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

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Too Little, Too Late

The last budget of the Modi government comes against the backdrop of severe agrarian and rural distress. It is also the last opportunity to undo the damage caused to the rural economy by this government in the last four years. While the government has finally acknowledged the gravity of the situation, its response has been limited to empty rhetoric without any financial commitment. Going by the past record of the government, it is clear that it is serious neither in its commitment nor in its intent. The half-hearted measures are not only too little and too late, it is also clear that this budget is unlikely to revive the rural economy.

Non-farm Diversification, Inequality and Mobility in Palanpur

Data from seven decades of survey in Palanpur provide insights into the changing nature of the village economy. Starting as a predominantly agrarian economy, Palanpur has seen non-farm employment emerge as a major driver of growth and distribution of income in the village economy, but accompanied by increasing inequality. There is evidence of greater mobility among the disadvantaged in Palanpur alongside falling inter-generational mobility. Preliminary analysis suggests that the nature of non-farm activities has become increasingly casual and informal, thereby more accessible to households at the bottom of the distribution, but still significantly influenced by access to networks and family ties, particularly for the more remunerative and stable non-farm jobs.

Rural Push in Budget 2016-17

Budget 2016-17 recognises that the rural economy is in crisis; however, it fails to address this with sufficient targeted rural spending. A perusal of budget documents reveals exaggerated expenditure claims, achieved through reclassification of budget heads. There has been an enduring neglect of agriculture, which is further exacerbated by this year's reduced subsidies for fertiliser and food. This will induce further vulnerabilities in the rural economy.

Clarification on PDS Leakages

This note outlines the methodological reasons for the (small) differences in estimates of leakages from the public distribution system in 2011-12, as reported in Himanshu and Abhijit Sen (EPW, 16 and 23 November 2013) and Drèze and Khera (EPW, 14 February 2015).

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.

In-Kind Food Transfers - II

Part-II reports the impact of in-kind food transfers on nutritional intake as measured by calories. Econometric analysis using a simple calorie demand function confirms the significance of variables relating to public distribution system access, controlling for other covariates, in its contribution to calorie intake. Results also suggest that the calorie-elasticity of PDS transfers is twice as large compared to additional out-of-pocket income equal to the cash equivalent of PDS transfers. These are also confirmed by non-parametric analysis of calorie intake of various consumer groups. Although preliminary, these results suggest caution in advocating cash transfers as substitute of in-kind transfers. Finally, the paper evaluates concerns about the financial implications of the minimum support price-PDS system in light of the recently enacted National Food Security Act.

In-Kind Food Transfers - I

This paper, in two parts, reports an evaluation of existing in-kind food transfers. Part I outlines the dimensions involved, in terms of reach, transfer content and physical leakages, and deals with the impact of these transfers on poverty as officially measured. Part II reports the impact of these transfers on calorie intakes and also discusses some issues regarding the financial cost of these transfers. Contrary to the view that food self-sufficiency and income growth have reduced the need for direct food interventions, the paper reports a significant increase in contribution of in-kind transfers to both poverty reduction and nutrition. Moreover, much of this increased impact is attributable to improved public distribution system efficiency. The first part, presented here, was motivated by some issues that arose in the context of the Tendulkar method of estimating poverty as regards its treatment of food prices. This method treats food prices differently from the earlier Lakdawala method and is sensitive to treatment of in-kind food transfers. The paper suggests a decomposition method that modifies the Tendulkar poverty lines and distinguishes between household out-of-pocket expenditures and transfers received from the PDS and mid-day meals. The poverty reducing impact of these food transfers is found to have increased over time and is more pronounced in the case of distribution-sensitive measures of poverty.

On a CPI (Maoist) Apology

In a statement of apparent self-criticism dated 1 September 2011 (EPW, 17 September 2011), the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has offered an apo logy for the posters threatening Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, Gokul Vasant and Nandlal Singh and members of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan. But they have not tendered...

Employment Trends in India: A Re-examination

This paper re-examines the trends in employment and unemployment as thrown up by successive National Sample Surveys from the mid-1970s. The analysis suggests that the euphoria about high employment growth during 1999-2004 was not justified nor does the concern about jobless growth in the subsequent years capture the changes in employment structure. A long-term analysis of employment trends reveals that changes in the employment pattern and workforce structure have been sluggish and do not conform to the standard employment-output relationship. The analysis also flags certain issues which have a bearing on the comparability of employment data before and after 1993-94. Large fluctuations seen after 1993-94 appear to be a result of the movement in and out of labour force of a substantial section of the population which is vulnerable and in the informal sector in a phase of rising overall rates of economic growth. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the results of the recently released 2009-10 survey.

Why Not a Universal Food Security Legislation?

The National Advisory Council has given its final proposals on the proposed National Food Security Act. A government-appointed committee (the Rangarajan Committee) has also given its response to these proposals. Both these proposals agree on the desirability of a universal nfsa but finally propose targeting at the poor as defined by the Tendulkar Committee. This has been justified in view of the constraints set by foodgrain procurement and management. This paper argues that a universal nfsa is not only desirable, it is also a more efficient and feasible way to ensure food security for all. While presenting a critique of some of the assumptions made by these two proposals, this paper also offers an alternative which is near universal and feasible without using below poverty line targeting that has proved to be a colossal failure. This alternative, based on the results of a recent pilot for the bpl Census and which takes on board the concerns of its detractors, can be a way forward to a universal nfsa.

Missing Millennium Goals

Rethinking Poverty: Report on the World Social Situation 2010 by Department of Economic and Social Affairs;

Towards New Poverty Lines for India

This paper presents the result of an exercise prepared for the Planning Commission's Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty to draw up new poverty lines and, correspondingly, new poverty estimates based on the National Sample Survey consumption data. The exercise begins by accepting the official all-India urban poverty estimate of 25.7% for 2004-05, then derives the all-India urban poverty line that corresponds to this head count ratio by using the multiple rather than uniform reference period distribution from the nss data. It then recalculates, based on this modified poverty line, new state-wise urban and rural poverty lines that reflect spatial variations in the cost of living in 2004-05. The resulting estimates of the incidence of rural poverty show a head count ratio of 41.8% for 2004-05 as against the official estimate of 28.3%. The estimates reveal much larger rural-urban differences but less concentration of either rural or urban poverty in a few states. Although the new poverty lines preserve the official estimate of all-India urban poverty in 2004-05, there are significant changes at the state level.

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