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India's new rights agenda: Genesis, promises, risks

Public Seminar

Wednesday 19th March 2014, 12.30pm to 2pm, Room 32L.G.03, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, LSE

Speaker: Sanjay Ruparelia

Chair: David Piachaud

Since 2004, India has introduced a series of progressive national bills that enact a right to new civic entitlements, ranging from information, work and education to forest conservation, food and basic public services. Three slow-burning processes since the 1980s, distinct yet related, catalysed India’s new rights agenda: high socio-legal activism, rapid uneven development and the expanding popular foundations of its federal parliamentary democracy. Significantly, all three processes exposed the growing nexus between political corruption and socioeconomic inequality. Equally, however, each raised popular expectations for greater social justice that were only partly met. The promise of these new laws is threefold: they breach the traditional division of civil, political and socioeconomic rights, devise innovative governance mechanisms that enable citizens to see the state, and provide fresh incentives for new political coalitions to emerge across state and society. Several risks exist, however. Official political resistance from above and below, the limited capacities of judicial actors, state bureaucracies and social forces, and the relatively narrow base of many of these new movements endanger the potential of these reforms. Several imperatives that India’s evolving rights movement must confront to realise its ambition are considered. This seminar will engage with these questions - What explains the emergence of these laws? How are the rights conceived by these acts conceptualised, operationalised and pursued? What are the promises, challenges and risks – legal, political and economic–of enshrining socioeconomic entitlements as formal statutory rights?

Dr Sanjay Ruparelia is Assistant Professor of Politics and Faculty Advisor to the India China Institute, New School for Social Research, New York. His publications include Divided We Govern: Coalition Politics in Modern India (Hurst: forthcoming), a study of the rise and fall of the broader Indian left, and (with Sanjay Reddy, John Harriss and Stuart Corbridge) Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? Dr Ruparelia holds a BA in Political Science from McGill University, and an MPhil in Sociology and Politics of Development and a PhD in Politics from the University of Cambridge.

Professor David Piachaud Department of Social Policy, LSE.

Additional Information

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. Please direct any queries to arc@lse.ac.uk| or call 020 7955 7615.