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Working Paper Series

Babu, Barrister, Fixer, or Friend: Intermediaries and Citizen-State Relations in India


  • Jennifer Bussell, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (September 2012)


How do citizens access the state? While the nature of citizen-state relations is a key element of democracy, most analyses focus on only one element of this interaction, such as the links between citizens and their representatives, the use of an intermediary to facilitate service delivery, or payment of a bribe to a bureaucrat. In this paper, I evaluate the relationship between citizens and the state in India, focusing on the choices citizens make over a range of potential strategies for accessing state resources and the combinations of these strategies. I consider potential demographic, regional, and institutional causes of variation in these choices and find that citizens engage with the state in quite different ways depending on the government department from which they require services and the state in which they live. These analyses highlight the importance of a more comprehensive evaluation of citizen-state interactions that takes into account the spectrum of choices citizens may or may not have for accessing public services, thus providing a more complete view of democratic practice in India today.

Last updated on 05/07/2014