Prof. Ashutosh Varshney and Prof. Patrick Heller of the Brown-India Initiative were in New Delhi this Tuesday and Wednesday to present at a series of panels and discussions on the initial findings of the Janaagraha-Brown India Initiative Citizenship Index (JB-CI). The workshop, entitled “Improving Citizen Engagement and Service Provision in Urban India,” brought together those driving the workshop from Brown and from Janaagraha, as well as leading scholars, politicians and civil sector leaders from India.
The JB-CI focuses on evaluating the provision of civic, political and social rights to citizens, coming up with a cumulative score for the quality of citizenship of Bangalore (to be followed soon by other major cities). Urban centers have long been theorized as bastions of democracy and of opportunity, yet as India continues to urbanize, a number of clear indicators – the prevalence of slums, low voter turnout and civic participation, the inequitable provision of infrastructure – suggest a poor quality of citizenship for many city-dwellers. The JB-CI seeks to understand the quality of citizenship in Bangalore as well as the factors that impact this, such as social discrimination by and accountability of the state, or local communitarian values, etc.. This week’s workshop, after presenting the index’s initial findings, included panels on the role of political parties in improving public services and participation, the ways in which bureaucratic administrative systems around the country successfully or unsuccessfully engage citizens, and what approaches have had a demonstrated impact in past case studies.