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Accelerating India's Development

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Karthik Muralidharan is the Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Economics at the University of Califor... Read More

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Karthik Muralidharan is the Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Economics at the University of California San Diego. His research spans public finance and development economics, with a focus on improving education, health, welfare, and public service delivery, and has been published in many of the world’s leading academic journals. He has also actively engaged in policy advising and capacity building in India at both Central and state-government levels, and in public communication of research insights through several op-eds and podcasts.

Professor Muralidharan is also the co-founder and scientific director of the Centre for Effective Governance of Indian States, a non-profit organization that works with multiple state governments across India to improve state capacity, governance, and service delivery. Born and raised in India, he holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard, an MPhil from Cambridge (UK), and a PhD in economics from Harvard.

Seventy-five years after Independence, India has much to be proud of. We are the world’s biggest democracy as well as the fastest-growing large economy. Yet, we also face profound challenges that hinder both individual well-being and aggregate growth, including education and skills, health and nutrition, public safety, justice, social protection, and jobs.

This seminal book systematically analyses India’s governance challenges, especially in delivering essential public services, and highlights how these are limiting India’s development. Drawing on a wealth of research and practical insights, it provides actionable, evidence-based strategies, emphasizing state-level reforms as critical for India’s advancement.

Accelerating India’s Development is addressed to all Indians—leaders, officials, entrepreneurs, teachers, students, citizens, and civil society—and provides an urgent call to action. It argues that building a more effective state is the great unfinished task of Indian democracy, because quality public services are key to translating the political equality of ‘one person, one vote’ into greater equality of opportunity for all Indians.

Every chapter showcases the author’s dedication to bridging the gap between scholarly research, public understanding, and actionable governance. This book is a testament to cautious optimism and the belief that with the right public systems in place, the next twenty-five years can be a period of unprecedented growth and societal enrichment for India.

The 1991 economic reforms were all about dismantling a highly dysfunctional system of government interference with what was much better done by the market. This needed to be accompanied by the government playing a much stronger role in critical areas, notably the delivery of high-quality public services such as education and health, and also the rule of law. These are areas where our performance needs to be greatly improved if we are to achieve the objective of inclusive growth leading to high income status. In this magisterial book, Karthik Muralidharan draws on extensive research and practice to tell us how this is best done. Since these issues are Constitutionally state subjects, the book highlights the importance of state-level actions. Since much of what needs to be done in the years ahead lies primarily in the realm of the states, the book also recommends much greater decentralisation from centre to state, and from state to local governments. It sets an ambitious national agenda for evolving a well-considered programme of centre-state cooperation, which will be essential if we are to make progress in these areas.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia: Former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India; Former Finance Secretary, Govt. of India

In a context where rapid technological change, global crises, and international capital markets have captured the headlines about the world economy, Karthik Muralidharan reminds us that at the heart of economic growth and welfare of nations is state capacity. Karthik’s message is not a simply a rediscovery of the role of state in economic development. It is a comprehensive reimagination and recrafting of the concept of state capacity and why and how it affects the welfare of nations. For political leaders and policy makers, this book is a clear guide on what drives national development. For students researching the economic growth paths of nations, Karthik’s treatise offers a powerful analytical framework, based on decades of meticulous research. To his credit, Karthik has intelligently drawn from beyond the usual narrow boundaries of RCT analysis to reflect on the larger story of national development. For those interested in the transformation of nations and those who follow the global footprint of India – this book is a “must-read”.

Junaid Kamal Ahmed, Vice President Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); Former World Bank Country Director for India

Karthik Muralidharan’s wonderful empirical work has made us understand provision of public goods better, especially in social sectors. He brings that wealth of research experience and his incisive lens to bear in crafting this ambitious book on India’s future development trajectory, with an emphasis on state capacity, and ideas for improvement. This is a major contribution in an area often neglected, and will make us think about reinventing the Indian State, as we embark on our journey towards a developed India.

Bibek Debroy, Chairman Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister
There is a trove of simple policy reforms in India that could go a long way in improving people’s lives. However, they are not easy to find, let alone initiate. Karthik Muralidharan’s sustained quest for evidence-based reforms is an important contribution to this effort. This book presents a rich application of an approach to policymaking that cannot be ignored even when we differ.

Jean Drèze, honorary professor, Delhi School of Economics; and co-author of
Hunger and Public Action, and An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions

A well written and enjoyable read for both laypeople and experts. The solutions to building stronger state capacity are practical, recognizing that ours is a highly stratified society, and within that suggesting solutions which would work in everyone’s interest. For me, an important part is understanding the role for civil society and the ways in which a broad social coalition can be built to further this goal.

Renana Jhabvala: Chairperson, SEWA Bharat

This wonderful book by Prof. Muralidharan is a seminal contribution to the theory and praxis of economic transformation of a large country. Every country is of course unique in its own ways, but the sheer size of India makes the tasks facing the policymakers rather daunting. In coming years these challenges are getting more complex while the urgency to meet them is becoming greater as that the growth accelerator called “demographic dividend” is slowing down with every passing day. Fortunately, this is precisely where Prof. Muralidharan’s policy insights offered in this book are almost heaven sent to our policymakers. I hope they will “just do it.”
Vijay Kelkar: Chairman 13th Finance Commission; Former Finance Secretary, Govt. of India; co-author of In Service of the Republic

After decades of excessive state control of the economy, and slow growth, India broke out of its earlier development paradigm in the early 1990s and began to increase and improve the role of markets in the economy. Paradoxically over the next three decades it turns out that the binding constraint on greater growth is “state capacity”. Karthik Muralidharan comprehensively addresses this quest for a better and smarter state in this master volume. The definitive work on the subject which needs to be read by everyone connected with and interested in development.

Dr. KP Krishnan: Chairman Shriram Capital; Former Secretary (Skills), Govt. of India

This book addresses India's critical challenges in education, health, safety, justice, welfare, and jobs, and offers an actionable roadmap for better governance and improved public service delivery. Every chapter blends academic rigour with practical relevance in highly accessible writing. Essential reading for anyone interested in India’s development, it provides an invaluable guide for India’s leaders and policymakers to drive national progress."

Nandan Nilekani: Chairman and Co-Founder Infosys, Founding Chairman UIDAI (Aadhaar)

This is an excellent book with enormous data, research findings, and astonishing insights into what ails our system. I am yet to see anything so exhaustive that covers almost every gamut of governance. Researchers and practitioners have written on specific issues or sectors, but this book covers everything! It is highly accessible to non-experts, but is also packed with new insights and actionable reform ideas even for lifelong veterans of governance and policy. As a former Chief Secretary, I am also delighted to see a book focused on state-level actions to accelerate India's development. This book can be of immense help in setting a national agenda for governance reforms.

Dr. Rajiv Sharma: Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Telangana


This book features a potent combination of academic rigour and practical realism, offering both diagnosis and prescription. It has outstanding conceptual frameworks and many valuable insights, but one is of particular import: a focus on budget allocation may be a distraction from the more important issue of improving the quality of expenditure. It will be of high value to academics, practitioners, and any reader interested in governance, policy, and India's future.

T V Somanathan: Finance Secretary, Govt. of India and co-author of State Capability in India

Product Details

Title: Accelerating India's Development
Author: Karthik Muralidharan
SKU: BK0501807
EAN: 9780670095940
Language: eng

About Author

Karthik Muralidharan is the Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Economics at the University of California San Diego. His research spans public finance and development economics, with a focus on improving education, health, welfare, and public service delivery, and has been published in many of the world’s leading academic journals. He has also actively engaged in policy advising and capacity building in India at both Central and state-government levels, and in public communication of research insights through several op-eds and podcasts.

Professor Muralidharan is also the co-founder and scientific director of the Centre for Effective Governance of Indian States, a non-profit organization that works with multiple state governments across India to improve state capacity, governance, and service delivery. Born and raised in India, he holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard, an MPhil from Cambridge (UK), and a PhD in economics from Harvard.

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