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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 23, June 3, 2023

India’s Development Strategies: Constitutionalism and Culminating Events | Bala Ramulu Chinnala

Friday 2 June 2023, by Bala Ramulu Chinnala



The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Indian constitution are directives to the governments for governance in general and for designing welfare and development strategies. The paper captures important dimensions of public policies in India and concludes that policies have the propensity to respond to better-off conditions rather than create those conditions for the effective implementation of progressive policies. Their failure has been the capacity to intervene and transform the existing conditions in which the poor people have been trapped for centuries. The paradox in our approach to development is the gap between constitutionalism and the outcomes of governance. The constitution advocates asocialistic pattern of society, but the path adopted has been pro-capitalist; the public institutions are governed by asemi-feudaland semi-colonial system; thus, incapacitates the governance to execute progressive policies effectively and inequalities persist. These ’policy distortions’ raise the question: Can most of the poor and marginalized communities be helped without radically transforming the economic structure and controlling the globalized economy?

Keywords: growth-with-trickle-down, growth-with-social justice, participatory-development, Poverty-alleviation, western/modern-technology, food security, decentralized-governance.


India is one of the largest democracies in the world and its Constitution is sacrosanct for the policy-makers to adhere to the preamble- sovereignty, socialism, democracy, and the republican character of the State. Directive Principles of State Policy, embodied in Part IV of the constitution, are directives to the governments in designing welfare and development strategies. Though there has been enormous development, during the past 75 years, in terms of infrastructural facilities, science, and technology, agricultural and industrial productivity, etc., their accessibility, quality, and equity to all, particularly poor and marginalized communities are formidable challenges of administrative systems (Ramesh Chand, et al, 2017; NITI Ayog, Annual reports 2020-21 to 2022-23).However, Global Hunger Index, 2022 has ranked 10, out of 121 countries. Oxfam India 2022, observes that while India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, it is also one of the most unequal countries. Inequality has been rising sharply for the last three decades. The richest have cornered a huge part of the wealth created through crony capitalism and inheritance. These trends indicate that development strategies are drifting from the realization of constitutional goals: viz., that the citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood; that ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub-serve the common good; that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment (Constitution of India, Article 39).

The challenges that arise from development models, over the decades, are: Whether the concepts of growth and inclusive development complementary or contradictory? Whether distortions caused by growth can be corrected through State intervention or a market/globalized economy? Whether the existing administrative structures and bureaucracy are equipped with the necessary competence to address the problems of society? Which class and caste are controlling the public institutions? How do we transform the structure of power at the grassroots level? Can democratic decentralization alter the social base of power relations in the existing model of development? These concerns are analyzed in the paper.

Significance of the study

The paper traces India’s developmental steps in contemporary socio-economic settings and different government regimes starting from the 1950s to the 2020s. It shields the author’s research papers- (authored or co-authored), over four decades, and published in reputed national and international journals; each publication covers the broad theoretical and empirical picture, particularly in a South Indian State-broadly representing the other regions of India. This exercise would enable policy-makers to understand: how the development strategy is performing against the stated objectives; helps to make decisions- reorientation of policies; and aids the authorities concerned to identify the gaps in executing the strategies and; ultimately, to make decisions based on well-validated information. The strength of the paper is: it would enable the reader to get an integrated knowledge of the development strategies and their impact on different social groups and classes

The layout of the paper

The paper is presented in two thematicparts.Part onebroadly transacts the various models of development: growth-with-trickle-down, growth with social justice, special agencies for the empowerment of target-group, economic reforms, participatory development, infrastructure development, and technology dissemination; and concerns of development. Part twoexplores decentralized governance and specific socio-economic development programs at the micro-level. This would supplement and substantiate the arguments presented in part one.

Part I

Development strategies and culminating events

Contemporary economists divide the history of India’s economic development models into two phases: one, the mixed economy model (1950-1990) and, two, the globalization-market economy model (from 1991 onwards). The second model has become an important strategy to address all the societal problems, irrespective of the social-economic and political setting of the region. However, critics maintain that it has the consequence of eroding the sovereignty- economic autonomy of the nation; undermines the political authority by making them dependent on foreign trade and investment. Given this backdrop, an attempt is made hereunder, to examine the zest of the published papers to gain insights into the development phenomenon.

Development policies-an overview

India’s developmental policies can be divided into fivephases. During the firstphase ‘of growth- with a trickle-down approach (1947-1969), there has been an increase in infrastructure development, widening of the industrial base, and advancement of science and technology, but the number of poor has grown and their conditions worsened- resulting in widespread rural unrest. The distortions with this strategy include- the public institutions operated on FW Riggs’ prismatic model of development- formalism, overlapping, institutionalized corruption, and nepotism in the distribution of resources and values for the whole society.

The second phase- ‘growth with social justice approach’ (1969-1990) wherein the government launched several anti-poverty programs and institutions partly to tide over the rural unrest and partly to legitimize the State power. The experience with these programs, during the early seventies, revealed that the schemes meant for the poor have hardly had any positive significant impact on mitigating poverty. The administrative procedures and socio-economic environment were not conducive to the effective implementation of the development schemes. The social base of bureaucracy was from upper castes and classes, which behaved like self-aggrandizement rather than the public interest in the implementation of the programs.

The third phase (1991-2004) was: adopting market-economy and adjusting to the neo-liberal exigencies. The emphasis was more on private investment technicalities and growth. The government- its handmaid public administration - has been pursuing pro-corporate policies and limiting the role and ambit of public administration/institutions in the development process.

The fourth phase (2004-2019) emphasis was on the economic reforms with a human face- rights-based approach to development- Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGP) 2005, Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, Food Security Act 2013. Of these, MGNREGP and food security schemes have benefited the poor and unemployed and mitigated their misery to some extent.

The fifth phase (2019 onwards) is on ‘minimum government and maximum governance’- measures for disinvestment in the public sector and promoting private investment in development projects and services. There has been an improvement in several indicators- economic- infrastructure development, market penetration, and availability of goods and services-; social- life expectancy, literacy, gender equality, health standards; and science and technology, e-governance, etc. The government efforts, though, helped the poor and backward areas to some extent, mostly they have benefited the upper and middle classes and urban areas, and certain industrial houses.

The overall assessment is: public policies are arbitrary, ad-hoc, and untenable, which are formulated sometimes under the pressure of internal and international agencies, as a measure to appease social unrest or given some political expediency. The major predicament is an inherent contradiction between the constitutional goals and government approaches to development (Balaramulu, 2004).

Debate on the Garibhi-hatao approaches to development

The government strategy in the early 1970s, was on poverty alleviation- targeting clientele (social groups) and backward-area development. The target-group interventions include (i) asset-oriented programs (distribution of assets/schemes to poor and unemployed for self-employment; (ii) wage-oriented programs (generation of adequate employment and income to the unemployed under public-works programs and individual household activities. The prominent academics- Dandekar, Rath, Mukul Sanwal, Indira Hirway, and Subbarao- analyzed the strength and weaknesses of the anti-poverty strategy, in the mid-seventies, and observed that the strategy to ameliorate the conditions of the deprived is marginalized by the socioeconomic structure and logic of development. The target members owned assets and had higher level threshold income derived some benefits but not enough to cross the poverty line.

The strategy has not been able to bring about changes in the structure of ownership which could have accelerated the process of economic development; thus, it turned out incremental strategy-giving immediate and temporary relief- generating employment and income- for the poor and unemployed. The government, on the other hand, neglected executions of structural-change policies such as the abolition of the Zamindari system (the government abolished the rights and privileges of the Zamindar intermediaries by amending Articles 19 and 31 of the constitution, in 1951; ceiling on land holdings (limiting land holdings an individual), which could have corrected the past developmental distortions and socio-economic inequalities. In the absence of appropriate changes in the institutional structure of production, incremental policies are bound to fumble. The question that emerges: Is it possible to recast the development design without the direct and conscious involvement of the masses through their movements and struggles? (Haragopal and Balaramulu 1988a; 1988b; Balaramulu, 1983, 1996; 1999a; Balaramulu and Narashimarao, 1997).

Infrastructure development approach

Adequate, quantitative, and qualitative infrastructure development is a prerequisite for accelerated economic development, especially in the context of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) (World Bank, 1994). The Bank emphasized the commercialization of infrastructure- introduction of competition and stakeholder involvement in designing and executing the projects. The government’s role is to create a conducive environment for infrastructure development.

The infrastructure development, during the last five decades, has expanded many-fold both in urban and rural India. The National Master Plan (Gati Shakti scheme) was launched in 2021, with an emphasis on multimodal transportation networks leading to integrated economic and infrastructure development, improved trade competitiveness, promotion of exports, and employment generation. However, central and state governments’ share in capital expenditure in infrastructure development is declining. Consequently, governments are increasingly depending on private investors, and international agencies for investment in infrastructure. The lending agencies are dictating the nature and selection of projects, procedures for utilizing the loans, cost-benefit of the project, etc. These trends further accentuate the disparities in the levels of amenities across the districts; between rich and poor localities.

South Indian State- Andhra Pradesh, in the early nineties, sought assistance World Bank, for physical (watershed development, roads) and human capital development- the promotion of self-help groups (SHGs). The quality of the works undertaken under Janmabhoomi (a government-sponsored program involving people in decision-making) is very poor and non-durable resulting in a waste of money, resources, and time. The government in the name of efficiency and economy has assigned the responsibility of managing infrastructure projects to SHGs; simultaneously, in the name of efficiency-economy, the government either closed the public organizations or made them defunct and legitimized the state to withdraw services to the people. The state government was under obligation in implementing the Bank’s economic agenda- commercialization of infrastructure (Balaramulu, 2000b).

Technological approach to development

The technological transfer through the green revolution, white revolution, biotechnology, technology mission, digital technology, etc., changed the pattern of development and governance systems in the rural sector. This situation demands governments strengthen public organizations marked by the minute division of work and task specialization and other principles that govern the administrative systems. In fact, in the West, organizational principles are evolved to cope with the challenges of technological developments. However, In India, private agencies are prime agents in the dissemination of technology, investment, and marketing the products. The farmers, in this regard, are depending on private agencies, rather than on government agencies. In the process, the practice of traditional technologies is becoming uneconomical to the farming community. The pertinent question is: whether there is any room for co-existence between the modem-western and traditional-indigenous technologies. If yes, how can this room be maximized to prevent the disruptions that are likely to emerge from the onslaught of modern technology?

The existing organizational forms for rural development could not respond in tune with the technological changes. The hierarchy, cumber-some rules, and regulations, corruption, lack of commitment of functionaries, etc., compelled the small farmers/poor to depend on private organizations for marketing of products. The imperfect market mechanisms caused misery to the poor and farmers suffered from huge financial crises. Further, the technologies were not neutral across classes and areas; the private companies-MNCs expanded their market (products like fertilizers, pesticides, and other consumable goods) and earned profits. Further, modern technologies disturbed traditional technologies and the environment. In this context, strengthening administrative systems is the critical variable to regulate private agencies, and market imperfections as well as smoothening the process of co-existence of modem-western and traditional-indigenous technologies (Balaramulu, 2000a; 1999b).

The participatory approach to development

The best State is one where there is broad participation with no class dominating others. In the context of development, people participation refers to (i) the involvement of a significant number of persons in situations or actions which enhance their well-being-their income, security, or self-esteem; (ii) an active process whereby beneficiaries influence the direction and execution of development projects rather than merely receive a share of project benefits. The World Bank and donor agencies, while extending assistance for the development projects, are insisting on people’s participation in the management of projects. In practice, governments- central and state and local- regard people as just objects and not subjects of development; their participation is passive- recipients of the schemes.

The state government’s efforts to ensure people’s participation include the creation of local bodies, primary agricultural cooperatives SHGs, etc. However, these institutions are treated as their field agencies to carry out programs. Lack of confidence in people’s capacity to participate, scuttling the powers of field agencies and democratic institutions, centralization of power, etc., are undermined the real participation of people in the development process. The private investors’ participation in the development, particularly physical infrastructure benefited the business class to expand their market and control over the polity. This situation not only negates the participatory approach to development but also widens the disparities among the areas and classes in the state. Therefore, the people for whom developmental programs are meant should be involved in planning and execution as well. Adequate financial resources and capacity building of the local leadership will make the new experiments work optimally at the grassroots level (Balaramulu, 2002).

Reforms in water resource management

The governments, in the 1990s, initiated reforms in water management as a part of new economic reforms. The South Indian State-Andhra Pradesh as a part of AP Economic Restructure (supported by the World Bank) took measures to constitute farmers’ committees- Water Users Associations (WUAs) and Watershed Committees, to manage the irrigation sources such as check dams, restoration of tanks, strengthening of feeder channels. These measures could bring improvement in the capacity of canals and restoration of old tanks, enhancement of groundwater levels; awareness among the farmers about proper utilization of water, and promotion of the environment.

However, distortions are: the decline of public investments in the irrigation sector, ad-hoc nature of irrigation works, scanty and erratic rainfall, neglect of tail-end areas, indiscriminate use of groundwater, lack of priority for backward regions/districts in improving check dams and restoration of tanks, lack of an integrated plan for harvesting of rainwater, lack of coordination among the government departments, vested interests of the rich farmers in the distribution of water, lack of people’s participation in planning and execution, etc., have not only affected the economic efficiency of the irrigation /works and institutions but also its sustainability. The impact of the government measures in the backward areas and on poor peasants is marginal.

The reforms- WUAs and neighborhood committees-, gave scope for the political parties, particularly ruling parties to expand their social base; consolidating and empowering rich farmers and absentee landlords to occupy the official positions of the association. These tendencies often resulted in “Politics of Accommodation” at the grassroots level (Balaramulu 2003).

Agricultural strategy during UPA and NDA regimes

The importance of agriculture in the national economy naturally brings it a high priority for any government that mounts a citadel of power in India. The political parties, irrespective of their ideology, put ’Farmers first’ as their watchword. Both United Progressive Alliance (UPA-led by the Congress party), and National Democratic Alliance (NDA-led by Bhartiya Janata Party) considered the declining share of agriculture in the total GDP and promised to give a new thrust to the agricultural policy. The UPA Government, in 2014, promised that ’immediate steps will be taken to ease the burden of debt and high-interest rates on farm loans and giving relief to farmers who were unable to repay their loans on account of crop failure. The NDA government has promised to "double the farmers’ income by 2022. But the budget does not envisage any concrete measure to ease the debt burden of the farmers; there is a mismatch between declared priorities and budgetary allocations and utilization. In the legislative bodies, there was hardly any serious discussion on the problems like agriculture crisis, administrative systems, and underutilization or miss utilization of resources. The ruling alliance and opposition parties gave priority to meeting party ends rather than the discussing rationale for budget allocation to the different sectors and areas.

What is required is a holistic look at the agriculture sector covering all the components-technological improvements, credit needs, marketing support, storage facilities, and so on. But the larger concern is the neglect of agriculture by successive governments, particularly during the post-economic reforms period, which has resulted in mass-scale impoverishment of agrarian populations, particularly poor peasants, and backward areas (Balaramulu and Sudharshnam, 2005).


Decentralized Governance and Socio-economic Development Programmes

The inauguration of the Indian constitution and its commitment to planned development State governments have rationalized the jurisdictional areas of the administrative units- districts, and local bodies and created agencies to execute the programs. The issues and challenges in decentralized governance are analyzed hereunder to gain insights into the execution of socioeconomic development programs.

Politics and administration at the district level

The District as a unit of administration has had a long history and was a major instrument of government for the maintenance of law and order and collection of land revenue, since the times of the East India Company. It gradually developed into a complex network of institutions and functionaries due to the reforms introduced by the British in 1919 and 1920. After the advent of independence, in the wake of the government’s new commitments to the welfare of the people, the institution of district collector was the main channel of communication between the state and local self-governments; entrusted with innumerable new responsibilities; thus, it became an important unit both for political and administrative purposes. But the local self-governments looked at as administrative isolates within the district administration. This inadequate and ineffective linkage between the District Collector and local bodies continues to characterize the politico-administrative scene of post-independent India.

Most of the states, in the early sixties and seventies, scrapped local bodies and placed them under the control of the District Collector; socio-economic development programs are managed by the office of the district officials. There has been a growing crisis between the bureaucracy at the state and the local levels on the one side, and elected representatives at the district level and below on the other. The bureaucracy, in the district and its below units, did not reconcile to the changed context.

These trends resulted in important developments: one, bureaucracy used all possible opportunities to bureaucratize the democratic institutions, leading to endemic tensions between officials and non-officials; two, the state leadership considered the traditional leadership and newly emerging leadership from other social groups as rival power at the grassroots level; three, development strategies could not address the poverty and unemployment. The State political elite, instead of addressing distortions in the working of district administration, opted for greater centralization and authoritarianism. The district administration responded mostly to the pressure and political exigencies or persons close to the power center rather than working for achieving the goals set for it (Haragopal and Balaramulu, 1985).

Administrative decentralization and combating Covid-19

In India, Covid-19-Pandemic has taught us lessons: (i) restructuring development strategy that can put in place a system of universal health care under the public sector and integrate it with other sectoral organizations; (ii) development of technologies and provide forward and backward linkages that can support the work of people in diverse livelihoods; (iii) long term measures that can promote townships to reduce the burden on cities and contain the spread diseases.

The administrative reforms, in Telangana state - the south Indian state- territorial decentralization (Reorganization of 10 districts into 33 in 2016); other measures- such as tracing and quarantining patients, restricting the movements of people, creating awareness among the public about the cause and effects of coronavirus on the human body, motivating healthcare functionaries, a household survey on the health status and supply provisions and medical help at the door-step, have contributed to mitigating the problem in the state.

The role of public institutions - particularly healthcare is unparalleled to private institutions in providing safety and basic services to people; thus, putting administrative decentralization and public health institutions on the national agenda once again for debate to restructure administrative units. Above all, the government machinery at lower levels of administration which is often deficient and grossly inadequate in responding to the needs of people has become functional. In turbulent times, district functionaries, who are otherwise known as authoritative, evading duties have exhibited an exemplary commitment to preventing the spread of diseases in the state. The concern is: whether the neoliberal model of development accords priority to public institutions and transfers the real authority to the district administration and local governments. (Balaramulu and Sudharshnam, 2023).

Democratic decentralization and marginalized communities

India’s development models, and democratic decentralization process therein surface several questions on the development process, particularly during the post-economic period: Does democratic decentralization provide a conducive environment for the poor and marginalized communities to exercise power and take an active part in the development process? How do we transform the structure of power at the grassroots level of institutions?

The discussion on the position of marginalized communities in decentralized institutions should take place in the background of this conceptual canvas; it would not only provide an insight into the overall development experience but throw light on the nature of transition in the society.

The real progression of democratic institutions depends largely on the development models, the support of National and State Governments, the socioeconomic and political environment of the institutions, the competency of the political executives acting autonomously; people’s support and participation in the development process. The New Economic Policy, however, has weakened the State power and its institutions at all levels, including Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs). In these circumstances, the real concerns: are whether the PRIs work as local self-government institutions; and whether marginalized communities take part on par with the other communities. The State governments are scuttling the powers and functions of PRIs and treating them as their ‘field agencies’; many developmental and civic functions are being assigned to private or parastatal institutions thereby making the PRIs insignificant bodies in the development process. Further, the feudal and colonial legacy, historical backwardness of poor and weaker sections, and half-hearted efforts of the Indian State to correct these concerns constrained marginalized communities to take part in governance. The constitutional status of the rural local bodies and the reservation of seats to marginalized communities can only empower local bodies and their leadership symbolically. People’s participation in decision-making end-up as ‘politics of accommodation’. Therefore, social assertion and concerted movements become a pre-condition for greater democratization and a higher level of social inclusion in the development process (Balaramulu, 2021; 2012).

NGOs’ participation in development

It is now widely recognized that the state and voluntary sector need to form a strong relationship for a better development process and build a strong civil society. National Policy on Voluntary Sector, 2007 outlines instruments of the partnership between the government and the voluntary sector. They are formal consultation; strategic collaboration; project funding; and establishment of joint consultative groups with representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the government. These are designed to be permanent forms with the explicit mandate to share ideas, views, and information and to identify opportunities and mechanisms for working together.

NGO’s strength is to protect the rights and entitlements of weaker sections, and bring bottom-up development in a society; thus, legitimizing its role in development. They, however, in the development sector acquired all the maladies that government organizations encounter. Unfortunately, many actors in the NGO community are neither responsible nor ethical. They suffer from problems like autocratic leadership, unethical practices, rampant corruption, and lack of professional competence. Their accountability is mostly to the donor agencies than the government agencies and people. The lesson that one can learn from the above account is that NGOs need to re-emphasize democratic leadership, professionalism, and transparency, and accountability, administrative ethics in their day-to-day functioning (Balaramulu and Reddy 2014).

Special-agencies and poverty-alleviation of marginalized communities

District Rural Development Agency (DRDA)- specialized agency- established in 1980, under the Cooperative Societies Act, having autonomy in day-to-day administration in managing rural development programs-Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). It is an important policy initiative intended to alleviate large-scale poverty of the marginalized communities, who constituted more than 80 percent of rural India. DRDA is fraught with many problems in handling IRDP: weak planning, lack of inter-sectoral linkages, insensitivity to the priorities of the beneficiaries or their ability and geographical variations, pervasive bureaucratic apathy and cynicism, anti-rural poor attitude based on class linkages, lack of forward and backward linkages for availing the schemes, administrative dysfunctionalities- wrong identification of the beneficiaries, cumbersome rules and regulations, delay in grounding the schemes. The problems of non-percolation, cornering of benefits by the rich, political pressure, and corruption are serious problems that originate from the socio-economic structure. The weakness in the strategy is: rural development programs are planned and implemented without the involvement of the people concerned.

The IRDP showed better performance in relatively more advanced regions than those which are backward and situated in less developed regions. In South Indian State-Andhra Pradesh, the better-off members of the target group located in the irrigated belt took advantage of these schemes- benefits percolated largely to the better-off regions- endowed with fertile and irrigated areas. The land-based schemes-minor irrigation- have given a better account of themselves than the non-land-based schemes-cart and bullocks, sheep/goats; were beneficial only where the members owned some land. In most cases beneficiaries have diverted them for other purposes- day-to-day consumption basket (Haragopal and Balaramulu 1989; 1991; Balaramulu, 1991; 1984).

Right to food policies: issues and challenges

Though the Indian Constitution does not explicitly mention the right to food as a fundamental right, it is implicitly enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as the fundamental right to life of every Indian citizen. The right to food is enforceable by the constitutional remedy provided under Article 32. Article 39 (a) of the Constitution, requires the State to direct its policies towards securing that all its citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood, while Article 47 spells out the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people as a primary responsibility. The entitlements of people under food security policies, over the years, grew from a rationing scheme in selected cities to a national program of food distribution. The latest, policy- National Food Security Act, (NFSA) 2013, NFSA- life- cycle approach is a well-conceived public policy. The Act marks a paradigm shift in the approach i.e., from welfare to a rights-based approach.

State intervention to ensure food security can be broadly categorized into six phases. One, achieving self-sufficiency in agricultural production, especially in food grain production and stabilizing prices (1947 to 1960); two, setting up Agricultural Prices Commission and Food Corporation of India to strengthen domestic procurement, storage, and supply of food grains (1960 to 1978); three, expansion of public distribution system, supported by domestic procurement and stocks (1979 to 1996); four, focusing on the targeted public distribution system by replacing universal PDS-in tune with economic liberalization (1997 to 2012); five, a life cycle approach to a large majority of people (2013-15); six, cash transfers from distribution of food-grains violating the very purpose of enacting NFSA, 2013 (2016 onwards).

Major challenges involved in the implementation of food security policies are the identification of targeted households (much better off acquiring the ration cards); measures to increase food grains suitable to cultural habits; procurement and storage of nutritive food grains; controlling the private agencies in procurement and fixing prices; arresting the malpractices- recycling of ration-items in the open market, imposing restrictions on import of food-grains, that are not tasty to habitual food of local people. However, the right to health, right to education, and right to information need to be integrated with food security policies to realize the right to food (Balaramulu, 2018; 2016; 2014; 2013).

Development of Other Backward Classes: Issues and Challenges

The Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who belong to weaker sections and constitute half of the total population- received special attention from policy-makers, since the mid-1970s. However, their development is confronted with a hostile context of the neoliberal model of development- wherein educational, and employment opportunities as well as economic development programs in the public sector are shrinking. The State Governments are privatizing public institutions and services; the least is establishing new public institutions and creating additional jobs for OBCs. On the other hand, private agencies with modern technology are entering into traditional occupations (such as textile, pot-making, and basket-making), harming the employment opportunities of OBCs and their living conditions. Communities pursuing traditional occupations- are not able to compete with modern industries/professions; partly due to a lack of backward and forward linkages to promote their products. The development of OBCs in South Indian State-Telangana is still an unfinished agenda for the government as well as community federations to formulate appropriate schemes benefiting the target group. The successive governments and political parties are viewing the initiatives for the welfare of OBCs as an instrument to get a ‘vote security’ system to remain in power (Balaramulu, 2023).

Public-private-partnership in Urban Local Governments: Issues and Challenges

In India, the governments- central, state, and local- particularly metropolitan cities are considering Public- Private Partnership (PPP) as an important paradigm of governance to ensure efficiency and economy in service delivery, since 1991; partly due to the resource constraints and partly ever-increasing urban population and demand for services. However, the PPP model leads to privatizing public services- a hike in costs and prices; inequity in getting access to services. The major reasons for this are: nexus between officials and contractors; faulty contract design; lack of clarity on the control and performance of the contractors; interference of political parties in the granting of contracts, etc., collectively accounted for unsatisfactory outcomes of privatization of public services.

It is noticed that PPP projects (urban infrastructure projects, housing) initiated under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM have not been completed, due to delays in acquiring land; deficiency in preparation of projects; and non-identification of beneficiaries which increased the risk of ineligible beneficiaries getting the benefits; delay in releasing funds- a large portion of the funds was released only in the last quarter of the financial year.

The PPP mode of governance in South Indian State-Andhra Pradesh- though, has contributed to the creation of additional infrastructure like flyovers, international airport, outer- ring-road, residential colonies, and basic services to the slum-dwellers; basic issues like control of corruption, monopoly of contractors; providing timely and quality of services to the people remain unresolved. The paper contends that the privatization of public services is not a panacea for all the ills of urban local authorities. It is time for the central and state governments and urban local bodies to re-look into the PPP strategy and take necessary initiatives to make the urban growth process more inclusive (Balaramulu, 2009).

Concluding remarks

The policy science of India’s development process unfolds paradox in bringing inclusive development. There is a gap between constitutionalism and the outcomes of governance. The constitution advocates a socialistic pattern of society, but the path adopted has been pro-capitalist; the public institutions are governed by a semi-feudal and semi-colonial system; thus, incapacitates the governance to execute progressive policies effectively and inequalities persist. Public policies have the propensity to respond to the better-off conditions (upper classes, better-endowed regions, and the beneficiaries have a built-in gravitational pull) rather than create those conditions for effective implementation of the program; their failure both in terms of capacity to intervene and transform the existing conditions in which poor people have been trapped for centuries.

The State-led strategy of growth with trickle-down, initiated in the early fifties and sixties proved counterproductive- widened the disparities between the better-endowed areas and backward areas and between rich and poor. The Garibi-hatao a strategy-direct attack on poverty- launched in the early seventies, now receiving the least attention from the governments; leaving the poor and unemployed to the market forces. Thus, the strategy remains a slogan than a reality, particularly in an iniquitous stratified society.

The globalization strategy-market economy-led strategy- is accentuating the process of inequalities in society.Government- its hand-made- system of public administration- has been pursuing pro-corporate policies, and continuous shrinkage in the role and ambit of public institutions; the emphasis is more on PPP mode governance, private investment, technicalities, and growth. These trends undermine the political authority to take independent decisions.

The participatory development strategy of self-help groups (SHGs) initiated, in the mid-nineties, could not enhance the functional capacity of the poor and marginalized communities. Many SHGs, except women SHGs, have become non-functional since 2014. The state governments are using them as ‘vote-bank groups’ to strengthen the ruling party at the grassroots level.

The real task of governance in the agriculture sector is: how to maximize the space for the co-existence of modem-western and traditional-indigenous technologies. The new technologies, though they relieved the poor and small peasants from physical labor, deepened the process of capital penetration in certain pockets of the rural economy and the polarization of classes.

The challenge of development strategies is: whether the neoliberal model of development accords priority to public institutions and transfers the real authority to the district administration and local governments. How do we transform the structure of power at the grassroots level and ensure justice for the people? The half-heartedness of the governments in strengthening the decentralization process and the unwillingness of state-level leadership to share the power along with local leadership, and existing socio-economic inequalities are the major constraints for the poor and marginalized communities to take part in the development process. Their participation is symbolic and the ruling class considered them as ‘politics of accommodation’.

The governance systems have been increasingly moving towards the centralization of power in the hands of a few individuals. The greater centralization and authoritarianism incapacitate bureaucracy in dealing with societal problems. The challenges of governance that are to be addressed: inequitable socio-economic structure- the dominance of a few over socio-economic resources and political structures; the dominance of privileged sections in policy-making and implementation; neglecting structural-change-oriented policies; deteriorating governance and failure of administrative reforms; technological dependency; socio-cultural complexities of marginalized communities. The Indian state, instead of addressing these concerns, is gradually opting out of public services including education, and health.

The paper concludes that, despite these concerns, the role of public institutions is unparalleled to private institutions in providing safety and basic services to people in turbulent times; thus, putting administrative decentralization and strengthening public institutions on the national agenda once again for debate to restructure administrative units. The larger predicament /question that emerges from the development strategies is: Can the large majority of the poor and marginalized communities be helped without radically transforming the economic structure and controlling the globalized economy?

(Author: Bala Ramulu Chinnala, Visiting Professor, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad (Planning Department, Govt. of Telangana
& Former Professor of Public Administration at Kakatiya University, Telangana, India)


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