Dynamics of Nuclear Energy Policies in India: A Case Study on the Emergence of Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
DOI10.1177/0019556118790705
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Indian Journal of Public
Administration
64(4) 664–685
© 2018 IIPA
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0019556118790705
http://journals.sagepub.com/home/ipa
1 Doctoral Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant, Public and Nonprof‌it Management Program,
School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, TX, USA.
2 Associate Professor and PhD Director, Public and Nonprof‌it Management Program, School of
Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, TX, USA.
Corresponding author:
Meghna Sabharwal, Associate Professor and PhD Director, Public and Nonprof‌it Management
Program, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, TX
75080, USA.
E-mail: meghna.sabharwal@utdallas.edu
Dynamics of Nuclear Energy
Policies in India: A Case
Study on the Emergence
of Nuclear Safety
Regulatory Authority
Md. Fazle Rabbi1
Meghna Sabharwal2
Abstract
This study analyses the dynamics of nuclear energy policies in India by using
Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET) and examines the emergence of India’s
Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) bill as an outcome of punctuation
of policy equilibrium. In doing so, the initial part of the study focuses on origin,
diffusion and antecedents of independent regulatory agencies (IRAs) to position PET
as a theoretical framework, and in the latter part, we analyse the phenomenon
of the emergence of the NSRA bill in light of PET. The study finds that the
dynamics of nuclear energy policies in India follow a pattern inscribed in the
PET and the emergence of NSRA bill can be ascribed to the punctuation of
a long sustaining policy equilibrium maintained from 1948 to 2010. The active
engagement of multiple policy venues such as the Parliament and the judiciary, an
unprecedented level of public protest and increased media attention triggered
by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in 2011 catalysed the end of an
equilibrium and compelled the policymakers to introduce a bill for establishing an
independent regulatory agency, that is, NSRA, to oversee nuclear safety in India.
Keywords
Independent regulatory agencies, punctuated equilibrium theory, nuclear energy
in India, nuclear safety in India
Rabbi and Sabharwal 665
Introduction
Independent regulatory agencies (IRAs) attract worldwide attention for their
unique characteristics and specific functions. Unique in the sense that primarily
they fall under the purview of the executive organ of the state, but they enjoy
considerable latitude in conducting their functions. They are not subject to the
day-to-day control of the president or bureau, yet are not entirely independent of
political control (Bianculli, Fernandez-i-Marin, & Jordana, 2013; Shapiro, 1997).
The functions of IRAs are specific and dominated by rule-making and regulating
which are core responsibilities of the government. Defined as ‘a non-depart-
mental public organization mainly involved with rule-making, which may also be
responsible for fact-finding, monitoring, adjudication, and enforcement’ (Levi-
Faur, 2011, p. 11), an IRA is independent in that it can determine its own priority,
and formulate and enforce its rules. The autonomy is often granted by an act
promulgated for its establishment and defining its jurisdiction (ibid.).
The need for a nuclear IRA in India emerges due to the absence of an agency
which can independently monitor and regulate its nuclear energy programme and
ensure that the programme maintains appropriate safety standards and upholds the
public interest. An IRA pertaining to nuclear programme/safety deserves special
attention as the sector is often shrouded in a veil of secrecy under the façade
of national security and strategic interest. Studying emergence of nuclear IRA
in India through the lenses of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET) should be
doubly rewarding as it offers an opportunity to examine the policy dynamics of
a strategically sensitive issue and test the applicability of PET, which is mostly
tested in developed societies (Baumgartner, Jones, & Mortensen, 2018), in a
different context.
This study analyses the dynamics of nuclear energy policies in India and
examines how policies continue/shift overtime, giving rise to a new policy agenda.
In doing so, the initial part of the study focuses on IRA—its origin, diffusion
and the antecedents—with a view to position PET as a theoretical framework for
studying IRA. In the latter part, it analyses a specific case, the emergence of the
Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) bill in India to determine whether
the emergence is an outcome of a policy process which follows a particular pattern
of successive equilibrium and punctuation as described in the PET.
IRAs: Origin and Diffusion
What is now considered as an IRA was introduced first in the USA with the
establishment of Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1887. IRAs surged in
the USA during the early twentieth century and continued rising in numbers
until post-World War II era. The USA experienced stagnation in the growth of
IRAs during the 1950s–1970s while West Europe witnessed a noticeable growth
following the period. IRAs grew rapidly in Europe and Latin America in the
1980s and became a worldwide phenomenon in the 1990s.
Regionally, Western Europe and Latin America can be viewed as the fore-
runner in establishing IRAs during the recent past. Western Europe experienced

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