Modern South Asian Studies seminar TT21 Wk 1: Capturing Institutional Change: the Case of the Right to Information Act in India

Conveners: Imre Bangha, Polly O'Hanlon, and Kate Sullivan de Estrada

Speaker: Himanshu Jha (Heidelberg)


In Capturing Institutional Change: The Case of the Right to Information Act in India, I examine the how and why of institutional change through the lenses of transformation in the ‘information regime’ in India by tracing the passage of the Right to Information Act (RTIA), 2005. In India, historically, the state had embraced the norm of secrecy. Despite this persisting legacy, the Indian state promulgated the Right to Information Act (RTIA) in 2005. What explains this insitutional change ? Using archival material, internal government documents, and interviews, this book uses an alternative historical institutional approach to problematize the dominant (and somewhat settled) narratives about the evolution of RTIA and sets the history straight.



Himanshu Jha teaches in the Department of Political Science at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany. He holds a PhD from the National University of Singapore; M.Phil in Public Policy from the Australian National University; Masters in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and a Bachelors degree in History (Hons.) from the University of Delhi. His research focuses on institutional change, governance and development, politics of accountability, state capacity and bureaucratic rationality. Himanshu’s most recent book titled Capturing Institutional Change: the Case of the Right to Information Act in India (Oxford University Press) explores the why, how and what of institutional change using a historical institutional lens. Building on the current body of work he has further probed institutional progression and its deepening at the sub-national level. His fieldwork in the eastern Indian state of Bihar examines the emerging politics of accountability and shows that the Right To Information has opened a new space of accountability giving rise to a new form of citizen agency, whose practitioners he calls ‘agents of accountability’.  Himanshu has published widely in academic journals, edited books and contributed his views in the popular media. Prior to his academic engagement, he worked in the developmental sector in India where , he focussed on blending academic, socially relevant and action based research with active advocacy at various policy levels.

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