to allow anyone to use their name without proper permissions

The political Stream:

Political System will recognize the problem as we shape public opinion on the issue. Today there is no linkage between political outcome and illegal flex banner/posters. In a way, politicians are themselves beneficiaries of this menace. There needs to be a reversal in this process. Hence strong steps as enumerated in the level of “Problem Stream” is imperative to generate Political will. Political resolve as above will enable implementation of changes needed to improve policy alternatives.

CONCLUSION

For the window of opportunity to be opened to make this change happen, all these three streams need to be aligned. In the absence of an active citizen participation in electing their representatives, public opinion and an issue that doesn’t affect the daily lives of most citizens, such matters could only be taken up with sustained efforts of public-spirited citizens and organizations. Collective efforts to come together and take up actions in a structured way to influence all the three streams effectively. If this is done, the days of ‘no illegal flex banner/posters’ will not be far in our city of Bengaluru.