Working Paper: Public Trust and Urban Governance in Delhi, India

Abstract: By 2031, an estimated 600 million Indians will be living in urban areas, comprised on megacities such as Delhi, as well as smaller cities and towns that have emerged to meet the demands of a rapidly urbanizing population. While existing literature on governance and decentralization establishes that citizens’ trust in local governance bodies is essential for effective delivery of public goods and services, we also know that local state capacity to respond to India’s rapidly urbanizing population remains limited. Based on an original survey of 260 households as well as interviews conducted in June-July 2022 in Delhi, India, I contend that horizontal ties among households, and vertical ties between households and neighborhood-level organizations influences variation in public trust. In doing so, I create a novel typology of trust at the local level. I focus on public trust in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) among residents of unauthorized colonies that house approximately 30% of the city’s population.

The paper also presents new insights on data collection that are relevant to the study of trust in highly informal urban spaces, given that there is no existing dataset that directly captures a snapshot of trust in a local governance body in a major Indian city. The findings from this study highlights the importance of capturing inter-household variation when measuring trust in government. In addition, qualitative data reveals the everyday trade-offs residents face between engaging with the state directly, through existing neighborhood-level organizations or other forms of collective action. The findings push the boundaries of scholarly work on the sub-national determinants of trust and its relationship with governance in rapidly urbanizing spaces characterized by high levels of informality. 

Conference presentations:

  • Accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), to be held August 31 – September 2, 2023 in Los Angeles, California (withdrawn from program due to delays in obtaining visa).
  • Inaugural Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior Conference , March 2-4, 2023, Tallahassee, Florida.
  • Telling It Like It Is 2.0: Descriptive Research Workshop, October 28-29, 2022, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Presented research design in Lightening Rounds session at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), September 15-18, 2022, Montreal, Canada.

Working Paper: Public Goods and Public Trust in Government: Evidence from India

Abstract: In modern liberal democracies, the relationship between citizens and their governments is influenced by myriad factors that shape how citizens perceive the state as well as the act of governance itself. One of the ways governments might try to gain favor with their citizens is the provision of public goods, which is considered economically efficient as well as morally necessary (Anomaly 2015). Despite huge public expenditure on services such as healthcare, education, sanitation, electricity and water supply, we know very little about whether access to public goods leads to public trust in government. Such a connection is logical — the provision of public goods is an important aspect of ‘good governance’. I test this assumption in India, a highly diverse liberal democracy that is characterized by socio-economic variations between states as well as huge disparities in income and access to basic services, where the provision of such services by the government can influence public confidence or trust in the government. I define provision in terms of availability of basic public goods to households at the state level in India, and drawing on earlier work I measure public trust in terms of the confidence people have in their state governments in India to take care of their basic needs. Using cross-sectional survey data, I show not only that the provision of public goods is associated with increased trust or confidence in state governments, but that access to health, education, sanitation and water supply are the most important such public goods. The findings have the potential to inform policy choices about the provision of public service programs in India as well a broader understanding of the relationship between public services and trust in government.

Conference presentations:

  • Accepted for presentation at the 2nd edition of the International Workshops on Public Policy at La Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencas Sociales (FLASCO) Ecuador / Quito from 1st – 3rd July 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19).
  • American University Tri-School Conference, 5th March 2021 in Washington, D.C.
  • 5th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP5) held July 5th-9th, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) held September 30th – October 2nd, 2021 in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Working Paper: Analysis of News Media Coverage Before and After the March 2020 Nationwide Lockdown in India

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world. In India, it has revealed deep inequalities that persist in access to healthcare services in the country and the precariousness of the informal economy which was hit hard by a nationwide lockdown announced in late March 2020. The lockdown resulted in an unprecedented mass movement of people across the country, notably migrant workers in megacities such as Delhi. We know that such nationwide lockdowns have been covered extensively by the media in various countries, and India is no exception. However, we know very little about the nature of such coverage in India. What were the key topics emphasized by news outlets while reporting on the COVID-19 first wave in India, and were there significant differences in coverage before and after the lockdown was imposed on 24th March 2020? Using the CRISP-DM approach, this paper identifies the key themes discussed across reports from one major English news aggregator – Inshorts. A text analysis of news reports from this highly popular news source reveals the pre-dominant media attitudes that shaped how the crisis was reported, taking on a communal nature that targeted the Muslim community. The paper contributes to a burgeoning literature on the role of media during crises, and the critical role it plays in shaping citizen attitudes as well as government policies.

Conference presentations:

  • 5th annual Politics and Computational Social Science (PaCSS) conference held June 16th-18th, 2022 at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University in Boston, MA.
  • Accepted for presentation at the APSA Pre-Conference in Political Communication to be held in Montreal, Canada in September 2022.

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