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

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A Micro-ethnographic Study on Provision and Access of Public Goods in an Indian Village

A micro-ethnographic study is done in a village using participatory research tools in order to highlight the patterns of public goods segregation and access. The factors influencing the social groups in their decision-making at the local level are also highlighted.

Public goods are provided by a welfare state to enable communities to enhance their socio-economic conditions and to live a self-sustained life. India has numerous economic and organisational barriers that hinder the supply of public services to various social groups. The development process reaches the ground level only after crossing the many barriers. In addition to it, the local-level social realities and norms, such as caste, patriarchy, religion, and other belief systems dilute the intended objective of the service provided and also exclude several social groups from accessing the services.

Tajima et al (2018) argue that spatial distribution of ethnic communities imp­acts the decision-making process. This is because of the competitive advocacy efforts of the other segregated communities at the local level. This local-level advocacy increases the bargaining power of segregated ethnic communities to demand their public goods through collective action. On the contrary, Indian ethnic (caste) segregation leads to a significant blockade in the provisioning of the public goods for the Dalits, tribes, and other marginalised groups. It leads to ethnic favouritism and strategic discrimination through the legal channels itself in villages. Besley et al (2007) have documented the allocation of public goods by the village head to her co-ethnics or panchayat’s headquarter village, which is a clear case of ethnic favouritism done through the partially decentralised admi­nistrative structure in the third-tier of the government. Betancourt and Gleason (2000), who analysed district-level data, had found that systemic region-specific discrimination is happening in the allocation of education and health facilities in the areas where the marginalised sections, namely Dalits and Muslims were living. Latika Chaudhary (2006) gives compelling evidence on how the socially unequal setup impacts the decentralised provision of public goods and enables the elites to capture the public goods since colonial times. She stresses the need for introspection to assess the reasons for the lack of expenditure in quasi-public goods like education in the areas where diverse communities with less social power reside.

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Updated On : 11th Sep, 2021
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