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Does Multi-level Governance Meet Local Aspirations? The Case of Social Protection Needs in Rural India


  • Sony Pellissery


The concept of decentralisation has often been used to study whether "decision space" is devolved to the lower tiers of administration from central government. The new tool of "multi-level governance" examines the nature of "decision space" in the context of a cauldron of political voices at the local level. The decision space of the state may be constrained by the interaction of state actors with non-state actors. Taking the issue of social protection needs in the rural areas of the Indian state of Maharashtra, this article examines how lower level bureaucrats determine the "need" of social protection for the claimants. Both the state and non-state sectors were studied through fieldwork of eight months in 2003-04 using an actor-oriented method of the sociology of development. In essence, access to public funds is conditional on people's relationships with local elites rather than their eligibility for the funds. Local elites measure the "needs" through informal rules of the community and dominate the bureaucrats in decision-making, who insist on the interpretation of legal principles at lower levels of administration. This process excludes over 60 percent of eligible persons to gain public funds. While the responsibility of bureaucrats is diffused in different levels of administration, the local elites are able to draw loyalty solely for themselves. The effective devolution of political power, creating an extensive network of political elites, seems to constrain the devolved administrative power.

Suggested Citation

  • Sony Pellissery, 2006. "Does Multi-level Governance Meet Local Aspirations? The Case of Social Protection Needs in Rural India," Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(1), pages 25-40, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rapaxx:v:28:y:2006:i:1:p:25-40
    DOI: 10.1080/23276665.2006.10779313

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