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Title: National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India : towards an understanding of policy spaces
Author: Chopra, D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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My research analyses the spaces in which state and society interact in the Indian policy context. The main concern is to elucidate the nature of the boundary between state and society actors in policy processes, through a detailed look at a recently formulated social policy, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA), hailed as an historic social policy in terms of its provisions, and the largest social welfare program of its kind. This work suggests that it is important to understand this policy in the context of the twin pressures of neo-liberal growth and welfare demands (expressed through the channels of democracy and civil society) that confront the contemporary Indian state. The central question is: What is the nature of the political spaces in which state and society interact in the policy context, and how are these spaces shaped by the exercise of power? The methodology has been primarily qualitative, with in-depth interviews with policy actors and documentary evidence analysed through qualitative techniques. Most of these actors were policy elites, and included government bureaucrats, senior politicians, social movement activists, academics and trade union leaders. This has been supplemented by the use of Q-methodology, which helped to identify key discourses and triangulate the qualitative evidence. My analysis points towards three themes as critical in understanding the spaces in which state and society interact: porosity, participation and power. I use empirical evidence to propose the concept of porosity as characterising policy spaces. This implies that policy domains and processes are permeated by actors and discourses. The blurred boundaries of these actors and discourses help to break down the boundaries that often characterise ‘state’ and ‘society’ relations. The second theme of participation is illustrated through identifying a changing and yet extensive stream of actors and discourses that influence policy spaces over time. Finally, my work demonstrates how power is exercised across and within policy spaces through its discursive elements, and thereby responds to recent calls for decentring our understanding of the geographies of power within contemporary Indian politics. This research suggests that focusing on ‘iterative and porous policy spaces’ may be a way to capture the complicated ambiguity and dynamism of policy contexts, without losing the analytical detail that a process- centric or discursive approach to policy provides.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available