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Public Policy in the Indian Democracy

And its challanges

In Punchtantra, my bimonthly column in Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review, I argue,

Third, the policies pursued by its government often fail to reflect the limitations of India’s development. Despite its remarkable growth over the last two decades, India remains a poor country. With barely three percent of its citizens as income tax payers and a low tax-GDP ratio, the Indian state lacks the resources to implement the policies it champions. Worse, it wastes precious resources in implementing policies which may be attractive in abstract but are unsuitable for India’s current needs.

Take for instance something as simple as seat belt laws. Despite some controversy in the academic literature, at least in theory, increased seat belt usage would be expected to save lives. But as Vivek Dehejia and Rupa Subramanya point out in their new book Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India, the vast majority of fatalities on Delhi roads are pedestrians. Even if seatbelt laws are properly enforced, they would hardly make a dent in the tragically high number of traffic deaths. Should not the severely undermanned Delhi Traffic Police then direct its limited resources towards ensuring that pedestrians are able to safely cross the road rather than worry about errant car drivers? The argument is not that the safety of car drivers does not matter. Of course, it does but to recognise that even the safety-challenged cars vastly improve the odds of surviving a trip on Indian roads. [link]

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