Thursday, July 29, 2010

Obama signs Tribal Law and Order Act

Listen here to NPR's report about the new law. Essentially, this law mandates greater cooperation between federal authorities and tribal authorities regarding prosecution of felonies. If the U.S. government decides not to prosecute, the tribe must be notified so that it may make a decision about prosecuting. Currently, the U.S. government decides not to prosecute in many cases, but it does not necessarily pass the files onto the tribes, who are sovereigns that often have concurrent jurisdiction. An excerpt from Carolyn Beeler's report follows:
The new law also increases the maximum sentence that can be handed down in tribal court, now up to three years, and it provides more training to law enforcement officials on how to collect evidence in cases of sexual assault.
Sarah Deer is a tribal law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota. She says the new law is a huge win for Native American women. As a 2008 NPR series revealed, they suffered high sexual assault rates on reservations as a result of problems in law enforcement.

Professor SARAH DEER (Professor of Tribal Law, William Mitchell College of Law): We've talked to victims whose cases seem to have disappeared. They don't know who's investigating, if anyone. They can't get phone calls returned. Improved collaboration and communication is going to make a big difference for victims.

* * *

Prof. DEER: When you have confusion about even who's supposed to respond to a call, and you have confusion about the investigation process, all of that added together, victims fall through the crack pretty quickly.

The story also touches on the resource and spatial challenges facing tribal law enforcement. Here's a quote from Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a sponsor of the law:
We have a reservation that's the size of the state of Connecticut that had nine law enforcement officials - nine. That meant a violent crime in progress called in to law enforcement, you might not have someone show up till later in the day or the next day to address it.
The rate of violent crime on Indian reservations is more than twice that elsewhere in the U.S.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A second Homestead Act in Beatrice, Nebraska

Monica Davey reports today in the New York Times on communities around the country--some rural and some urban--who are offering free land to folks who will, well, homestead it. Mostly the municipalities, whether small or large, from Dayton, Ohio, to Beatrice, Nebraska, are giving away the land in an effort to bolster tax revenues and reduce expenses, such as those associated with mowing vacant land. Here's an excerpt from the story, this part focusing on Beatrice, population 12,496, and the site of the first recorded homesteader, Daniel Freeman, in 1863. Now Beatrice has passed the Homestead Act of 2010:

The calculus is simple, if counterintuitive: hand out city land now to ensure property tax revenues in the future.

“There are only so many ball fields a place can build,” Tobias J. Tempelmeyer, the [Beatrice]city attorney, said the other day as he stared out at grassy lots, planted with lonely mailboxes, that the city is working to get rid of. “It really hurts having all this stuff off the tax rolls.”

This isn't the first time a Nebraska community has given away land, but the motive in the past has been more about stemming population loss and sustaining communities than about raising revenue. Read more here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXIII): Former county judge pleads guilty to fraud

The top story in the July 21, 2010 edition of the Newton County Times is about former county judge (the county's chief administrative officer), Harold Smith, 57, pleading guilty in federal court "to conducting at least six fraudulent deals that took almost $70,000 from county funds." He will be sentenced following the federal judge' receipt of a report from the U.S. Probation Office. His sentence could be as great as 20 years, with a $250,000 fine.

One of the fraudulent deals was described in great detail.
In 2008, when Smith was looking for a D6Cat Bulldozer, Troy Rhea, a salesman with Hugg and Hall Heavy Equipment in Little Rock, offered to sell him a 1971 dozer and other equipment from Baxter County.

Smith told the salesman that he was interested in a lowboy trailer and a Cat loader for the county, but he wanted the dozer for a family member. The salesman priced the bulldozer at $7500. Smith had the salesman knock $5000 off the bulldozer price and add it to the low boy trailer the county was buying.

Smith paid $2,500 for the dozer and had it delivered about May 14, 2008 to the home of "Person A," who is not otherwise identified in the stipulation except that he was doing dirt work for the county at the time as a private contractor.

Smith said someone referred to the in the stipulation only as "Mr. Coffman" was buying the dozer. The salesman never met "Mr. Coffman," and it was unclear from the stipulation whether he exists.

At Smith's direction, "Person A" put new tracks on the dozer and put the $7,600 cost on an invoice "Person A" was sending the county for his dirt work.

The next month, "Person A" and Smith fabricated a bill of sale making it appear that "Person A" bought the dozer from "Mr. Coffman" for $15,000. "Person A" sold the dozer to Newton County for $26,900.

"Person A" cashed the county check and gave the $26,900 to Smith, both sides agreed.

Smith paid $2500 for the dozer and sold it through "Person A" to Newton County for $26,900, with a personal profit of $24,400, both Smith and the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed.

They agreed that Smith conducted five other similar fraudulent deals in which he sold heavy equipment to Newton County and made a person profit from the deal.

"The United States assures, and the defendant agrees, that the most readily provable loss amount to Newton County for all six deals was $69,410," according to the stipulation.
In other headlines:
  • 'Specialty Tire' disposal costly. This reports that the Northwest Arkansas Solid Waste Management District will be charging as little as $4.50 to dispose a farm front tire and as much as $46.50 to dispose of a large over-the-road tire.
  • Private company: Landfill won't make money. This story reports that "most solid waste board members walked out on a meeting with the manager of a private landfill company who warned that "their regional landfill isn't working right and won't make enough money to pay off its bonds." The story doesn't make clear what the problem is.
  • County sales tax meeting expectations. This report states that the 1.5% county sales tax is meeting expectations and that year-to-date funds are up about $5,000. County sales tax collections for June exceeded $45.3K, with more than $16.2K of that going to finance construction of the new jail. . The 1/2 cent sales tax for the jail produced almost $95K in the first six months of 2008.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A (sorta') feel good story out of West Texas

Wade Goodwyn reports today from Goree, Texas, population 321, on the Bobby Boatright Memorial Music Camp where folks come to learn how to play western swing.

Mostly, this is a feel good, human interest story, but it also features lots of references to population loss and community in rural America. Here are some evocative quotes:
Out here, people are scarce. There's the unavoidable knowledge that the past was greater than the present is or the future will ever be.
* * *

Everyone here, teachers and students, come from nearby small towns — some of them really small. Munday, Weinert, Knox City, Seymour, Benjamin and Pampa are the bigger towns. . . .

"Normally there's not many people around here, so I usually have to play by myself," [a 15-year-old camper] says. "But every now and then, I can find a jam session in Seymour or Knox City where I can go play with some people."

* * *

When you ask Cole [a 10-year-old camper] — or any of the other children here — why they have any interest in playing a style of music that was popular over half a century ago, the answer almost always involves family.

From the way they mimic their parents' style of dress and speech to the "yes sirs" and "no ma'ams," playing Western swing is a kind of love letter from younger to older generation, a voicing of solidarity. If this cowboy music and cowboy way of life is slowly fading away, it seems no one here wants it to.

* * *

Goodwyn calls the camp the "doing" of Tammy Trainham, wife of Goree's mayor, and that the 5-day camp "is all that's left between Goree and oblivion." Of her effort and the camp, Trainham says, "We're trying to rebirth a town. It was dead — graveyard dead." Indeed, population loss apparently led to the recent closure of Goree's junior high school, which somewhat ironically has become the new site of the camp. Goodwyn closes his report with a final nostalgic comment:

So here they are: School, music camp and town, trying to keep each other — and Western swing — going.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Disadvantage for rural whites in college admissions?

In his op-ed column in yesterday's New York Times, Ross Douthat highlights a 2009 book-length report on race, class and college admissions that suggests bias against rural whites.

While I have not yet read the study on which Douthat bases his column, it appears to be a highly credible one. Two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, studied admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges, and they published their findings in No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admissions and Campus Life.

Douthat highlights several findings from the study, including that "[a]n upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications." Douthat notes that outcomes are just the opposite for minority applicants, who are significantly more likely to be admitted if they are from families lower on the socioeconomic ladder. Douthat reports that Espenshade and Radford observe that "these institutions, conscious of their mandate to be multiethnic, may reserve their financial aid dollars 'for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students,' leaving little room to admit financially strapped whites."

But Douthat also suggests cultural bias against rural people, interests, and culture. In what Douthat calls one of the study's "most remarkable findings," Espenshade and Radford found that "while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances."

Douthat continues: "Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or 'Red America.'” This is not the only place in the piece where Douthat collapses rural with right-wing and Republican, and I don't endorse that collapse, though I have previously noted the increasing popular alignment of the rural-urban axis with the opposing sides in the culture wars. Read more here.

Of the "cultural divide" (whether real or perceived), Douthat calls it "a problem admissions officers at top-tier colleges might want to keep in mind when they’re assembling their freshman classes." He concludes:

If such universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there’s more to diversity than skin color — and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers.

Douthat's column, "The Roots of White Anxiety," has been the most emailed story on for more than 24 hours.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rural-urban differences in Argentine juries

Maria Ines Bergoglio presented a paper called "Metropolitan and Town Juries: The Influence of Social Context on Lay Participation" at Law & Society's Annual Meeting in Chicago this year. The abstract characterizes the paper as "describ[ing] the initial experience with mixed courts [of juries and judges] in the metropolitan area of Great Cordoba, and in the small cities of the province, in order to depict the impact of different social contexts on lay participation." Bergoglio analyzes the "support for citizen participation in legal decision making, the responses to the introduction of new mixed courts, and jury-judge agreement rates." The author notes that while lay participation in criminal trials was prescribed in Argentina's 1853 Constitution, the practice was only implemented in 2004 in the province of Cordoba. Bergoglio analyzes both qualitative and quantitative data from 2005-2008.

Bergoglio's findings (summarized beginning on p. 18 of the draft paper, which can be downloaded here) are:
  • resistance to lay participation is greater in cities, "where both technical abilities of lawyers and political activism of magistrates are higher, and it involved the presentation of constitutionality objections. Therefore, the implementation of lay participation advanced with better pace out the capital city."
  • Judicial authorities were decisive in supporting lay participation, rejecting constitutionality objections and dealing with practical difficulties, "particularly significant for courts located in small and middle size towns, generally short of buildings and administrative staff."
  • "we found similar unanimity rates in metropolitan and town areas, a finding that suggests that close social networks typical of towns do not affect the autonomy of lay citizens during the deliberation. However, where anonymity levels are low, jurors are more worried about the consequences of their decisions, and asked additional precautions to protect them from media exposure."
  • Finally, Bergoglio observed "rich political consequences of the [lay juror] experience. People who deliberate and jointly decide upon the guilt and the freedom of persons obtain a broader sense of joint membership in a political unit whose rules are partly derived from their work. They are able to make sound reflections about how the judiciary works, improving the quality of the public agenda on judicial politics. These effects are stronger among residents in small and middle size towns, who feel that politically important decisions are usually taken far from their places."
Download the full draft paper here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXII): Third intimate partner killing in as many years

As I ponder the most recent homicide in Newton County, reported here, I realize that this is the third death of a person at the hands of an intimate in as many years in the county. Making this all the more shocking is the fact that these have been the only three reported homicides in Newton County over these three years. The first two homicides were committed by women against male intimates. All three deaths involved the use of shotguns. Read about the other deaths here and here. In both of the earlier homicides, the shotguns used were stored--apparently loaded--in the families' respective living rooms,and children were present at the shooting deaths.

I am reminded of the statistic, discussed in the early pages of this article, that intimate partner violence is more likely to be deadly in rural areas than in urban ones.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXI): Details of killing revealed

The June 30 and July 7, 2010, issues of the Newton County Times have arrived, and the big crime news is a follow up on the shooting death of 40-year-old Alice Lloyd. Jackie Len Campbell, age 48 of Vendor, has been charged with capital murder in her death. The story reports that Campbell "has been charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, as well as committing a felony with a firearm, which could add years to any prison sentence if convicted." The story suggests that Campbell has implicated himself in Lloyd's death, saying he shot her in the chest while they were in his home. He then reportedly bathed the body in his bathtub, wrapped it in a blanket, and drove to "the Fort Douglas area of Johnson County, dumping her naked body into Piney Creek and returning to state Highway 123, where he set the car on fire. The affidavit said a Forestry Service Ranger came upon the burning car about 9:30 am, and Campbell sitting beside it. Campbell asked the ranger to drive to the swimming area to check on his girlfriend. The ranger did, but didn't locate anyone and drove back to Campbell, explaining to Campbell that no one was present. Campbell insisted the ranger take him to the swimming area. When they arrived, the ranger asked if he were satisfied that no one was present, but Campbell asked if the ranger had looked in the water. The ranger went to the edge of the water and saw a body floating a few feet from the bank. Johnson County authorities were notified and began processing the scene."

A subsequent search of Campbell's home revealed blood on the floor and walls of the bathroom and a 20-gauge shotgun on the bed across from the bathroom. The wound to Lloyd's chest is consistent with a 20-gauge shotgun wound.

In other headlines:
  • Owners maneuver to protect land from herbicides. This reports on property owners attempts to keep Carroll Electric Cooperative from spraying herbicides under power lines on their property. This has been a hot issue in the county for more than year because several property owners who requested that their land not be sprayed last year had it sprayed nevertheless. One such owner, an organic blueberry grower, is using a new form and documentation in a renewed effort to prevent his property from being sprayed again.

  • Criminal cases recently adjudicated in Newton County Circuit Court.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Farmworker exemption from overtime wages called remnant of "rural Jim Crow"

California state Senator Dean Florez made that comment regarding a California law that excludes field workers from the requirement that those working more than 8 hours a day or more than 40 hours a week be paid overtime. Florez is pushing for a bill that would eliminate this exception to overtime pay and give farm workers the same benefits to which other wage earners are entitled.

The exemption dates to 1941, when California's farm workers probably did work in more truly rural settings than they now do. Today, rural and agriculture are hardly synonymous, especially not in California's densely populated and highly metropolitan Central Valley, home to most of the state's Big Ag. Still, some California farm workers are in nonmetropolitan places, such as Modoc County, population 9,449. The population density of Modoc County is just 2.4 persons per square mile, compared to 134.1 for Fresno County and 109.2 for Merced County.

Read full coverage about the proposed change to the law in the Sacramento Bee here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LX): Man charged with murder

The June 23 issue of the Newton County Times reports that a 48-year-old man, Jackie Campbell of Vendor, has been charged with the murder of a 40-year-old woman, Alice Lloyd. The shooting death is believed to have occurred on June 16, though Campbell was not arrested and charged until Lloyd's body was recovered from "a swimming hole in the Hurricane area" of neighboring Johnson County. The news report suggests no motive but says authorities believe Campbell shot Lloyd at his home and then took her body to Johnson County.

Other headlines relate to the upcoming ElkFest and the naming of Newton County's Farm Family of the Year. Still others include these:
  • Forestry grants available for rural fire fighting equipment
  • Sewage continues to present health risks.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nostalgia for "Main Street" cinemas helps revive them in the plains

This story appeared on the front page of today's New York Times, and it is now on the top-10 most emailed story list on The dateline is Langdon, North Dakota, population 2,101, and the story is about the revival of Main Street cinemas in smallish towns, sometimes thanks to the assistance of volunteers who run them to break even. An excerpt follows:
The revival is not confined to North Dakota; Main Street movie houses like the Alamo in Bucksport, Me., the Luna in Clayton, N.M., and the Strand in Old Forge, N.Y., are flourishing as well. But in the Great Plains, where stop signs can be 50 miles apart and the nearest multiplex is 200 miles round trip, the town theater — one screen, one show a night, weekends only — is an anchoring force, especially for families.
Cecile Wehrman, a newspaper editor who helped resuscitate the Dakota in Crosby, North Dakota, population 1,089, explains that this phenomenon is about more than seeing a show: “[I]n a small town, the theater is like a neighborhood. It’s the see-and-be-seen, bring everyone and sit together kind of place.”

This is reminding me of one of my earliest jobs: working the concession stand at the Buffalo Theatre in Jasper, Arkansas, circa 1976-78, two films each week-end. One showed Friday night and the early show on Saturday. The other showed late on Saturday and on Sunday. I remember Smokey and the Bandit, Carrie, and Saturday Night Fever showing there. Sadly, the Buffalo has been closed for many years. Oh that it could be revived as these cinemas have been.

Lessons in Development and Democracy: From India to West Virginia

The closing line of my recent blog post asked: "Is even democracy a luxury for the poor?"

Shortly after writing it, I came across this quote by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, featured in the obituary of Senator Robert C. Byrd who died last week. Regarding the vast federal aid that Byrd garnered for West Virginia over the years, Rockefeller said Byrd knew that “before you can make life better, you have to have a road to get in there, and you have to have a sewerage system.”

This comment resonated with me, struck me as accurate. Yet it ran counter to my thinking about Robert C. Byrd for the past few decades. While I have always considered Byrd a fine man (well, aside from his Klan membership as a younger man) and appreciated his dedication to the Senate, I saw him primarily as a poster child for the excesses of pork barrel politics. Rarely was he in the news, it seems, without some mention of the federal aid he was able to channel to West Virginia. Indeed, his obituary in the New York Times states that he built, "always with canny political skills, a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money." Elsewhere, it includes this quote from Senator Byrd himself, “I lost no opportunity to promote funding for programs and projects of benefit to the people back home.” He referred to West Virginia as "one of the rock bottomest of states."

Rockefeller's comment, however, reminded me of what was at stake with all that aid for West Virginia. It was not only welcome centers and courthouses and such. It was the state's development from an economic backwater, which requires roads and bridges. As Rockefeller observed, advanced sanitation makes a big difference, too. Indeed, it goes hand in hand with education and other health and human services in enhancing the state's human capital.

The quote from Rockefeller also reminded me of this provocative line from Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (2008): "If I were making a country, I'd get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy." The White Tiger is a story from the other side of the world--from India--but it is related to what Byrd tried to do for West Virginia in several senses. The Indian story--like the story of many West Virginians--is about rural poverty. Its social, geographic, and economic context is the uneven development that has left rural India's residents behind while much of the rest of the nation zooms ahead in the name of progress (and, of course, capitalism). Parallels to rural West Virginia are apparent.

Rural road building in Jalandhar District, Punjab; (c) Gopal Aggarwal,

We city dwellers don't think much about sewage pipes. We take them for granted. But lots of people in the U.S. and in India don't have them. Indeed, some don't even have clean water. (Read U.S. stories here and here). When those living in metropolitan areas fret about roads, it is about getting a car pool lane, or sound walls, or even a whole new freeway. In rural areas, residents fret about how to get your (dirt) road graded, never mind getting it paved. (Read stories about the economic significance of road building in India, too, here and here).

Both the Rockefeller and Adiga quotes suggest the power of government to lift people out of poverty--perhaps even the nation state's duty to do so. If we agree that the government should play a role in responding to deprivation, is it fair for West Virginia to get more federal aid (assuming that it does on, say, a per capita basis) than, for example, Pennsylvania or Washington or Florida? Wouldn't it represent distributive equity to give West Virginia and similarly deprived states more? Of course, the Indian Constitution recognizes some socio-economic rights, e.g., the right to life, which has been construed to obligate the state to provide a certain healthcare and education infrastructure. The U.S. Constitution makes no similar provision, protecting only civil and political rights. (Yet, as Robert Byrd once pointed out, "The Constitution does not prohibit humble servants from delivering whatever they can to their constituents").

Constitutional and other legal mandates aside, the question remains: what should government do in the face of grossly uneven development and the resulting spatial inequalities in access to infrastructure and services? What is just and ethical? I've been writing recently about Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's capabilities framework for assessing well-being, including their thinking about government's role in endowing residents with core capabilities such as those life and bodily health. I'm recalling Sen's use of the phrase "antecedent inequality" to justify giving more to those with less, to raise them to a sort of parity with the "haves." That has me reflecting on Robert Byrd's career a little differently than I previously had. I'm now wondering: is it really "pork" if it responds to antecedent inequalities? If getting sewage pipes into rural places--be they in West Virginia or India--helps rural residents achieve a minimum level of well-being, shouldn't we be doing it?

To circle back to democracy for a moment, consider this quote from Sen about the very nature of development:

Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.

That leaves me wondering: At what point are citizens so deprived of what they need to survive--what Nussbaum refers to the as the "life and bodily health" capability--that they are effectively incapable of exercising the civil and political rights so valued by liberal democracies. Isn't the lack of sewage pipes and other basic infrastructure an "unfreedom" that cries out for development--whether in India or West Virginia?

Cross posted to and UC Davis Faculty Blog.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My Rural Travelogue (Part XII): The cemeteries of Newton County

I traveled to my home county in Arkansas in early May with several goals in mind. One was to see some parts of Newton County I had never seen and another was to visit some parts I'd not seen since I was growing up there--places too remote to visit on my typically short stays with my mom near the county seat, Jasper. In a sense, I decided to make myself a tourist and to do some of the things that now draw many regional and national visitors to the county. I did not set out to visit the cemeteries of Newton County nor to photograph them, but I realized that one doesn't have to get far at all off the beaten path--the paved roads that is--to discover more cemeteries than I had recalled. So many tiny communities that now seem to me smaller than ever (either because they are actually shrinking or because my sense of scale has changed in all the years I have now been living in cities) have cemeteries. Indeed, there are cemeteries in places so out of the way that they don't seem to be parts of communities at all because no more than 2-3 houses are visible within 2-3 miles of the cemetery. Yet the cemeteries were always next to church buildings, some boarded up and most apparently rarely used. Still all the cemeteries were nicely kept. It being May--when most Arkansas cemeteries have their "decoration day"--graves were adorned with bright artificial flowers, the sturdy plastic ones that last the entire year, even if they fade a bit. I was reminded of the place-marking role of the cemetery in these communities too tiny to have even a little store or a post office.

I'm posting a smattering of the photos I took. The top photo is the Boxley Cemetery, adjacent to the 140-year-old church in Boxley Valley, one of the most photographed structures in Arkansas. While it certainly is pastoral, this cemetery is one of the most easily accessible community cemeteries, being less than a quarter mile from a paved road.

The photo below that is of the Crossroads Cemetery, between Deer and Jasper on Scenic Hwy 7. My mom and son are decorating the graves of my maternal grandparents. The next two photos down are of the cemetery at Buffalo Church, between Parthenon and Murray, at a very remote location, several miles from any paved road. The gate and sign are typical of all area cemeteries, though the brickwork is a fancy addition that my mom attributed to a local mason who attends church there.

The bottom photo is the cemetery on Cave Mountain, which is probably the most remote among the four, about 5 miles up a steep dirt road from Boxley or 10 miles or so along a similarly rough dirt road from Red Star.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Using FOIA-type law to empower rural Indians

This story about a relatively new "Right to Know" law in India appeared on the front-page of the New York Times a few days ago under the headline, "Right-to-Know Law Gives India's Poor a Lever." In it, Lydia Polgreen explains how individuals are using the law to cut through India's bureaucracy, reveal and counter corruption, and garner improved government services of all sorts. I found it interesting that several of the examples she gives are from "villages." Here's one, from the story's lede, about Chanchala Devi, a woman from a lower caste who sought government assistance to build a house:
Not a mud-and-stick hut, like her current home in this desolate village in the mineral-rich, corruption-corroded state of Jharkhand, but a proper brick-and-mortar house. When she heard that a government program for the poor would give her about $700 to build that house, she applied immediately.
Devi waited for four years with no reply to her application before using what Polgreen characterizes as "India’s powerful and wildly popular Right to Information law." Two months ago, [w]ith help from a local activist, she filed a request at a local government office to find out who had gotten the grants while she waited, and why." A few days later, "a local bureaucrat" approved her grant and the check soon followed.

Another anecdote is about a woman who used the law to request attendance records for the staff at her village medical clinic because their frequent absences keep her from getting the care to which she is entitled.

Elsewhere, Polgreen says the "rural poor are using the law to solve basic problems," and she again focuses on the rural context in summarizing:
Still, the law has become part of the fabric of rural India in the five years since it was passed, and has clearly begun to tilt the balance of power, long skewed toward bureaucrats and politicians.
I wonder whether the use of anecdotes from rural India in relation to the law suggests greater corruption at the local level or in rural places, and perhaps the greater existence of checks and balances at higher scales of government? That idea is reflected in the domestic literature on rural local governments.