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Great Expectations, Great Grievances: The Politics of Citizens' Complaints in India

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To complain to and about government is an essential political act, with consequences for citizen-state relations. This article examines these dynamics in the policing sector, through a study of grievance redressal hearings in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The hearings provide a critical channel to justice for some of the most marginalized, including women. However, most participants become less satisfied following their hearings, as initial hopes are dashed against the constraints of local policing. The study highlights the promise and limits of formal complaints mechanisms, which can amplify citizens' voices but-when coupled with an expectations gap-can also deepen grievances. Complaining, I argue, is a powerful but at times paradoxical form of voice, conditioned by citizens' expectations and by state capacity.

Keywords: ACCOUNTABILITY; CITIZENSHIP; COMPLAINTS; GRIEVANCES; INDIA; POLICE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2021

This article was made available online on February 10, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "Great Expectations, Great Grievances: The Politics of Citizens’ Complaints in India".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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