Hi! I am a political scientist teaching at the School of Liberal Studies, UPES, India. Earlier, I was a faculty in the Department of Political Science at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany. I teach courses ranging from Comparative Politics; Institutions and Institutional Change, Public Policy, Governance and Politics of welfare, Politics of Climate Change; Transparency, Accountability and Corruption in South Asia; Indian and South Asian Politics; and Qualitative Methods.
I hold a PhD from the National University of Singapore. An M.Phil in Public Policy from the Australian National University, I did my masters in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and hold a bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from the University of Delhi. Not unexpectedly, over the years I developed a spirited scholarly interest in politics, policy and history. My empirical findings and theoretical underpinnings can be located at the intersection of all three. Having strong faith in field-based research, I am sensitive to both area and discipline.
My most recent research explores the why, how and what of institutional change using a historical institutional approach. This research takes both ideas and endogeneity seriously. My book Capturing Institutional Change: the Case of the Right to Information Act in India examines one such case of institutional change through the lenses of transformation in the ‘information regime’ in India by tracing the passage of the Right to Information Act (RTIA), 2005. Based on the historical- archival material, internal government documents and interviews I argue that the RTIA was a result of an incremental, slow-moving process of ‘ideas’ emerging endogenously from within the state right since independence. This process is explained through a ‘layered tipping point’ model of institutional change signalled by a shift from the norm of secrecy to a substantial legal commitment towards openness. The tipping point is the culmination of a slow-moving process driven substantially, and endogenously, through the increasing political power of ideas. By bringing in new evidence hitherto ignored in the mainstream literature this book problematizes the dominant (and somewhat settled) narratives, unpacks and explains the politics of institutional change and sets the history straight.
Parts of this research have also been published in journals such as the Pacific Affairs (Vol. 92. no.2 2018), Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 53 no.10 2018) , India Review (Vol.18 no.1 2019) and Indian Politics and Policy (Fall 2019).
Building on my current work on institutional change, I have further probed institutional progression and its deepening. My fieldwork in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has interestingly shown that institutional progression is inextricably linked to the local politics. These field insights show that RTI has opened a new space of accountability between state and society, giving rise to a new form of citizen agency, whose practitioners I term as ‘agents of accountability’. This research was published as a special article in the Economic and Political Weekly here. I wish to expand on this work to include more sub-national states in India and further incorporate cross-country comparisons to examine the intricate relationship between the politics of accountability and democratic deepening.
Apart from the current body of work on institutional change, I have also forayed into areas of governance and welfare. Based on extensive fieldwork at the sub-national level, I have explored the implementation of the Right to work to demonstrate the salience of ideas within the state, bureaucratic rationality and the state capacity. I have recently published a co-edited book on Globalization and Governance in India. In the present juncture, I am deeply engaged with my third book manuscript on Public Policy and Governance in India, contracted with Palgrave Macmillan (London). Along with several book chapters, book reviews and popular media contributions, Jha has published in leading academic journals such as the Pacific Affairs, Journal of Asian Studies, India Review, the Washington Quarterly, International Journal of Public Sector Management, Indian Politics and Policy and Economic and Political Weekly.