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The right to information act in India: the turbid world of transparency reforms

Sharma, Prashant (2012) The right to information act in India: the turbid world of transparency reforms. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The enactment of the national Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005 has been produced, consumed and celebrated as an important event of democratic deepening in India both in terms of the process that led to its enactment (arising from a grassroots movement) as well as its outcome (fundamentally altering the citizen-state relationship). This thesis problematises this narrative and proposes that the explanatory factors underlying this event may be more complex than thus far imagined. First, the leadership of the grassroots movement was embedded within the ruling elite and possessed the necessary resources as well as unparalleled access to spaces of power for the movement to be successful. Second, the democratisation of the higher bureaucracy along with the launch of the economic liberalisation project meant that the urban, educated, high-caste, upper-middle-class elite that provided critical support to the demand for an RTI Act was no longer vested in the state and had moved to the private sector. Mirroring this shift, the framing of the RTI Act during the 1990s saw its ambit reduced to the government, even as there was a concomitant push to privatise public goods and services. Third, the thesis locates the Indian RTI Act within the global explosion of freedom of information laws over the last two decades, and shows how international pressures, embedded within a reimagining of the role of the state vis-à-vis the market, had a direct and causal impact both on its content, as well as the timing of its enactment. Taking the production of the RTI Act as a lens, the thesis finally argues that while there is much to celebrate in the consolidation of procedural democracy in India over the last six decades, existing economic, social and political structures may limit the extent and forms of democratic deepening occurring in the near future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Prashant Sharma
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > International Development

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