The puzzle of unspent social welfare funds in India: Preliminary insights into the administrative state from the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund
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Deval Desai, University of Edinburgh.
The puzzle of unspent social welfare funds in India: Preliminary insights into the administrative state from the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund.
In this paper, we introduce our study of unspent social special-purpose funds in India, and the dimensions of the administrative state on which they cast light. 'Social special-purpose funds' refer to, first, funds that have been collected directly pursuant to state law, for a specific social purpose that would otherwise be the domain of discretionary state policy. Such funds may be collected through hypothecated taxes, but also through alternative channels. Second, these funds are held in some vehicle that reflects their social purpose (such as a public or private trust, or a corporation) rather than simply being absorbed into ordinary administrative budget lines. By 'unspent', we refer to instances where a significant proportion of these funds remains both uncaptured by other interests and undisbursed during the fiscal year to the beneficiaries for which they were earmarked. Persistent unspent amounts are high: in the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund alone, we find around 3,500 – 5,000 crore INR.
An introductory piece, the paper sets the empirical scene of unspent funds, and considers several extant explanations of underspending, which range from bureaucratic incompetence to political instrumentality. It then introduces some of the analytic tools we propose to use to articulate the funds with some subset of ideas about the administrative state (from fiscal sociologies, ethnographies of administration, and comparative administrative law). It finally hints at some of the potential state-theoretic payoffs of an enquiry into these funds using these tools.
Deval Desai is Lecturer in International Economic Law at the University of Edinburgh. His work focuses on law and development, administrative law and regulation, (de)colonial patterns of knowledge and authority, and theories of the state in the Global South. He is the author of the forthcoming Expert Ignorance: The Law and Politics of Rule of Law Reform (Cambridge University Press).
- Speaker: Deval Desai (University of Edinburgh)