Accepted paper:

Building a deliberative state: the political foundations of social development in Himachal Pradesh, India


Akshay Mangla (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows how the politics of state-building in Himachal Pradesh, India, helped stimulate bureaucratic norms promoting deliberation. Bureaucratic deliberation has, in turn, enhanced the implementation of social services, giving rise to comparatively superior education and health outcomes.

Paper long abstract:

How do states build the capacity to deliver social services? Through an analysis of social development in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (HP), this paper challenges the conventional wisdom that the implementation of services necessarily suffers in patronage-driven political systems. Located in the harsh terrain of the western Himalayas, HP was among India's least literate states at independence. By 2000, it secured a leading position in primary education and health outcomes. To understand these puzzling gains, I demonstrate how the historical process of state formation stimulated the formation of bureaucratic norms fostering deliberation. In the 1970s and 1980s, HP's adverse fiscal conditions spurred state elites to engage in collective action to obtain resources from the central government. Bureaucratic deliberation became institutionalized over time, as state officials routinely discussed the utilization of central grants, working together to plan and secure additional resources. The expansion of patronage (e.g. public sector jobs and contracts) helped bind citizens to the state. Meanwhile, local agencies learned to adapt social programs to the needs of diverse communities, encouraging societal monitoring of public schools and health services. The study is based on ten months of field and archival research, including interviews and focus group discussions with active and retired state officials, local bureaucrats, school teachers, health workers and parents, along with ethnographic fieldwork conducted inside state agencies and villages. The analysis sheds light on how deliberation inside the state, catalyzed by the state-building process, can moderate the influence of patronage politics to advance social development.

panel M2
The politics of implementing social protection programmes: political competition, state capacity and policy feedback [paper]