Trust in Government and Subsidy Reform: Evidence from a Survey of Indian Farmers

Studies in Comparative International Development, Forthcoming

84 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2018 Last revised: 19 Apr 2018

Date Written: March 27, 2018


What accounts for the persistence of inefficient subsidies? What are the obstacles to their reform? We examine the role of trust in government among farmers in explaining support for reforming India's energy subsidies. The subsidies under study hold back efforts to provide a reliable supply of agricultural power and contribute to the unsustainable extraction of groundwater. This water-energy nexus in rural India represents both a poverty-perpetuating policy equilibrium and a crisis in environmental governance. Informed by interviews and focus groups, we conduct an original survey of 2,010 farmers in Bihar, Gujarat, and Rajasthan and analyze this data on the preferences of 'vested interests' -- those most affected by potential reform -- to demonstrate the crucial role of political trust, especially trust in the national government, in predicting farmers' political support for reforms. Our findings have practical implications for environmental governance and rural development, and contribute to understanding the political economy of social policy reform in a developing democracy.

Keywords: subsidies; social policies; trust; electricity; public opinion

Suggested Citation

Alkon, Meir and Urpelainen, Johannes, Trust in Government and Subsidy Reform: Evidence from a Survey of Indian Farmers (March 27, 2018). Studies in Comparative International Development, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Meir Alkon

Harvard University ( email )

MA 02138
United States

Johannes Urpelainen (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins SAIS ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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