The RTE Act in Bengaluru: A Study in the Contradictions of Neoliberal Welfare
Nott, Lavanya Anupama
In this paper, I locate welfare policies within the broader dynamics of the state’s relationship to capital, the hegemony of the neoliberal rationality, and class and caste politics. I ground my theoretical questions in the aftermath of the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, based on my fieldwork in Bengaluru in early 2019. One clause of the Act, which required all privately owned schools to reserve 25% of their seats for students from socially and economically disadvantaged groups, was the subject of a fair amount of debate and generated the ire of private school associations and much of the middle and elite classes. Placing the Act within the broader context of the welfare architecture of the last few decades that falls into the framework of “inclusive growth,” I question the credibility of a welfare paradigm that sits comfortably alongside free-market capitalism. The case of the RTE in particular is demonstrative of the retreat of the state and its legitimizing of the expansion of the private sector. Engaging scholarship on the poverty, neoliberalism, and the relationship of the developmental state with the economy, I argue that the class antagonisms that came to the surface in Bengaluru in response to the RTE Act demonstrate the inherent limitations of a politics of welfare that simultaneously legitimizes the neoliberal project and ignores the structural nature of poverty and inequality as rooted in capitalist development. In this case, what transpired was middle-class and elite anxiety about the possible erasure of existing class markers, and consequent attempts to re-draw lines of exclusivity and power.
South Asian studies; Bengaluru; Class; Education; Sociology; Poverty; Neoliberalism
Munasinghe, Viranjini P.
M.A., Asian Studies
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis