Kya hai yeh, Sarkar?
Between questioning the State and finding out what the State is!
A nine-month-long project broadly linked to the topic of understanding the politics and society between elections that is being co-partnered with Lokniti (a think tank of Centre for studies of developing societies, New Delhi). As a part of a six people team, we are studying citizen’s perceptions in the States of Haryana and Gujarat. We spent four weeks in two villages of Haryana and Gujarat and the cities of Panchkula and Gandhinagar for the purpose of collecting relevant data for our study.
We are doing this project as part of the ‘Law and Policy Hub’ where students of Law, Governance & Policy specialization of the MA Development program and LLM in Law and Development program, come together and engage in a field based project in the area of law and development. This mode of education is primarily concerned with ‘the process of learning from actual experience, learning through taking action (or observing someone else taking action) and then analysing the effects of the action’ (Kreiling, 1981).In the whole programme we have 9 groups conducting independent studies on various topics.
Our study is broadly on politics and society between elections. Although election time in India would be best suited for such elaborate clinical engagements, the focus of this particular clinic would be to understand what happens between elections. Elections in India are action-packed: with everyone from Netas to media channels and election experts weighing down on the common voter: it takes the country by storm. However less is known about society after the storm of elections since no systematic nationwide studies are undertaken even as politics of a distinct nature plays out between elections. While extensive studies have been carried out analyzing what happens during elections, the period between elections in India is relatively less studied. In this regard, the aim of the Politics and Society between Elections Project is to understand how the government functions and relates to its citizens between elections; that is how Governance may be best understood by locating it in the ‘everyday’. What does the act of standing in a queue everyday to procure a ration card tell us about the ways in which citizens and the State relate to each other? What does it mean for a daily wage labourer to board a crowded local train to work everyday? How do we interpret the success of a rural child having aced an all India examination after having studied under a flickering streetlight for years? How may we contextualize the uncertainties associated with being asked to stay inside our hostels while a curfew has been declared and public ordr is threatened?
The aim is to build on narratives of the everyday in order to better understand the State-citizen interactions between elections, that is to say, whether the State keeps or is able to keep its promise after the vote has been cast. How does one comprehend this? The measurement scale chosen for the study is service delivery.
It is evident is that while some services are meant to be delivered to the public at large there are certain other kinds of services, which cater to a specific target group. All such interactions may be broadly classified as interactions related to service delivery. Like for instance, if a street vendor interact with the police for settling ‘hafta’ or or for license, someone else might go to a government office for ration card or Aadhar card or even for complaining about the lack of electricity or water supply in his/her area. Hence, it may be deduced that services are one thing, to which the citizens can easily relate to as it affects their ‘everyday lives’. Therefore, the project aims to understand the citizens’ perception of the State through understanding the way they participate, especially for matters related to service delivery.
In short Ek Vaarta Kuch Kisse traces the story of the elusive State and various episodes through which we and many like us experience it as we go about our daily routines.