ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Avani Kapur

State–Society Synergy at COVID-19’s Invisible Front Lines

The voices of rural residents and front-line officials in India’s villages and small towns are often absent in accounts of the pandemic, which have focused on the crises unfolding in major cities. Yet these voices offer crucial insight into the invisible front lines of COVID-19, with critical lessons for governance and emergency response. For the past year, through two waves of COVID-19, we have gathered hundreds of grassroots accounts from citizen journalists and government workers embedded in communities across rural India. The stories that emerge reveal divergent experiences and gaps in trust and communication between local residents and officials. However, they also reveal instances where local actors bridge these gaps, suggesting the potential for a powerful “synergy—marked by cooperation and coordination—between locally embedded state and societal actors.” This synergy, we argue, is crucial for a robust pandemic response that reflects and meets local needs.

 

Revisiting Open Defecation

Since October 2014, the Government of India has worked towards the goal of eliminating open defecation by 2019 through the Swachh Bharat Mission. In June 2014, the results of a survey of rural sanitation behaviour in North India were first reported. The results from a late 2018 survey that revisited households from the 2014 survey in four states—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh—are presented. Although rural latrine ownership increased considerably over this period, open defecation remains very common in these four states. There is substantial heterogeneity across states in what the sbm did and how. These outcomes suggest the need for a transparent, fact-based public dialogue about the sbm, its costs and benefits, and its accomplishments and means.

Trends in Public Expenditure on Elementary Education in India

Trends over the last 25 years suggest that nearly 80% of the social sector spending has come from state budgets. Taken together with other economic happenings in the country, the centre's role in financing social welfare, including elementary education, is likely to decline further. Analysing broad trends in total and per student spending on elementary education across major states in two financial years, this comment indicates how the centre could best incentivise states to spend differently on elementary education.