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

Articles by Reetika KheraSubscribe to Reetika Khera

Rural Poverty and the Public Distribution System

This article presents estimates of the impact of the public distribution system on rural poverty, using National Sample Survey data for 2009-10 and official poverty lines. At the all-India level, the PDS is estimated to reduce the poverty-gap index of rural poverty by 18% to 22%. The corresponding figures are much larger for states with a well-functioning PDS, e g, 61% to 83% in Tamil Nadu and 39% to 57% in Chhattisgarh.

Mid-Day Meals: Looking Ahead

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme has been quietly feeding more than 10 crore children every day for more than 10 years. Unfortunately, this popular and relatively successful programme makes it to the headlines only when things go wrong - this time following the tragic death of 23 children in Bihar after eating at school. Recent economic research clearly documents the positive impact of the scheme on enrolment, attendance, retention and nutrition. Hopefully, the Bihar tragedy will provide an opportunity to redress some of the long-standing issues in implementation (food quality and accountability) by learning from states such as Tamil Nadu.

On the NIPFP Response

Before I take issue with some of the points made in the NIPFP response to this comment, it may be useful to recapitulate a few points on which there appears to be agreement: (1) Aadhaar-integration can resolve only certain types of leakages, for which reliable data is unavailable; this was not ad

A 'Cost-Benefit' Analysis of UID

A cost-benefi t analysis by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy of the benefits from Aadhaar integration with seven schemes throws up huge benefi ts that are based almost entirely on unrealistic assumptions. Further, the report does not take into account alternative technologies that could achieve the same or similar savings, possibly at lower cost.

Regional Patterns of Human and Child Deprivation in India

This paper takes a look at regional patterns of human and child deprivation in India, based on district-level data. It presents and compares two simple summary indices of living conditions at the district level: a standard "human development index" and a variant of it focusing specifically on children.

Revival of the Public Distribution System: Evidence and Explanations

Contrary to a common belief that India's public distribution system is irreparably dysfunctional, a nine-state survey of the pds finds that the respondents received 84-88% of their full entitlement. The implicit subsidy for households below the poverty line from pds foodgrains alone is roughly equivalent, in many states, to a week's nrega wages every month. The revival of the pds can be traced, in large part, to a renewed political interest which manifests itself in state initiatives such as expanded coverage, reduced prices, computerisation of stock management, etc. A large majority of the respondents preferred to receive in-kind food transfers rather than cash transfers, except in Bihar where the pds is still in very poor shape. Their testimonies, and the survey findings, point to many good reasons to be wary of a hasty transition to cash transfers. Further improving the pds seems like a more sensible way forward.

Trends in Diversion of Grain from the Public Distribution System

This paper estimates the proportion of grain diverted from the public distribution system to the open market in the past decade by matching official offtake figures with household purchase reported by the National Sample Survey. At the all-India level, diversion of pds grain remains a serious issue; however there are interesting contrasts at the state level. Based on trends in monthly per capita purchase of pds grain and estimated diversion, states are categorised into three groups - "functioning", "reviving" and "languishing" states. The paper also discusses the possible reasons for the improvement in the pds in the reviving states and questions the assessment of the pds as uniformly and irreversibly dysfunctional.

The UID Project and Welfare Schemes

This article documents and then examines the various benefi ts that, it is claimed, will fl ow from linking the Unique Identity number with the public distribution system and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. It fi lters the unfounded claims, which arise from a poor understanding of how the PDS and NREGS function, from the genuine ones. On the latter, there are several demanding conditions that need to be met in order to reap marginal benefi ts. A hasty linking of the PDS/NREGA with the UID can be very disruptive. Therefore, other cheaper technological innovations currently in use in some parts of the country to fi x existing loopholes in a less disruptive manner are explored.

The BPL Census and a Possible Alternative

This paper explores the possibility of a simple method for the identification of households eligible for social assistance. In exploring alternative approaches for identifying a "social assistance base", of which the bpl list can be seen as a particular case, this note explores possible uses of simple exclusion and inclusion criteria. It first considers the possibility of a quasi-universal approach, whereby all households are eligible unless they meet pre-specified exclusion criteria. It then looks at various inclusion criteria for drawing up a sab list. Finally, it explores four simple ways of combining exclusion and inclusion criteria to construct a sab list. The intention here is to point to possible directions of further enquiry, including experimental applications of the suggested method, rather than to present definite recommendations. Whether any convincing method of selecting sab households actually exists is an open question. Some of the findings here can be read as a reinforcement of the case for a universal approach. Indeed, the search for a "safe" way of excluding privileged households, without significant risk of exclusion for poor households, remains somewhat elusive.

Women Workers and Perceptions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which entitles rural households to 100 days of casual employment on public works at the statutory minimum wage, contains special provisions to ensure full participation of women. This paper, based on fieldwork in six states in 2008, examines the socio-economic consequences of the nrega for women workers. In spite of the drawbacks in the implementation of the legislation, significant benefits have already started accruing to women through better access to local employment, at minimum wages, with relatively decent and safe work conditions. The paper also discusses barriers to women's participation.

Right to Food Act: Beyond Cheap Promises

This article attempts to flag some of the issues that are likely to come up in the debate on the Right to Food Act in the coming months. It is important to ensure that this debate focuses on the substantive issues. In the run-up to the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the debate was somewhat derailed by a loud anti-NREGA lobby, particularly vocal in the business press. Hopefully, the debate on the RTF Act will be more productive. Politically, the main challenge is to ensure that the Act is not trivialised, by reducing it to the electoral promise of "25 kgs at Rs 3/kg for BPL households". The ultimate shape of the RTF Act will depend on whether the government merely seeks to gain "political capital" from it, or whether it is guided by its responsibility to the people of this country.

Starvation Deaths and 'Primitive Tribal Groups'

The deaths of 35 Birhors - a "Primitive Tribal Group" - in Jharkhand in October and November 2008 have been ignored by the national media. Official apathy contributes to the vulnerability of such very poor tribal communities. In comparison to Jharkhand, administrative steps taken in Rajasthan since 2002, when the Sahariyas (another tribal community) faced starvation deaths in that state, show how this vulnerability can be tackled.


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