Madon, T., Agnihotri, A., Gadgil, A.J. (2023). A Practical Framework for Research. In: Madon, T., Gadgil, A.J., Anderson, R., Casaburi, L., Lee, K., Rezaee, A. (eds) Introduction to Development Engineering. Springer, Cham. Link
Agnihotri, A., Madon, T., Gadgil, A.J. (2023). Introduction to Development Engineering. In: Madon, T., Gadgil, A.J., Anderson, R., Casaburi, L., Lee, K., Rezaee, A. (eds) Introduction to Development Engineering. Springer, Cham. Link
Most states lack the ability to maintain a uniform presence at the local level. While in some places, citizens experience an attentive and present state that is quick to address their demands, in other parts, the same state can be unresponsive and absent. The unevenness in state presence shapes its capacity to deliver services and its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens. What explains the spatial unevenness of the local state? This paper argues that the transfer preferences of mid-level bureaucrats are an important determinant of local state presence. Using a mixed-methods approach that combines insights from qualitative fieldwork and a unique dataset on the transfer history of mid-level bureaucrats in Indian land bureaucracy, I show that bureaucrats have strong transfer preferences and regularly lobby to avoid being placed in jurisdictions further away from their homes or being relocated over long distances. Jurisdictions less preferred by bureaucrats are more likely to experience state absence at the local level. Further, spatial disparities in local state absence are concentrated according to historical patterns of development across different regions of the state; historically less developed regions with lower bureaucratic representation within the state experience a more prolonged duration of bureaucratic absence on account of bureaucratic lobbying against transfer directives. This paper highlights the importance of transfer preferences of individual bureaucrats and their collective representation in shaping the quality of local governance.
Post Alison, Agnihotri Anustubh, and Hyun Chris, “Using Crowd-Sourced Data to Study Public Services: Lessons from Urban India.”, Studies in Comparative International Development 53.3 (2018): 324-342. PDF Link Abstract
As cities throughout the developing world grow, they often expand more quickly than the infrastructure and service delivery networks that provide residents with basic necessities such as water and public safety. Why do some cities deliver more effective infrastructure and services in the face of rapid growth than others? Why do some households and communities secure better services than others? Answering these questions requires studying the large, politicized bureaucracies charged with providing urban services, especially the relationships between frontline workers, agency managers, and citizens in informal settlements. Researchers investigating public service delivery in cities of the Global South, however, have faced acute data scarcity when addressing these themes. The recent emergence of crowd-sourced data offers researchers new means of addressing such questions. In this paper, we draw on our own research on the politics of urban water delivery in India to highlight new types of analysis that are possible using crowd-sourced data and propose solutions to common pitfalls associated with analyzing it. These insights should be of use for researchers working on a broad range of topics in comparative politics where crowd-sourced data could provide leverage, such as protest politics, conflict processes, public opinion, and law and order.
Autonomous and professionalized bureaucracies play an important role in underpinning long-term economic development. However, bureaucracies can be “captured” or act in a manner that systematically favors private rather than public interest. Is this because bureaucrats are intrinsically motivated by rent-seeking, as dominant theories suggest? With a nationwide survey of Indian administrators of land (a lucrative asset in urbanizing societies), we study what objectives officials maximize by eliciting officials’ preferences over different geographical posts. Officials prefer posts with better staffing, amenities, and proximity to their home district but not those with greater corruption potential (value of land transactions imputed from satellite imagery). These preferences are strong in salary-equivalent terms. This gives politicians powerful leverage to extract rents from land deals through pressure exerted via the carrot-and-stick of transfers, a practice we show to be widespread with a list experiment and analysis of strategic posting patterns. The findings demonstrate how political influence over the assignment of bureaucrats to posts – a virtually universal feature of bureaucracies – represents a lever of political control and capture by special interests.
Agnihotri Anustubh and Chowdhury Anirvan, “Electoral Dominance in Democratic Regimes: Evidence from West Bengal, India.” [Presented at Comparative Politics Conference (COMPASS) at UCLA, 2019] Abstract
Can the decline of a hegemonic party through peaceful democratic transition create conditions for greater political contestation? This paper shows that lack of political competition has long term consequences for democratic practice. Using granular electoral data from a state in India, the world’s largest democracy, we find that local governments that experience electoral dominance under a one-party rule are less likely to be competitive when a new party comes to power. Further, we show that the means of coercion used to maintain electoral dominance: limiting contestation by political opponents through the use of violence and intimidation persist even after the incumbent party loses power. These results add to our understanding of democracy as a hybrid regime by examining how political parties can use decentralization of power to local governments to create the conditions for one-party dominance with semi-authoritarian characteristics.
Agnihotri Anustubh and Chowdhury Anirvan, “Party Alignment and Fiscal Transfers: Evidence from West Bengal, India.” [Presented at Americal Political Science Association Conference at Washington DC, 2019] Abstract
How do political parties influence the implementation of welfare policies in developing democracies? This paper explores the importance of party linkages between local and higher-level governments in determining the allocation of financial resources for welfare programs. We show that vertical party linkages between local and higher levels of government are crucial in explaining the allocation of welfare funds at the local level: co-partisan local governments are rewarded with greater financial resources while opposition strongholds see a strong reduction in funds. We suggest that the party adopts a reward and punishment strategy to consolidate its political position. The paper adds to our understanding of how non-programmatic implementation of policies is shaped by party linkages across different levels of government.