About Delivering public services effectively: TN & Beyond

This article is a part of a short series introducing my book, “Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu & Beyond”

There is a wide diversity in the provision of public services in India.  In some states one can go miles without seeing a functional school, public health centre, or a well-maintained road. In contrast, a few states provide public services to all in an efficient manner.  In this book I discuss how Tamil Nadu, one of the remarkable states, developed its social commitment to delivering services effectively.

When it comes to delivering public services, Tamil Nadu is distinguished from most other states both in terms of the quality of services and in the number of people that these services reach.  For example, Tamil Nadu is among the top states when it comes to full immunization of children, availability of primary schools, primary health centres, ante-natal care for pregnant women and many other aspects of public service delivery.  Such services are physically and socially accessible to an overwhelming majority of the population as it has been documented in numerous surveys and studies[1].

Along with widespread availability, a lot of thought and effort have gone into ensuring that these services function well.  The table below summarizes the key differences in the functioning of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in Tamil Nadu and North Indian states.  Similarly, the Public Distribution System (PDS), public health, schools, mid-day meals, public transport and other public services also function better in Tamil Nadu than in most other parts of India.  This book examines how such a difference came about by examining the roots of social commitment to public services in Tamil Nadu.  A summary of that argument is available in the next piece of this series.

Facilities in ICDS centres of Tamil Nadu and other states

Own building  88  18
Kitchen  85  30
Storage facilities  88  58
Medicine kit  81  22
Toilet  44  17
Average opening hours per day  6.5  3.5
% children who attend regularly (b)
Age 0-3  59  20
Age 3-6  87  56
% mothers who report that:
Pre-school education takes place  89  47
Motivation of the worker is “high”  67  39
Worker ever visited them at home  58  22
% women who had PNC (d)  100  55
% children who are “fully immunized” (c)  71  41
Avg. months since training  6  30
% workers who have not been paid (e)  0  22


(a) Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh

(b) Among those enrolled at the local Anganwadi; responses from mothers.

(c) Based on assessment of investigators.

(d) Among those who delivered a baby during the preceding 12 months.

(e) Workers who have not been paid in the last three months before the survey.

Articles in the series

[1] Detailed references are available in the introduction.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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