124. Reading Skills Comprehension: Transfer of Power.

Transfer of Power

Read the passages given below and answer the questions that follow them:                          

After about seven decades of India’s independence, two aspects of the country’s political evolution are noteworthy. The first is the institutionalization of the periodic transfer of power, peacefully and predictably, recently evident in NDA’s victory earlier this year. But the journey has been much rockier with regard to another critical question: how to direct that power for the broader public good.

While popular commentary on political power focused on its misuse for private gain or corruption, there has been less attention on the limited ability of political power to translate intentions into outcomes.

The history of independent India is replete with government programmes, ranging from state-owned enterprises to multiple poverty programmes, where political power did have good intentions, but where outcomes have left much to be desired. Critics have put the onus on misaligned incentives and a craven political-bureaucratic nexus.

These factors have their roots in a distinctive feature of India’s political evolution: namely, the weakness of the Indian state, hobbled as much by lack of competence as by corruption. Historically the state in India has always been weak and this changed only modestly after Independence. Yes, the state expanded massively; and yes the social composition of the functionaries of the Indian state has changed markedly.

Size and social legitimacy undoubtedly have built state ‘strength’ — the negative power of the Indian state to thwart is certainly manifest. But positive power — the power to do something, to execute programmes and provide basic public goods that are the bread and butter of a state’s responsibilities to its citizens — is still afar crying.

Why strong states develop in some societies and not in others is a complex historical question. O argument is that a strong state can only be built on a firm foundation of nationhood which itself is still a work-in-progress in India. Another view is that warfare laid the foundations of the modem nation-state especially in Europe and East Asia.

Historian Charles Tilly famously argued that states make war and war makes states, a reference to the rise of the modern European state after centuries of warfare among hundreds of politics and kingdoms. The ability to wage war successfully requires states to create viable systems of taxation, mobilization and coordination — and only those states that can survive. But these attributes are also critical for any modern state to deliver public goods and services. —Devesh Kapur


1. How has the transfer of power in India taken place?

2. Why has the journey been much rockier regarding the second critical question?

3. Why has there been less attention to the implementation of schemes?

4. What were the outcomes of the good intentions of the government?

5. Whom do critics hold responsible for this poor show?

6. What has still remained a far cry?

7. What is another view regarding laying the foundation of the modern nation-state?

8. What did the historian Charles Tilly argue?


1. The transfer of power in India has taken place quite peacefully and in a democratic manner.

2. Regarding translating good intentions into the solid result, the journey has been quite rockier for the government so far.

3. There has been more stress on talking than, giving attention to the implementation, of schemes by the government.

4. The outcomes of the good intentions of the government were not very encouraging.

5. Misaligned incentives and the nexus between politicians and bureaucrats have been held responsible for the poor show.

6. Providing relief to the masses and implementing the welfare programmes has remained a far cry so far.

7. Another view is that warfare laid the foundations of the modern nation-state in Europe and East Asia.

8. Historian Charles Tilly argued that states make war and war makes states.

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