Final colloquium by Ms. Meera Sudhakar on 'Development policy as a social process: Case study of Niranthara Jyothy in Karnataka'
Development policy as a social process: Case study of Niranthara Jyothy in Karnataka
Public policy processes are predominantly studied by separating processes of formulation, when the policy is thought to be ‘made’, from processes of implementation, where policy decisions are assumed to be ‘delivered’. Such a separation has significant analytical costs in the Indian policymaking context, increasingly evident in policy domains that are marked by horizontal and vertical conflicts, where the state and its institutions, since the 1990s are engaged in an on-going process of re-calibration of their productive and protective roles in response to pressures from globalization and deepening of political democracy. Increasingly, in several such adversarial policy fields as diverse as agriculture, food, education, health, water and electricity change processes that directly affect livelihoods of diverse social groups, policy formulation is limited to intended visions and narratives of change to be realised in ideal conditions. In such a style of policymaking, overarching commitment is to specific instruments of change or policy ‘models’, policy goals , winners and losers from the change process are ambiguous, and conflicts of interests are resolved by delegating change to lower levels of decision-making. This thesis uses the case of a programmatic intervention into the rural electrification policy field in Karnataka to give an account of such on-going process of negotiated change in a policy field where the state had a central role in economic production as well as protective welfare functions in the development process. It shows that policy-making need to be understood as unfolding in inter-related arenas of legitimation each assembling a different set of actors, audiences around different justification schemas. The thesis attempts to show how an overlapping consensus for change is justified around simplified narratives of productivity, efficiency and sustainability in the arena of formulation. It then traces the processes of evasion and rationalization through which a delimited version of change is made acceptable in other arenas when more context-specific knowledge and interests negotiate with the visions set out in the policy text. By arguing that the policy process relies on such a fragmentation of legitimacy, the study seeks to show how divergence of policy outcomes are in-built rather than incidental to the process of absorbing change, allowing both ‘success’ and reasonable ‘failure’ narratives to co-exist.
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