Development, Democracy, and Governance - 
Lessons and Policy Implications


1. Project Theme and Possible Questions 

1.1 The project proposes to study governmental practices in the context of a developmental democracy such as India. The study of governmental processes in a developmental democracy means focusing on the inter-relations between democracy, development, and governance. In the wake of globalisation and globalisation-induced development the relation between governance and democracy has become critical more than ever. Democratic governance means governing a democracy, in particular governing the tensions, conflicts, claims and collective claim makings that developmental processes and a developmental regime provoke in a democracy. It also means particular governing processes and structures. This research project reflects all the three aspects of concern, namely, (a) the process of governing a developmental democracy; (b) the relevant structures of administering the task of governance, (c) and the popular response to the agenda of developmental governance. 


1.2 Against the backdrop of the first transition of democracy in India from its origin in a colonial polity to the first phase of its independent life after the promulgation of the Indian Constitution in 1950, the project seeks to consider in details the interrelations between globalisation, development and governance structures in the current context of what many may consider to be the second transition of democracy – this time to a democracy in a globalisation induced economy. It suggests that while this study has to reflect on governance of transition, it has to reflect on how democracy negotiates this transition. Yet we have to remember that the changes have not been mostly drastic; there have been strong continuities; and changes have gradually emerged, even though certain moments in the evolution of governmental technologies can be considered as watersheds.


1.3 Two major things have happened in this scenario of continuity and discontinuity: On one hand the welfare discourse changed to that of rights and claims (due to popular politics, emergence of human rights arguments, related developments in the juridical field, and above all parliamentary democracy and therefore elections), with citizens no longer accepting the legitimacy of governmental actions and consequences on the given ground that these actions are motivated by developmental inspirations. On the other hand, in the socio-economic field some major changes have taken place. To put these changes very briefly: Foreign direct investment and the Indian corporate sector has grown phenomenally; it is now greatly connected with public relations, media, glitz, and the economy of conspicuous consumption; while external investment of Indian big business in many non-traditional sectors is increasing, there are growing World Bank-ADB-IMF-Japan-UK linkages for almost all infrastructure development activities; at the same time agriculture is moving slowly, some say it is in a crisis; labour force in number is increasing, if at all, similarly very slowly, with the unorganised sector’s condition remaining at a depressed level; farmers’ deaths/suicides epitomise the permanently depressed conditions of certain areas of the country and among sections of the population; the developmental projects are extracting heavy toll in the form of massive displacement in different parts of the country, poverty reduction has not shown any connectivity with global investments in the country; and finally while expenditure is rising on issues of defence, security, science establishment, intelligence, and crowd control, still Dalits, indigenous population, minorities, and women form the core of the India’s working population as well the most impoverished sections of this population.


1.4 The point is to note - once again at least prima facie - the impact of these changes, of which we mention only the barest of the barest here, on the working of the government/s. We can note at least the symptoms of various impacts of these changes on the style and content of governance. For instance, the ascendancy of the executive is overwhelming; The executive now represents detailed governmental management of poverty, capital formation, urban growth, development of infrastructure, social justice, communal relations, and the gigantic and elaborate process of electoral democracy (three times vote, parliament, electoral bureaucracy, etc.); at the same time there is marked opposition to the organised consensus in official politics about governmental ideas and policies on development– brought about by the governmental management of economic policies. Governmental ideas of development are countered by ideas of dignity and rights, which represent deeper concerns about issues of justice. Thus today’s developmental discourse has to contend with the movements of the indigenous people for rights of land, forest, and minimum wage, demands of various Dalit groups for justice and affirmative actions, also the demands of the minorities, particularly the Muslims, for better survival means. All these indicate as mentioned briefly earlier a strong presence of rights language in popular reception of the governmental approaches to development.

1.5 In the light of these symptoms of changes (along with the largely unmarked shifts) in governance structures we need to inquire: What are the specifics of a governing process that seeks to promote growth (of certain defined kinds) as development? Is there any major difference between earlier governing process that promoted development as welfare coupled with a specific state strategy of industrialisation? What are the continuities and discontinuities in governmental practices in the process of transition from welfare orientation of government to a developmental regime instituted by a pronounced market-friendly state? How has the change of national focus from welfare rights, and equality to growth impacted on democratic governance, and democratic politics at large? How have people responded to the particular governing processes and technologies? Do these responses “exceed” or defy the governmental grids of power? Does the developmental process impact on the dynamics of claim making in democratic politics? How has governing privileged certain kinds of responses while censoring many others? Why do we find vocal and protracted responses to such instruments and mechanisms, such as the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 (earlier un-noticed or ignored) or the SEZ Act of 2005 etc, unlike in the first two decades after Independence when the social cost of several mega projects went unnoticed? As a corollary to the above, one may also ask how does the style and form of governance of an area afflicted by protracted insurgency impact on the issue of developmental democracy? That is to say, are there similarities and differences in governing ‘development’ in insurgent and non-insurgent areas?


1.6. Let us look little more clearly at the situation, marked as it is by these questions. Looking at India, we can say that a distinct regime type is emerging. It can be named as the regime of “developmental democracy”. Its features prima facie consist of: new emphasis on development in place of welfare and citizens’ participation, the diminishing capacity of the state in terms of assuring basic economic, social, and civil rights of the people, shrinking legislation and deliberation process while the executive is on the ascendancy; in this background the emergence in various forms of the principle of autonomy as the route for the people to claim agency for participation in polity, and finally the landscape of social justice marked by a varying combination of legalities and illegalities, lack of consensus about what constitutes development, and fresh debates about the role of law in redistributing and reconfiguring power and guaranteeing delivery mechanisms of justice. Out of this interface we can note the phenomenon of a rapid enunciation of policies by the Executive, aimed at increasing the policy fund of the governing institutions – a phenomenon that can be termed as “policy explosion” of the last decade (1997-2007).


1.7 Four features mark this complex scenario and these prompting this research agenda:


(a) First, we must note the massive “securitisation” of governance in the wake of developmental tasks. From taking over land to building oil and gas pipelines, constructing airports to guarding railway tracks, cleaning cities of lumpen elements, rioters, vagrants, suspected terrorists, militants, and urban refugees – the developmental discourse is now mixed with the security discourse. The aim of security administration is to provide cover for the developmental activities (Gandhamardan, Singur, Nandigram, Kosi river bank management, construction of pipelines, to mention a few instances), but more important, the developmental agenda has to be governed in a war-like model – regimented, disciplined, command structured, hierarchised, carefully budgeted in terms of provisions – both hardware and software, and finally recreating the difference between the military and the civilian now in form of developed areas (IT cities for instance) and the back of beyond. Guarding, maintaining, and protecting the circulation of life in form of commodities, finance, information, and skill is the most significant task of governance. If governance in this way produces “illiberalism” what should be the democratic response? 


(b) Second, governing in democracy has a fundamental tendency of dividing up, rearranging, and reconfiguring the social and geographical space it is governing. This has profound impact on the liberal traditions of freedom – freedom to reside, move, visit, work in a particular area, etc. Developmental agenda increases the governmental power to reconfigure the space continually, and as the Indian experience also suggests democratic governance introduces a new spatial divide between the spaces that are ‘sacred’ and hence are rendered as inaccessible to the many and the spaces where hunger, famine and disease (like polio, malaria and AIDs) have returned and are kept ‘isolated’ as ‘contagion’. The more we study conflicts around the issue of displacement of massive groups of population in the wake of riots, development, construction, militarisation etc., and consequent loss of substantive citizenship, the more important it becomes to study the relation between governance and space. One interesting aspect to investigate would be the way administrative services and institutions are spatially organised, and the Indian way in which federalism has been practised with all its implications for the relations between the government and the people.


(c) Third, the question of democratic governance acquires particular relevance in the context of governing a wide variety of cultures. Nowhere is this more aptly illustrated than in the case of governing the cultures of the marginalized and the Dalits. Governing cultures has assumed myriad forms ranging from fixing and freezing cultures, preserving, upgrading, plotting, and marking these cultures in a whole hierarchy of cultures to make them “acceptable” to an official policy of multiculturalism, once again crucial for developmental agenda.


(d) Yet in discussing these, and this is the final point, we cannot forget that the legitimacy of the government, more specifically government of people’s conduct and lives, stems from the fact that this government claims that it is the prime agency of people’s lives. The institutionalisation of a strong patriarchal benevolent image is from the colonial time - not only the huzur sarkar, but also mai bap raj. Does this image undergo significant change with the assumption of the “historically given task” of national development and of catching up with other countries and time? What happens then to the governmental task of delivering justice, for which the citizens look up to the government? Does the pattern or do the patterns of government-people interface change significantly? Therefore one imaginative research (combining two investigations) would be to (a) look into the Administrative Commission Reports to find out the image/s in which the institution of government has sought to see itself, and (b) conversely an investigation into certain select movements that reflect the current pattern of the government-people interface and thus show how the dualities of service/servitude, development/control, order/democracy, regulation/freedom, and finally rights/growth are playing themselves out, and how governments while appearing as the engine of development project (themselves as) a continuous order. Needless to say, such a two-fold inquiry will be of enormous significance for developmental democracy.


1.8 In sum, we are asking: (a) If development has required an appropriate administration and has signalled certain changes mentioned above, has it in the same measure responded to the requirements of democracy? What has developmental governance done to the quality of democracy? (b) What are the characteristics of a developmental democracy? What are the major institutional landmarks in promoting developmental democracy? These two broad questions underpin the present project; their significance in the framework of policy implications is enormous, and they are at the heart of the following concrete research agenda. Indeed, from this discussion we can visualise the agenda of the project.


Research Agenda


The project seeks to address certain concrete research questions:


  • The study of some select institutions and delivery mechanisms (for instance, related to education, knowledge, public health, water and electricity supply, inputs supply for small producers) in order to assess the impact of the shift from the dynamics of a welfare state to that of a state oriented towards market-driven growth on ways of governing;

  • The study of the impact of some of the Acts and governmental measures for acceleration of development (such as the Land Acquisition Act or the Special Economic Zones) on the concept of democratic equality and citizenship;

  • An investigation of the process of securitisation of the conditions of development, resulting in making logistical considerations as the dominant priority for the government, with several other social considerations now turning into minor matters, and related population groups as minor peoples;

  • The study of certain policy formulation processes and exercises (such as, R&R Policy, Right to Information, NREGA, Forest Bill – all of which reflect the new ways of government-people interface) in the context of the policy explosion in India in the last decade (1997-2007) as a feature of modern developmental governance;

  • Study of the Administrative Commission Reports reflecting the continuity/shift in the institutional grid of developmental democracy;

  • An analysis of select popular responses reflecting new forms of claim makings sparked off by developmental processes posing new issues for developmental governance; this analysis will also reflect on the ways in which different popular organisations are emerging today to negotiate the changing relation between the government and the people; and the ways in which these organisations are breaking the old distinction between the civil society and politics;

  • Similarly an analysis of select cases of political parties articulating ideas of developmental governance particularly in their electoral manifestos, which would show another channel of inputs in the policy formulation process;

  • Investigation into the dynamics and the impact of the new digital culture (primarily e-governance and the new electronic media) on developmental democracy characterised by digital divide;

  • Finally, an inquiry into cases that reflect on how the new emphasis in legal and governmental discourses from rights and entitlements to growth, prosperity, security, and national prestige is impacting on federal structure, constitutional forms of accommodation and autonomy, and spatial distribution of developmental structures.


1.9 These inquiries are inter-related and the concerns overlap. The various segments of the programme will be built around these questions and concerns.  



2.  Proposed Activities and Organisation of the Program


Three Components


2.1 The project proposes to have three components –


  • Research

  • Organisation of dialogues, conference, workshops, public forums, and public lectures (these are mainly in the nature of outreach and dissemination activities, though they combine input gathering purpose as well)

  • Organisation of web based material for wider circulation, interaction, and web-based and print publications (these will be mainly dissemination activities)

3. Research Segment 

3.1 The research segment will cover the nine major concerns listed above and will consist of specific and focused ten to twelve (10-12) research monographs/papers.   

3.2 The research segment will build primarily around case studies among which five or six institutions will form the core of the subject of study. The case studies will involve field work, analysis of governmental material, extensive interviews, studies of select cases of policy formulation, study of institutions of representation at select levels, reforms of welfare administration, development, and information, and finally select studies of popular responses. The actual cases (including topics of institutional studies) will be decided in the first research workshop based on abstracts to be discussed there.


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@2009 Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group