Closing the Implementation Gap: Grievance Redress and India's Social Welfare Programs

53 Columbia J. of Transnational Law (320) (2015)

42 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2013 Last revised: 5 Mar 2017

Nick Robinson

Yale Law School; Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession; Center for Policy Research (India)

Date Written: August 19, 2013


Poor implementation of social welfare programs is a chronic challenge in developing countries such as India. Yet, despite the large number of people affected and the serious consequences of implementation failure, there have been few studies, and even less theorization, of grievance redress in these contexts. Based on fieldwork conducted by the author, this article examines grievance redress mechanisms for social welfare programs in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Borrowing from the idea of “accountability regimes” developed in the administrative law literature, the article proposes a comparable set of “grievance redress regimes”. It creates a matrix to weigh the relative merits of different grievance redress regimes and judge how new redress mechanisms affect them. It argues this approach can help policymakers more accurately pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of specific grievance redress mechanisms, imagine a broader range of policy prescriptions, and ensure that different grievance redress mechanisms support, not undermine, each other. In concluding, the article weighs the merits of three tactics used in India to strengthen grievance regimes that it labels “level jumping”, “rights to implementation”, and the creation of “implementation advocates”.

Keywords: Social and economic rights, accountability, law and development, institutional design, administrative law, grievance redress

JEL Classification: K41, K23, K42, K10

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Nick, Closing the Implementation Gap: Grievance Redress and India's Social Welfare Programs (August 19, 2013). 53 Columbia J. of Transnational Law (320) (2015). Available at SSRN: or

Nick Robinson (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Center for Policy Research (India) ( email )

Dharma Marg
New Delhi, 110022

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