Vanita Leah Falcao

King's College London


Vanita Leah Falcao is a public policy analyst who is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Scholar at King’s College London. Her research project ‘Food Security in India: Sub-nationalism and rights-based social policy’ seeks to explore questions related to democratic contestation, federalism, and social justice in light of the rights-based approach to welfare provisioning, adopted in India since 2005.

In the past, as a member of the Social Protection and Labor – Global Practice of the World Bank, she conducted state-level assessments of safety nets in India. She has also assisted the Office of the Food Commissioners of the Supreme Court of India in monitoring the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013. She is a Fulbright-Nehru fellow and holds an MA in public policy from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, USA.

PhD Abstract

The project Food Security in India: Sub-nationalism and rights-based social policy explores if the rights-based approach (RBA) to social welfare provisioning, has resulted in the deepening of democracy at the local level.

Scholars argue that the understanding of democracy should move beyond electoral processes and voter-turnout, and should take into account the more substantive aspects of democracy. In particular, how state institutions functions, and how people use the rights conferred on them as citizens.

Since 2005, the adoption of the RBA has resulted in a number of new laws being passed by the Indian Parliament to recognise the rights of citizens to state-sponsored welfare. In theory, the recognition of these rights shifts the onus of citizens realising their entitlements onto the state. The state is now accountable for putting in place schemes, systems, finances and guidelines for the realisation of these citizen rights. However, what does the adoption of the RBA mean for peoples’ ability to exercise their right to state-sponsored welfare?

Through conversations about the National Food Security Act 2013, with officials, activists, and citizens at the sub-national level in rural India, this project examines if and how the RBA has influenced state-citizen interaction. It seeks to explore if the understanding of the RBA to welfare has percolated to the lowest administrative levels i.e. the block and below, to shape language, imaginations, and abilities of state functionaries and citizens.

In doing so, this study aims to comment on how democracy at the grassroots level has been facilitated or constrained by the adoption of the RBA. Further, it will identify spaces and opportunities for policy reform.