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

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Cash Transfers

I would like to congratulate the signatories to the letter on “Cash Transfers and UID” (EPW, 5 January 2013) for pointing out not just the problems of linking cash transfers with the Unique Identification Authority of India’s unique identification number (UID), Aadhaar, but more importantly, the dangers of replacing the supply of food and other commodities through the public distribution system (PDS) with cash. Apart from the arguments provided by the signatories, a crucial point, often ignored, is the gendered nature of different assets – in India, while food is often seen to lie in women’s domain, cash by the same argument becomes a male asset. It then becomes legitimate for men to have the final say on the use of cash resources, and women are left to find alternate ways, often deemed illegal, for ensuring household survival.

It has been found in numerous field studies across the country that women prefer food to cash. In Jharkhand I observed the almost simultaneous setting up of liquor vends alongside mines and public works where cash is disbursed. While liquor was earlier consumed once or twice a week on market days, it has now become a daily phenomenon. Submerged in intense poverty, with few apparent pathways for mobility, liquor consumption and consequent violence have increasingly become the lifestyle of young men. Many young people of both genders complained that they were forced to engage with manual work, as there were few opportunities with appropriate rewards available to them after completion of high school. At a time when violence against women, both in the public and private space, is an issue that has been brought centre stage, one needs to think deeply about economic and social policies that rather than alleviating poverty may end up further disenfranchising women, especially amongst the poor, and which underlie and support not just the perpetuation but also the escalation of violence against them.

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