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

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The Post Office Paradox

Elementary education administrators at the block level primarily perceive themselves, or report themselves to be, disempowered cogs in a hierarchical administrative culture that renders them powerless. They refer to their own roles and offices as "post offices," used simply for doing the bidding of higher authorities and ferrying messages between the top and bottom of the education chain. Using the case of education delivery, this paper attempts to probe an administrator's perspective in resolving the implementation problem at the last mile and is based on detailed primary fieldwork in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh along with some quantitative surveys conducted in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. It endeavours to trace the "cognitive maps" of administrators by capturing how last mile public servants see themselves and their jobs, and how notions of job performance are internalised and interpreted within the administrative context of elementary education in India.

Spectators or Participants?

How does a hierarchical, top-down state respond to efforts to become directly accountable towards its citizens? This article analyses this question through India's experience with implementing social audits for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Andhra Pradesh. Drawing on an intensive survey with MGNREGA wage-seekers, it examines the role of social audits in providing a platform for citizens to engage with the state; the state's ability to respond to grievances raised through the audit; and the effects of the audit on the local corruption market.

Understanding Government Failure in Public Health Services

High absenteeism, low quality in clinical care, low satisfaction levels with care and rampant corruption plague public health services in India. This has led to mistrust of the system and the rapid growth of private services. This paper develops an analytical framework to understand the status of healthcare in India. Drawing on a model of public sector accountability, it argues that a weak voice and low accountability is the key binding constraint to effective delivery.

Decentralisation and Democracy

Decentralisation and Democracy Local Democracy in India: Interpreting Decentralisation by Girish Kumar; Eastern Book Corporation, 2006; pp 336, Rs 795 (hardback).

Improving the Effectiveness of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Our earlier wage employment programmes failed due to the common problems of ineffective targeting, leakages and poor quality asset creation, etc. Hence, while developing rules and guidelines for implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, more attention should be paid to the lessons we have learnt from past experiences. Because this act has the potential not only to strengthen social security in India, but also to strengthen community mobilisation, ensure better responsiveness of local governments to community needs and priorities, and most of all enhance governance outcomes. This article is an attempt to articulate some key design principles that can strengthen the effectiveness of the new act.

Budget Work in India

Budget Work in India Civil Society Experiments in Democratic Engagement In recent years, budget work has emerged as an effective tool through which civil society organisations can push the state in directions more transparent, accountable, responsive and, vitally, pro-poor. The methodology of budget analysis uses hard quantitative data accessed from government sources; its analyses, using universally accepted and respected research techniques, lend the initiative a high degree of credibility with the state, thereby strengthening its potential to influence policy. Despite its importance, budget work has not been able to transcend the boundaries of professional development organisations to form alliances and networks necessary to provide the cutting edge to social action groups, media and other civil society actors.

Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil Society

The Indian state has failed to recognise an actively address the issue of the socio-economic rights of Muslims. Civil society organisations mirror the tendencies of the state to prioritise cultural rights over the social and economic needs of the community. It is crucial for civil society to interrogate its own position and develop a platform for concerted advocacy on issues related to the socio-economic rights of the Muslim community.

Networks of Panchayat Women

The growing success of networks of elected women representatives (EWRs) clearly demonstrates the significance of micro initiatives in institutionalising the panchayat raj system. While several of these networks were initially set up to equip EWRs with necessary skills and capacities, some have ventured into the political arena. This essay assesses the experience of some of these networks in western and southern India.
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