Decentralization, Local Governance, and Social Wellbeing in India

Do Local Governments Matter?

By Rani D. Mullen

© 2011 – Routledge

240 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415670654
pub: 2011-10-20
US Dollars$150.00

About the Book

Over the past three decades, decentralization has been seen as the means for allowing local governments to become more accountable, and for encouraging the deepening of democracy and the building of village communities. By drawing on original village-level case studies of six villages in three different Indian states, this book presents a systematic analysis of the impact of decentralization on the delivery of social services at the local level within India.

Supplementing national and state-level data and analyzing the different historical legacies in each state, the book argues that decentralization is not simply a function of the structure of the decentralization program or of the relationship between higher-tiered and local government. Rather, the possibility of decentralization affecting social outcomes depends on several interacting factors, including the distribution of power among local elites, the dynamics of political competition, and the level of civil society mobilization. By examining constitutionally-mandated political decentralization across India, this book identifies the circumstances under which local government structures can lead to improved social services and societal wellbeing, as well as presenting a substantial contribution to studies on South Asian Politics and Local Government.


"This book is an excellent effort in examining the impact of decentralization on the delivery of social services at the grassroots levels in India. It succeeds in bringing home the key message, namely mere decentralization is not enough to improve social well-being." - S. S. Meenakshisundaram; Pacific Affairs, 2013.

Table of Contents

1. The Promise of Decentralization 2. Decentralization in India - Rooting the State 3. Karnataka - Advances with the Help of Competitive Local Governments 4. West Bengal - Continuity and Domination at a Cost 5. Uttar Pradesh - Fractionalized Power and Local Governments 6. Political Power, Local Governments, and Social Welfare Appendix A: Powers to be Delegates to Panchayats by State Governments Appendix B: Methodology Appendix C: Field Research Questionnaire

About the Author

Rani D. Mullen is Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, USA. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, India. She has written articles on Indian politics and current developments in Afghanistan.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies

South Asia, with its burgeoning, ethnically diverse population, soaring economies, and nuclear weapons, is an increasingly important region in the global context. The series, which builds on this complex, dynamic and volatile area, features innovative and original research on the region as a whole or on the countries. Its scope extends to scholarly works drawing on history, politics, development studies, sociology and economics of individual countries from the region as well those that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the area as a whole or to a comparison of two or more countries from this region. In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the insights germane to area studies, as well as the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods. The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from young authors who have recently completed their doctoral dissertations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General