Enacting a Right to Basic Social Welfare: India’s Great Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective


ACLS Fellowship Program




Since 2004, India has introduced a series of progressive national laws that enact new civic prerogatives and socioeconomic entitlements through legally enforceable rights. This project seeks to explain the genesis, character, and ramifications of this new welfare-development paradigm. Three slow-burning interwoven processes frame the analysis: the cumulative legal advances won through several decades of public interest litigation; the various social inequalities exacerbated by rapid uneven development; and the rising electoral pressure to expand basic social opportunities and economic protection. The move to enact these rights in India heralds an innovative state-building project, which simultaneously seeks to enhance political transparency, responsiveness and accountability, as well as the capacity of the state to see its citizens. The project employs a mixed research design over two stages, to study the high politics of policy formulation and institutional reform, and the everyday politics of policy implementation and institutional performance.