Closing the Implementation Gap: Grievance Redress and India’s Social Welfare Programs

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Poor implementation of social welfare programs is a chronic challenge in developing countries such as India. Yet, despite the large number of people affected and the serious consequences of implementation failure, there have been few studies, and even less theorization, of grievance redress in these contexts. Based on fieldwork conducted by the author, this Article examines grievance redress mechanisms for social welfare programs in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Borrowing from the idea of “accountability regimes” developed in the administrative law literature, the Article proposes a comparable set of “grievance redress regimes.” It creates a matrix to weigh the relative merits of different grievance redress regimes and judge how new grievance redress mechanisms impact them. It argues that this approach can help policymakers and others more accurately pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of specific grievance redress mechanisms, imagine a broader range of policy prescriptions, and ensure that different grievance redress mechanisms support, not undermine, each other.