The essays in this issue of the Jindal Journal of Public Policy published by the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy cover a wide range of empirical and theoretical public policy concerns in countries with different political regimes. Drawing on research from Asian and Latin American contexts, these essays engage with the themes of federalism in China, the role of international institutions in alleviating poverty, local government taxation reforms, and the position of women in conflict afflicted zone. The essays published in this issue are selected from papers presented at an international conference on “Federalisms and Localisms” and the public lectures organized by the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy.
The opening essay by Michael Davis deliberates on the characteristics of Chinese federalism and the lessons that the country can learn from its neighbor – the large multinational state, India. Davis argues for a dual model - federalism for the Chinese mainland and confederation for the peripheral communities for maintaining the territorial integrity of the country. Public dissatisfaction over State policies nationwide and especially among ethnic groups, who occupy at least a third of Chinese territory pose a threat to maintaining territorial integrity of China. Although the country has thus far been able to keep their peripheral communities under control largely through the use of force, as succinctly argued by Davis, it would be difficult to adopt such a repressive posture. He concludes that a confederal arrangement for China’s peripheral communities would provide a reliable umbrella under which these communities could be brought together in the “state-nation” vision. The viability of such an arrangement hinges on the presence of a strong judiciary for third-party dispute resolution and for implementing confederal agreements.
The rule of law is critical to the vibrancy and stability of any democratic polity, which in the Indian context is enshrined in the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Public perception about the prevalence of law or its status affects the stability of governments. Although the ideal of rule of law is associated with modernity, in ancient societies as highlighted in the second essay by Moro, law was fundamental to their existence. The history of the Indian legal system dates back to 2700 years ago and was constituted of diverse sources of law and sophisticated interpretative tradition. However, very little is known about its functioning. He argues for blurring the disciplinary boundaries of legal education and policy studies to strengthen the pedagogy of legal training in India.
Achieving horizontal and vertical equity in tax regimes is a key challenge confronting policy makers worldwide. Poorer citizens in many contexts end up paying a higher proportion of their income in taxes as compared to their wealthier counterparts. Moving away from the Asian sub-continent, Aaron Schneider deliberates on this paradox of increased state revenues and the prevalence of vertical and horizontal inequity in taxation structure drawing on the Brazilian experience. After a concerted effort starting from the mid-nineties, the Brazilian government managed to reform its taxation policy and increase the tax revenues. Schneider traces the manner in which different social groups were incorporated in the reformed tax regime and the political moment that favored the reform agenda. A key factor favoring the reforms agenda was the support extended by a crosscoalition of popular sector and middle class groups to a high capacity tax regime. Whilst tax reforms enabled the Brazilian government to generate more revenue, it was not able to overcome the institutional legacies of previous patterns of incorporation. Consequently, as has been eloquently elaborated by Schneider, the economic and political elites are able to preserve elements of particularism and progressivity in the tax system.
Poverty and inequality, as Tilly argued has remained durable over the years, despite various forms of intervention by diverse range of international and national level institutions. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) articulated by the United Nations is one among the long list of development agendas aimed at reducing poverty and inequality. By now, there is a consensus that the MDG though useful in drawing the attention of Governments to reduce poverty, will not be able to achieve its target. Exploring the development challenges confronting government in the post 2015 era, Naresh Singh argues the need for better governance and the importance of integrating human rights agenda and Sustainable Development Initiative. As underscored in his essay, a strong political mobilization of popular groups to pressurize leaders and policy makers is imperative to realize the goal of poverty reduction and sustainable development. The essay concludes with outlining an agenda for schools of public policy and government in terms of addressing inclusive development.
The essay by Suraj Kumar traces the trajectory and outcomes as well as their limitations or constraints of two major interventions viz., the State Human Development Reports (SHDRs) and the Development Policy Loans (DPL) promoted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank in the Indian context. Both interventions focused on reforming governance mechanisms and thereby address issues of poverty and inequality. Arguing that the persistence of poverty in the Indian context is more due to internal inequality and poor implementation of policies, the essay points to the urgency of reforming internal distribution and implementation capacity of the State rather than relying on Overseas Development Aid and other concessional aid flows. Further, the essay underscores the importance of reform initiatives in India to move beyond the “prayer and petition” approach gain political leverage and engage with a much larger audience, including with crowds. In this light, it is critical to harness political will through institutions of parliamentary democracy in India. However, the pubic disenchantment with political processes complicates the introduction of reforms, especially, at a time when the youth are becoming demographically more significant but increasingly alienated from mainstream parliamentary politics. Sustained engagement with the Governments at the National and the Regional level is critical to harness political will for enacting governance reform in India.
Sukriti Chauhan draws our attention to the plight of women in conflict zones. Her essay attempts to archive the unheard voices of women in conflict zones. Despite our clamor of modernity, society and law continue to discriminate women and subordinate them to men. She argues that violence against women in such contexts tend to be dismissed as a natural consequence of war and often leading to immunity for those perpetrating crimes against women. Pointing to the multidimensional impact of violence on women in terms of physical and emotional suffering inflicted on the individual concerned, their families and community, Chauhan pleads for a reconceptualization of the paradigm of human rights.
Finally, the public policy concerns discussed in this issue demand not only a shift in the way we run our institutions, implement laws or policies, but as several authors have pointed out require new ways of thinking about who we are and what kind of a society we want to be. Disciplinary training and ways of thinking about policy issues have contributed to our disconnected approach to complex problems, ignoring their connectedness. Perhaps a small step forward is to move out of our disciplinary boundaries and begin to think and work in trans-disciplinary ways.
Bhuvaneswari Raman, Associate Professor Jindal School of Government and Public Policy
C. Raj Kumar, Professor and Vice Chancellor O.P. Jindal Global University
Sudarshan Ramaswamy, Professor and Dean Jindal School of Government and Public Policy