About Me


A social scientist based at Stanford University. Previously coordinated the Support Group of India’s Right to Food Campaign

New Book

Delivering effective - cover

Why does Tamil Nadu provide public services much more effectively than most other states of India?

Liberation Technology


How can we harness the power of technology to make governments more accountable and democratic

Recent articles

The train to Hirapur.  Image credit: Itinerant Observer.

How I became interested in TN’s public services

My training in mainstream economics and my social background had convinced me that government programmes to address hunger were a waste of public resources. I adhered to the idea that they should be eliminated in favour of promoting economic growth. That changed in 2002 when I travelled to the Chambal Valley of Madhya Pradesh, which was suffering its third consecutive year of drought. Here is a short note on that transformation.

Hyderi Mansion in 1947

Hyderi Mansion: Gandhi’s greatest moment in shambles

A note and some pictures from a bittersweet visit to the place where Gandhi sat on a fast for peace at the dawn of India’s independence. Hyderi Mansion (Calcutta) lies in shambles today, much like his memory.


Combatting corruption with mobile phones

A project for proactive transparency using mobile phones

Loving her more than a squrriel

Two tips for expressing love to your wife

On using academic training to express love…and if you are wondering what a squirrel is doing here, read on!


Thinking of NREGA from the beautiful Adirondacks

The spectacular work of CCC in restoring the Adirondacks after fire gives me some dreams for NREGA in India.


NREGA for the disabled

NREGA presents an unprecedented opportunity for disabled persons across India to earn a living and to showcase their talents. But as things stand, NREGA is not designed for disabled people to participate in it, but we can change it all with some tweaking.


Making peace with the peace prize

The selection of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for the Nobel Peace Prize has created a debate on how deserving they are for the prize.  Here is my two cents. Nobel prizes in general are awarded to people whose work has had a transformative impact on their field, often based on life-long work.  In general, […]


Why public services & not land reforms?

The fact that common people started becoming assertive only helps us understand why governments became more responsive to popular demands. It does not explain why public services, rather than an alternate policy agenda such as land reforms or rapid industrialization became the favoured policy. This article discusses how that agenda came to be.


Why decentralized action increased from 70s in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu faced a series of favourable changes that made it possible for people to mobilize for their causes more effectively, and without less of a threat of adverse consequences.

Statue of Anna waving the DMK flag

Decentralized action & Great social movements of Tamil Nadu

The great social movements of the past such as Dravidian or Communist movements were top-led, whereas decentralized public action is initiated at the grassroots and led from within villages.

Schooled early in the culture of protests

The root of TN’s commitment to services

In many villages, people had fought for decades to demand one amenity after another. As an activist put it, they would struggle one year and get 100 metres of road, street lights required another protest, and many basic amenities had to be gained through sustained collective action. The impact of such protests over time was to gain an impressive array of services. Such protests date back at most to the 1970s.


Welcome to Vivek’s Info, my place to share my research, debate issues and indulge in good old gossip.  Please use the links on the top or the right to find the content you are looking for.  Hope you enjoy your stay while you are here.