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

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Political Reservations and Service Delivery in Village Government

The impact of reservations for the Scheduled Castes as village heads (pradhans) is examined on school and governance outcomes. In general, SC reservation is not associated with improved outcomes. The impact differs spatially, based on past history of landlord or non-landlord control under British colonial rule. In historically landlord areas with greater presence of dominant classes and already worse school quality and governance, reservations are associated with no change in outcomes. In the non-landlord areas, reservations are associated with worse outcomes. The findings can be attributed to negative perceptions, discrimination and domination faced by the SCs. For effective formal policy empowerment of the SCs, the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions that dictate the informal rules of individual and social group interactions need to be addressed.

The authors would like to thank the Asha Trust and the team of college students that participated in the data collection for this paper. They thank seminar participants and colleagues for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed here are those of the authors alone, and do not represent the views of the World Bank, its executive directors, or the countries they represent.

This paper looks at the impact of political affirmative action in the form of reservations for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the office of the gram pradhan or head of the local village government. We examine the impact of the above on local governance and school outcomes in Uttar Pradesh (UP). We use primary data from a survey of public primary schools in 130 gram panchayats in UP.1 In unannounced visits to schools, information was gathered on teacher effort, student performance, fee charged, and scholarship reaching students.

The SCs have historically been at the bottom of Indias caste hierarchy. After independence, although an end was put to the legal recognition of the rules of caste, the social behaviour of the high castes is still largely governed by the norms of the caste system (Thorat 2002). The 73rd amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1993 made it mandatory for states to reserve a fraction of the seats for the village council head for individuals from historically disadvantaged groups, namely the SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), and women. Simultaneously, the devolution of power to village governments also began.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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