Accepted Paper:

The political prioritisation of welfare in India: a subnational level analysis of the Public Distribution System in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh  


Anindita Adhikari (Brown University)
Vasudha Chhotray (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will compare the contrasting welfare trajectories of two newly created Indian states which share the same moment of statehood and similar demographic profiles to identify factors which explain differences in their prioritisation and implementation of a national food subsidy program

Paper long abstract:

India's food security and nutrition interventions have expanded significantly over the last decade to address abysmal rates of undernutrition, child stunting and wasting but its ranking on the Global Hunger Index continues to remain close to the bottom. A significant but understudied challenge to India's expanding food security program and what perhaps explains the stickiness of its rankings is the considerable variability in its prioritisation, implementation and outcomes across states. This paper examines subnational variation in the implementation of India's subsidised food program (or PDS) through a unique paired comparison of two states- Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh that were created in 2000 as part of a territorial reorganisation effort aimed at bringing the political centre of governance closer to local populations, a large proportion of which are indigenous, and improving developmental outcomes. This critical juncture allows us to identify the conditions under which two states which share the same moment of statehood and have broadly similar demographic profiles, levels of poverty and performance across a range of human development indicators pursue starkly different trajectories when it comes to the implementation of the PDS. Based on close to 100 in-depth interviews, a household survey of PDS beneficiaries and archival research conducted over sixteen months, this paper argues that subnational differences in the political prioritisation of welfare depend on four interrelated factors; the configuration of political competition, stability of rent-seeking structures, the relationship between the bureaucracy and political leadership and the nature of engagement between the state and civil society

Panel K01
Critical junctures of change: comparative subnational politics, spatial inequalities and development (Paper)