Programme PGP Term V Academic Year 2021-22

Course title Good Governance & People Living in Poverty Area Public Systems Group Credits 0.75

Prof. Harsh Mander (VF)

Course Description & Objectives
After completing the course, students will be able to:
- interrogate dominant neo-liberal perspectives on good governance
- understand alternative notions of poverty, social exclusion and marginalization, and the role and duty of the state to excluded people, especially in the context of India
- understand the situation of some of the most socially excluded groups in India, in particular people living with hunger, dalits, the urban homeless and street children, and minorities, to understand gender discrimination, and to analyze the impact of law and public policy on their lives

Since the 1990s, concerns with governance have been suddenly thrust into the vocal centre-stage of the mainstream international development debate. The belief in the critical role of a strong interventionist state is not new; it has been central, although often in contrasting ways, to the world-view of both Keynesian and Marxist political economists through the greater part of the twentieth century, whether to address in various ways market failures, to ensure redistributive justice, or to drive economic growth. However, the contemporary paradigm of good governance has distinct ideological sources from these major streams. It is derived from the neo-liberal project of structural adjustment. This paradigm stresses that governance is far more than just government, and includes within its ambit also the private sector and civil society. Its major point of departure is that it regards the role of the state primarily to act “not as a direct provider of growth but as a partner, catalyst, and facilitator”. (The World Bank 1997:1) It continues to acknowledge the centrality of the state to economic and social development, but stresses that this does not mean that development has to be state provided. Instead, it sees the state not as a direct provider of growth but as a partner, catalyst, and facilitator.

There is no doubt that the quality of governance has critical bearing on the lives and future of the poor. Yet there is evidence that most of the contemporary pressure for good governance is being driven not by the critical survival needs of the poor but by trans-national corporate aspirations for a more predictable playing field as they negotiate an increasingly globalised economy. This module will attempt to examine more carefully this dominant neo-liberal paradigm of ‘good governance’, and critically analyze its implications for poor people. It will also suggest some elements, or building blocks, of an alternative paradigm.

It will demonstrate that it is critically important that this agenda for good governance is reclaimed by poor and marginalized people, from their perspective, to serve their needs, to meet their aspirations, to address their ends of greater equity and justice. It may be useful, if only to distance oneself from the mainstream agenda of good governance, to speak instead of humane, just and equitable governance, of which the foundations are not rule of law but justice, not a retreating state but an activist strong state, and powerful organizations of poor and marginalized people to hold governments responsive and accountable to them.

The course will introduce students to debates around poverty, marginalization, social exclusion, development, public policy, law and the role of the state, with special reference to the experience of India. India in particular, produces diverse experiences of marginalization, impoverishment and social exclusion. This course will focus on the effects of law and public policy on the lives of intensely marginalized people. How does the postcolonial state invisibilise, illegalize, criminalize or custodialise people who are most vulnerable and powerless? How do disenfranchised peoples contend with the extremely difficult circumstances of their lives? These concerns will be explored in the context of contemporary India, focusing on dalits, women, the urban homeless and street children, and people who live with hunger etc. We will utilize case studies, film, law and policy documents, critical analyses, and first person narratives to make visible these complex dynamics of oppression and resistance. What alliances and forms of thought might result from socially engaged scholarship in intimate relation to struggles for life, dignity, and justice?

The course will also introduce researchers to qualitative research methodologies, which will enable them to directly observe, with empathy and respect, the experience of impoverishment, discrimination and acute deprivation, but also ways that people cope, with courage, humanity and dignity.


The course will use a mix of methodologies, lectures, case studies, films, studying legal and policy documents, and field research.

Number of sessions required, hours needed per student for class sessions, major papers/projects, etc.