In recent years, scholars from within a broad range of social science disciplines have drawn their attention to the issue of public service delivery in India. Partly as a result of deepening electoral competition both provincial and national governments have been providing citizens with a growing range of welfare schemes—ranging from pensions, housing plots, free midday meals and employment guarantees through the NREGA scheme to subsidised rations. However, the extent to which these entitlements have reached their intended beneficiaries has varied across states, and across regions within states. Scholars have identified corruption and insufficient state capacity as major causes behind failures in implementation. Some studies suggest that the successful implementation of government programmes is contingent upon societal factors such as the presence or absence of stark social inequalities and of an active civil society—in the form of rights based social movements for example. In this view, severe class- and caste-based social inequalities allow powerful individuals and groups to appropriate people’s entitlements, and work to prevent subordinate individuals and communities from claiming them. Other studies have tended to emphasise how the state is under-staffed, under-resourced, and paralysed by bureaucratic red tape, and therefore unable to respond to the huge demands placed upon it. And yet other studies have emphasised particular forms of political leadership and how it can make the state either more or less responsive to popular demands. None of these explanations are mutually exclusive, but scholars have tended to emphasise one or the other depending on their theoretical perspective and on their research methods and research focus. In this conference we will gather scholars who are researching the implementation of particular government schemes in different localities and/or at different scales (e.g. at national, provincial or village level). We want to bring different disciplines and approaches together in order to see what we can learn from each other, and to explore ways in which we might collaborate either in the form of research and/or publications. We are particularly interested in examining the ways in which qualitative and quantitative research methods might further inform each other, and we wish to encourage participants to discuss how alternative conceptual and methodological approaches might help inform their own work.
The intention of the conference is to promote joint work across disciplines, possibly resulting in further work towards a special edition of a journal like World Development or the Journal of Development Studies (if there is sufficient interest and commonalities found between participants).