Voice, responsiveness and collaboration : democratic decentralisation and service delivery in two Indian cities.
This thesis explores state-civil society relations with respect to urban services in
the context of democratic decentralisation. These issues are analysed through a
comparative case study of approaches to improved services in the Indian cities
of Bangalore and Calcutta. Three main areas of focus in the thesis are a)
relationships between citizens' voice and local government responsiveness; b)
the implications of collaboration and partnership in urban service delivery; and
c) the impact of broader socio-political factors on relations between service
users and service providers.
At the national level, legislation attempting to revitalise local government
through democratic decentralisation has had a range of consequences for
urban service provision. These consequences are examined through three
paths towards improving service provision. The first, led by service users, is
through traditional modes of political engagement and direct involvement in
local community action groups. The second path, led by the local government
service providers is through internal reforms adopted to boost responsiveness.
The third path is led by the collaborative efforts of service users and service
The consequences of national legislative attempts at decentralisation have
been markedly different in the two cities. Comparing the experience of
approaches to improved service delivery in each, the thesis isolates the impact
of local socio-political factors on municipal local governance. Demographic
characteristics, the nature of political and administrative leadership, the
character of local government institutions and the status of civil society, all
prove to be important determinants of the quality of service delivery.
Neither Bangalore nor Calcutta have enjoyed dramatic improvements in urban
services as a direct result of democratic decentralisation. The thesis argues,
however, that the decentralisation process has created an environment more
conducive for dialogue between service users and providers: in which users
have the space to express their voice, and state actors are encouraged to
listen, acknowledge and respond.