ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Abhiroop MukhopadhyaySubscribe to Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay

NREGS in Rajasthan

The performance of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rajasthan was debated for its stupendous performance in the initial years of the scheme, but also for the relative sharp decline after 2010. Based on a large representative primary survey, this paper argues that the decline in performance of this scheme in Rajasthan is not entirely due to the lack of demand. Instead, the supply-driven top-down nature of the programme has led to a "discouraged worker" syndrome with workers showing disinterest in demanding work and passively waiting for availability of NREGS work. Strengthening the demand-based nature of the NREGS may reduce the need for rationing. Simple temporal tracking of NREGS outcomes at the village level along with proper recording of demand through the Management Information System may well help detect discrimination within panchayats.

Rural Housing Quality as an Indicator of Consumption Sustainability

An exogenously defined poverty line yields poverty headcounts between any two points in time that are a net outcome of the two-way traffic into and out of poverty. This paper argues that, for the rural Indian context, where housing is too lumpy and illiquid to be used for consumption smoothing, transitions in housing quality in cross-sectional data sets can provide revealed evidence of household perceptions of downside risk to their current consumption levels. Using the two most recent National Sample Survey housing surveys (the 58th round for 2002 and the 65th round for 2008-09), composite housing quality classifications are unbundled, and binary wall quality is selected from cross-quartile behaviour as the feature most responsive to rising household consumption levels. In both rounds, the incremental move to better quality declines beyond the consumption level at which half of all households are in better quality structures. The threshold consumption level at which this happens was lower in 2008-09 than in 2002 and reflects an improvement in housing conditions over the period. However, this effective saturation of the demand for the most basic element of better housing, much before actual saturation, provides a quantitative measure of the percentage of households even in the topmost quartile that fears downside consumption risk.

The Economic Burden of Cancer

This paper attempts to estimate the cost of treatment borne by the cancer patients at an academic tertiary public hospital. An understanding of the out-of-pocket expenditures required for cancer care can improve the healthcare delivery process in India, both for the patients and families on the one side, and the health professionals and administrators on the other. This study estimates the expenditures borne by the surveyed patients for diagnosis and initial cancer-directed treatments as direct and indirect costs. Out of the one million newly diagnosed cancer patients per year in India, nearly 50% are suitable for curative cancer-directed therapy. It will be a highly justifiable approach to make financial provision for those cancer patients who cannot meet treatment costs and may be denied the benefits of cancer care.

Rural Unemployment 1999-2005: Who Gained, Who Lost?

There is an overall rise in rural unemployment, in terms of both total and partial failure to find work during the reference week, between the 55th (1999-2000) and 61st (2004-05) round employment surveys of the National Sample Survey. This is something of a puzzle given the reported rise in monthly per capita rural expenditure between the two rounds. The decline in unemployment among males with secondary school or higher education, relative to illiterate males, suggests that the rise in rural prosperity closely matches the pattern of access to rural school facilities. Of the four disadvantaged groups tested for, scheduled tribes face the highest incremental unemployment, which remains unchanged into the 61st round. This is an important pointer to the required regional configuration of workfare programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and for the spread of rural schools.

Primary Education as a Fundamental Right

In an attempt to attain the goal of universal primary education, many developing country governments, including India, have abolished official fees in primary education. The 86th amendment to the Indian Constitution made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children in the age group 6-14 years. There are other direct and indirect costs that can deter children from going to school. In this paper, using a rich nationwide data set, the authors construct the incompressible direct costs of attending primary school in India. After controlling for the opportunity cost of going to school (as proxied by the ratio of children's wages to adult's wages), it is found that the direct costs of education adversely affect the probability of children going to school, more so for children from poorer households. The results show that relative to boys, girls are more likely to be affected by the direct costs of schooling. The authors show that making primary education completely free will not increase the attendance rates to 100 per cent. They find that the government will have to incur an additional minimum expenditure of over Rs 2,900 crore every year in order to defray the basic or incompressible cost of attending school.
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