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

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Brazil's Bolsa Família: A Review

After describing the origin, the main features and some of the impacts of Bolsa Família, a conditional cash transfer family welfare programme that has become one of Brazil's showpiece achievements, this essay discusses the changes in the programme over time as well as the current and future challenges. The article outlines the circumstances that led to its adoption by the federal government and how its final design was influenced by all "competing views", rather than by the thinking of a specific interest group. Bolsa Família has demonstrated a flexibility to adapt to the needs of the times, a quality that should stand it in good stead in the years to come.

Impact of Biometric Identification-Based Transfers

The National Food Security Bill, as drafted by the National Advisory Council, contains various reforms to reduce theft. However, the track record of previous legislation does not inspire confidence that the proposed reforms will be sufficient to ensure secure access to food for those who need it. This article spells out a biometric-based identification mechanism for cash transfers and evaluates its possible impact on the percentage of the transfer reaching the poorest fraction of the population.

Mexico's Targeted and Conditional Transfers: Between Oportunidades and Rights

Oportunidades, Mexico's conditional cash transfer programme, which is linked to the education of children of a certain age and provision of health services, is often described as an outstanding success. In 2011 it will cover 5.8 million families. But Oportunidades warrants a critical analysis for its "conditions" deny any autonomy to the poor and the scheme is based on a system of rewards and punishment which assumes that the poor do not know what they want. Its record in reducing income poverty has also been limited. More can be learnt from recent modifications that cover the hitherto excluded, the very young children and the senior citizens. However, it is new proposals of a basic income transfer - universal, to individuals and without conditions - that hold out more promise.

Conditional Cash Transfers as a Tool of Social Policy

The design of public cash transfers involves a careful balancing of policy priorities and objectives. Variations in the rationale for a conditional cash transfer shape benefit amounts, coverage, duration of programme participation, targeting practices and the definition of conditionality. Drawing on the experience of low- and middle-income countries in Latin America, this article highlights differences in the design of CCTs and the central issues and trade-offs associated with income transfers, targeting and conditionality. It also reviews the evidence on the impact of CCTs on income poverty, service utilisation and outcomes in education and health.

PDS Forever?

There is a case to be made for cash transfers replacing the sale of food through the public distribution system. This article argues that cash transfers offer many advantages over in-kind food transfers, and that their design can address potential pitfalls pointed out by critics. The more salient of such objections are discussed, and models for implementing cash transfers based on existing technology and infrastructure are proposed. However, in conclusion, it is recommended that instead of centralised dismantling of the public distribution system, the decision on the means of delivery should be left to the states.

The Shift to Cash Transfers: Running Better But on the Wrong Road?

The Government of India has announced that subsidies on fertilisers, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas will be replaced by cash transfers to end users. A close examination of the objectives of the subsidies in fertiliser and kerosene and the implications of the shift raises some challenging questions. While there is no doubt that India will have to move to a greater use of cash transfers, it may not necessarily be the best option in all cases. Unless discussions on transfers are part and parcel of a broader strategy, any changes in favour of cash transfers will simply amount to tactical differences and not address longterm challenges.

Cash Transfers as the Silver Bullet for Poverty Reduction: A Sceptical Note

The current perception that cash transfers can replace public provision of basic goods and services and become a catch-all solution for poverty reduction is false. Where cash transfers have helped to reduce poverty, they have added to public provision, not replaced it. For crucial items like food, direct provision protects poor consumers from rising prices and is part of a broader strategy to ensure domestic supply. Problems like targeting errors and diversion from deserving recipients are likely to be even more pronounced with cash transfers and cannot be eliminated through technological fixes like the UID.

Women and Decentralised Water Governance: Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward

Based on a study of water rights and women's rights in decentralised water governance in Maharashtra and Gujarat, this paper argues that decentralisation will fail to meet its desired objectives unless the value systems, culture and the nature of institutions, including the family, change. While the policy initiative of introducing quotas for women in public bodies is welcome and necessary, it is certainly not sufficient for the success of decentralisation in a society ridden with discrimination based on class, caste and patriarchy, and where the culture of political patronage is dominant. The presence of vibrant social and political movements that propose alternative cultural, social and political paradigms would be a necessary foundation for major social changes. The success of decentralised water governance is constrained by the conceptualisation of the larger reform in water at one level and the notions of the normative woman, community, public and the private domains, and institutions at another. Unless all of these are altered, decentralised processes will not be truly democratic.

Taming the Imperial Impulse: Realising a Pragmatic Moral Vision

The imperial impulse, or the tendency to dominate and exploit others, retains its hold on the hearts and minds of human beings. This essay does not suggest that humanity can once and for all overcome the imperial impulse, but emphasises making it unjustifiable in theory and untenable in practice. In other words, "taming" the imperial impulse, or understanding its rationale in ways that make empire unimaginable and imperial ideology unsustainable. This requires deliberate strategies, concerted action and deploying and supplementing existing normative and institutional resources for upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights everywhere. Instead of resorting to unilateral and extra-institutional "humanitarian intervention", it proposes that whatever political will and resources any state is willing to devote to protecting victims around the world should be directed at enhancing collective institutional action through the United Nations.

Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir)

This essay asks what the history of modern empire and of state formation within it can teach us about the formation and functioning of the state in decolonised, independent nations like India. It also considers the converse of this question - can an analysis of the centrality of a particular kind of state formation to the making of empire help us understand some of the deeply undemocratic imperatives and neocolonial ambitions of the postcolonial nation state today? It argues that crucial modes of governance, particularly the relation between the militarised state and its subject populations that characterised colonial empires, extend to the present moment. In addition, it examines the situation of Jammu and Kashmir to show how the government of independent India has renewed both colonial legislation and colonial attitudes to deal with challenges to its authority, particularly from populations at its peripheries who wish to choose their own form of national political formation.

Rethinking News Agencies, National Development and Information Imperialism

Looking back on the New World Information and Communication Order debate of the 1970s when the global domination of four western news agencies was seen as a form of information imperialism, this essay points out that in some ways it looks like there has been a further deterioration in the relations of power. But there has been both the significant growth of regional players since the 1970s and the internet since the 1990s. Against the background of the current paradigmatic shift of development communication from state-led to market-led development, and a comparative study of news agencies in China, India and Russia, it argues that there is scope for rearticulating the role and significance of news agencies, even within a flawed, hierarchical system, that is more positive than what the old discourse might have indicated.

Pandemic, Empire and the Permanent State of Exception

This essay considers a brief moment in the H1N1 flu controversy - the attack on the World Health Organisation by the Council of Europe - as exemplar of a type of struggle for sovereignty "post-empire". It extends Giorgio Agamben's formulation of the "permanent state of exception" to examine how member states of supranational organisations partially delegate their own capacity to declare health emergencies of varying scale and scope. It goes on to ask whether the structures of consciousness about the dangers of global disease and utility of promised disease control that was embedded in the will to expansion of classic empires have now been transformed into a new mechanism of control on behalf of a different type of translocal force.

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