My research interests lies in the area of institutional change, governance, distributive politics, state capacity, bureaucratic culture and the politics of climate change.
My most recent research examines the why and how of institutional change. Scholars point towards the ‘stickiness’ of institutions as stubbornly persisting on the historical landscape. Institutions are path-dependent on history; and this nature of institutions renders them change-resistant, and it is cost-ineffective to exit from the status quo. So how and under what conditions institutions change is an important question . In this research project I examine the process of institutional change through the lens of transformation in the ‘information regime’ in India by tracing the passage of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTIA). I seek to capture the why and how of institutional change by examining what explains it and how it came about. By highlighting the socio-political processes that contributed towards both theory and policy, it seeks to nuance the narrative of the RTIA, and contribute conceptually to the emerging literature on institutional change.
Governance and State Capacity ( With Rahul Mukherji)
I have examined the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme at the sub-national level. For this we have undertaken field work in year 2014 in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The state of Andhra Pradesh is one of the success stories in the implementation of MGNREGS, one of the world’s largest employment guarantee schemes being implemented all over India since 2006. The programme is hobbled by rampant corruption in many Indian states. Andhra Pradesh is different. The poor and the excluded are demanding and obtaining work through the scheme. Successful programmes such as this highlight the triumph of citizen formation over patron client politics, aided by democratic politics. We argue that the success of the right to employment in Andhra Pradesh depended heavily on the capacity of the sub-national state to insulate a committed rural development bureaucracy from powerful farmers who had a clear interest in thwarting the programme. Our field work shows the role of state capacity in working out architecture that checked corruption – nay even exploited actors in society strategically to achieve ends. We argue that elections in a democracy have the propensity to elevate citizen concern over particularistic populism driven by ethnic considerations that have characterized large parts of India.
Politics of Climate Change (With Rahul Mukherji)
I am engaged in a research project on politics of climate change and climate finance focusing on India and Bangladesh. Through this research we are trying to highlight the “embedded liberal” nature of India’s and Bangladesh’s response to climate negotiations. Both countries have moved away from “structural conflict” and proceeded in the direction of “embedded liberalism”. We need to discern both the ideational frame within which discussions occur, as well as, the politics that plays out between industrial groups, research think-tanks, non-governmental organizations, the bureaucracy and the executive. International relations is not necessarily billiard ball rational politics played within the black box of the Indian state. We need to take explore ideas and interests systematically to understand country positions regarding the financial arrangements of this sector, which many claim, go against its very interests.