Food and Shelter: Village Lives in India and China Compared
This thesis examines the wellbeing of India and China’s rural-dwellers in Bihar and Gansu administrative units. It focuses on the food and shelter situation within these regions, from the standpoint of the existing status quo and ongoing trends. Moreover, it gives particular consideration to India and China’s governments’ role in the relevant wellbeing outcomes. Accordingly, this thesis argues for the importance of state capacity, and interest alignment, in driving forward development and preventing avoidable death or suffering. This provides a new angle on the dominant, Amartya Sen-inspired development models that emphasize free choice and democracy as the most immediate and preeminent development concerns. Thus, as this thesis proceeds to show, such Senian priorities increasingly lose value in contexts where weak state capacity or non-interest cannot deliver core well-being essentials. For example, populations that continue to either perish or persist with severe impairments from starvation, malnutrition and occupancy of uninhabitable dwellings are unable to exercise substantive freedoms in a manner envisioned by Sen. However, this does not mean this thesis undervalues democracy and freedom, but rather contends, alongside the most recent development sequencing literature, that strong state capacity is a prerequisite for the implementation of stable, lasting and functional democracy. Indeed, state capacity can give people the essential well-being basics to value, comprehend and utilize their freedoms in a full and non-exploited manner. Consequently, this thesis draws on a two-year fieldwork study in Bihar and Gansu’s villages and relies on 230 (215 valid) semi open-ended questionnaires, 29 stakeholder interviews, three focus group discussions and other relevant sources to bolster its argument and analysis.