Programme PGP Term VI Academic Year 2021-22

Course title The Indian State, Democracy and Accountability Institutions: Rethinking Good Governance Area Public Systems Group Credits 1.00

Prof. Rajnish Rai

Course Description & Objectives

I focus on a range of accountability institutions that characterize the Indian State to outline the efficacy of its functioning. Accountability institutions have come to define the State of parliamentary democracy and governance in India. The democratic character of accountability institutions informs the social and economic environment prevailing in the country. Accountability institutions need constant redemocratization; else, it becomes difficult to resist elite capture of these institutions. Strong accountability institutions imply interlocking webs of tension and ensure that different institutions play an important role in keeping checks and balances. At the same time, strong institutions enable citizens, communities, and businesses to function with autonomy and enterprise.

I organize this course into five modules. In the first module, I examine how the Indian Parliament and the Supreme Court of India have informed the functioning of the Indian State. In the second module, I focus on institutions of accountability and explore how the political parties in power capture these institutions. In the third module, I trace the emerging citizenship framework with the State insisting on digitally determined identities and citizens demanding that the State reveal information about its functioning and open itself for more democratic accountability. In the fourth module, I explore democratic deficits in Indian security institutions. While the police become subservient to the political apparatus, the Army, who is tasked to perform the role of the police in border zones, seeks legal frameworks that violate the liberal global consensus on human rights. In the fifth module, I focus on the interplay between multiple State institutions that structure democratic deficits for citizens and enable the possibility of majoritarian nationalism to dominate the state structure.

a. To examine whether the inherent structural weaknesses have led to the failure of accountability institutions.
b. To outline important dilemmas and challenges that the accountability institutions are facing. 
c. To understand how accountability institutions exist in tension with each other and how the erosion of these tensions signifies a capture of these institutions.
d. To examine why seemingly robust accountability institutions have failed to produce politics of accountability. 

The course will use a mix of methodologies – lectures, case discussions, and reflection on short videos. The pedagogy will be oriented towards enabling participants to understand how institutional functioning is situated in a field of pulls and pressures of different stakeholders and actors. In order to appreciate these tensions, participants will be encouraged to reflect on what a particular stakeholder wants from an institution and how a stakeholder's needs may be in conflict with that of other stakeholders. The role of institutions is to mediate these tensions democratically. In the process, institutions enter into tensions with each other to prevent the likelihood of a particular institution tilting more closely towards one specific stakeholder.