Comparative State Politics and Public Policy in India


Members of the CSPPP project are engaged in comparative and collaborative research projects. Each of these examines regional political environments as contexts for the formulation of social policy. Brief details of each project are provided on this page.


Comparing the Politics of Food in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh

Anupama Saxena, Yatindra Singh Sisodia and Louise Tillin

This project will explore the politics that shape policies towards food security across the central Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It will focus on one facet of food security by explaining the divergent approaches taken by the states to reform the Public Distribution System (PDS), through which subsidised food grains are supposed to reach the poor. Until the bifurcation of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000, the two states came under the same state government and followed the same policies towards food security. Since bifurcation, the states have adopted different strategies. Madhya Pradesh has sought to improve the accuracy of targeting via the PDS, and outsourced the development of biometric ration cards to a private company. Chhattisgarh by contrast has expanded access to the PDS, made the reliable provision of subsidised foodgrains an executive political priority, and taken steps to improve the delivery network. This paper will draw on interviews in both states to explain the divergent approaches to food policy and why the divergence matters. It will draw attention to differences in political leadership, bureaucracy and the divergent political economic contexts in both states since 2000.



Prudence, health and the good life: the politics of comprehensive health insurance in Tamil Nadu and Kerala

 KK Kailash and Madura Rasaratnam

 In 2008, the Union government launched a health insurance scheme called the Rashtriya Swastiya Bima Yojana  (RSBY) for the BPL families. This was to protect them from financial difficulties that could arise as a result of ill-health involving hospitalisation.  Tamil Nadu and Kerala have also recently adopted comprehensive health insurance schemes that go beyond the provisions of the RSBY. Kerala's Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme   (CHIS) scheme began in 2008 and covered poor families not covered under the RSBY. Meanwhile a Tamil Nadu scheme introduced in 2009 ("Chief Minister Kalaignar Insurance Scheme for life saving treatments") has been substantially expanded by the present state government. This project will examine how the different political contexts of the two states have shaped these recent decisions. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have notably different political systems - alternating Congress and Communist coalitions in Kerala and Dravidian populism in Tamil Nadu. Their overall health profiles are also distinct but not entirely divergent. The project will examine how the decision to adopt health insurance schemes was situated in the existing health politics and policies of the two states. It will ask how and where the impetus for health insurance began, which actors drove and sustained the momentum for this policy and how far the demand for health insurance was shaped by party politics, bureaucratic preferences or the preferences of other actors, including private health providers, aid agencies and civil society groups.


Embodying the state: social policies and margins: A Comparative study of MNREGS in the “tribal” states of Meghalaya and Jharkhand

Rajesh Dev

 Policies, their formulation and implementation, have become the critical aperture through which modern states have often been represented and reified. Generally understood as a “neutral and rational” activity, as tools to achieve a correspondence “between goals and their execution”, policies are now seen as politically defined and ideologically loaded processes involving the diffusion and embodiment of modern state power. Especially in spaces with limited state authority and structures, policy paradigms not just constitutes stable communities and institutional order, it also introduces and reinforces the bureaucratic apparatus of the state and thereby, “’work’ as instruments of governance”.

As a centrally devised and directed poverty alleviation policy, MNREGS is implemented in all the states of India, included the culturally and politically marginalized areas defined by the Sixth and the Fifth Schedules. Meghalaya and Jharkhand are two such marginal spaces where MNREGS is being implemented to promote “inclusive growth”. As a centrally planned, yet locally executed, social policy MNREGS requires mediation by a number of vernacular structures, institutions and a local political society. Such mediations and encounters affect traditional structures, norms and relations of rule. It complicates the “protection measures” and traditional terrains of power in these scheduled areas. It also reconfigures how people from these ‘marginal’ spaces view the state. How do these encounters, mediations and reconfigurations affect “development delivery” and how does it reconstitute state-society relations in peripheral areas. The project would make an attempt to theorize comparative insights obtainable in Jharkhand and Meghalaya. 



Effect of Comparative State Politics on Educational Policies in Bihar and Rajasthan

Divya Vaid

Education is included on the Concurrent List in India, where both the central and state governments share the outlays and implementation of education policies such as the recent Right to Education (RTE) Act. As a difference in policy implementation and outcomes may arise across states or districts within states, it is important to study what impact state and local level politics and bureaucracy have had on the way that states have implemented various aspects of the RTE. A key question this project poses is: What is the impact of local political and bureaucratic institutions’ “agency,” and “will” on the differing implementation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes such as the RTE? Data will be collected through interviews with school administrators, and bureaucrats in two states: Rajasthan and Bihar. Secondary datasets such as the District Information System of Education (DISE) will also be analysed.


The Woman Constituency: Domestic Workers, Social Security and Gender Politics in Two States
Rajeshwari Deshpande

This paper tries to focus on two key and overlapping themes of contemporary Indian politics and their implications for politics-policy interface in the context of dynamics of state politics. Both themes, that of social security and of women’s empowerment were much celebrated in the recent discourses of the Indian state.  The idea of women’s empowerment developed an intricate trajectory as it travelled the institutional routes of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments leading to more robust political demands for women’s representation and culminating into a celebratory and paradoxical consensus over women’s issues.  Issues of social security, on the other hand, acquired an equally complex character when they became one of the flagship programmes of the post liberalization phase and defied the logic of the withdrawal of the state.

The paper investigates some of these intricacies through the case study of domestic workers in two states of Maharashtra and West Bengal. The hitherto neglected domestic workers came on the radar of the state when it enacted the domestic workers social security act in 2010. The implementation of the act along with the arrival of a new political constituency of women in Indian politics has seen a sudden enthusiasm on part of the state governments and political parties towards the issues of domestic workers-among whom majority are women.

We select Maharashtra and West Bengal for this study both because of their different legacies of labour politics in particular and mobilizational politics in general and also because of the different patterns of gender politics evolving in these two states.