ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Revisiting Welfare: Ration Card Narratives in India

The history of welfare distribution turned on the perception, the delineation and the interpretation of identification documents. The ration card itself was moulded and refashioned through experiments with security and identification practices, debates around the norms of residence and family and encounters with corruption and illegality. This paper attempts to revisit the concept of welfare through a discussion of ration card forms and practices from 1940 to 1960, a period that covered the late years of colonial rule when this document was first introduced and the early post-independence years when its purpose, form and function were furiously debated. Ultimately, this paper questions the premise of the current unique identification number project that universal or wider enumeration naturally translates into improved and more equitable access to welfare.

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