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Bharat Ramaswami | Ideas for India

Bharat Ramaswami
Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre
bharat@isid.ac.in
Bharat Ramaswami is a Professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi with research interests that spans areas in agricultural economics and economic development. Topics of recent articles include the role of cash transfers in a national food subsidy programme (Economic and Political Weekly, 2011), the effectiveness of public expenditures on food subsidies in India and the Philippines (India Policy Forum, 2012), the economics of illegal transgenic plant varieties and its regulation (World Development, 2012), whether and how economic liberalisation matters to Indian economic growth and poverty (Journal of Economic Literature, 2011), and on status considerations in female labour supply (Economic Development and Cultural Change, forthcoming). Ramaswami obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in economics from the University of Delhi. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

Articles By Bharat Ramaswami
Aadhaar Bill: UID without excessively compromising privacy?
Posted On: 06 May 2016

Tags:   Aadhaar , IT

Can something like UID be created without compromising privacy beyond acceptable limits? If so, how should the Aadhaar Bill have been written? What are its specific and avoidable weaknesses?

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Aadhaar: Move towards a surveillance State?
Posted On: 05 May 2016

Tags:   Aadhaar , IT

Most advanced economies have had some version of UID for a long time, example, the Social Security number in the US, the Social Insurance Number in Canada, etc. This is recorded not only in interactions with the State (example, tax filing) but also in many kinds of non-governmental transactions (example, college admissions or property purchase). Yet, it is arguable that these nations have not become police States, occasional abuse notwithstanding. If privacy concerns in India are justified, is it a reflection of the trust deficit in government specific to India (or poorer countries more generally)? Or do schemes like UID inevitably lead to a surveillance State anywhere in the world?

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Better targeting and reduced corruption?
Posted On: 04 May 2016


Supporters of Aadhaar express the hope that will reduce inclusion errors and corruption by eliminating ghost beneficiaries, say in schemes like MNREGA. Are there substantial benefits to be reaped on this account?

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Risk of increasing exclusion?
Posted On: 03 May 2016


The Supreme Court verdict that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory to receive benefits reflects the concern that it may increase exclusion errors, either by leaving people out of the net or through technological malfunction. Is this a serious concern?

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Aadhaar: Incremental information-gathering powers for government?
Posted On: 02 May 2016

Tags:   Aadhaar , IT

The government already has the means to collect a lot of information on citizens (example, phone conversations and logs, credit card transactions, income tax records, bank account details, etc.). Conversely, there are many activities which happen under the radar (example, cash transactions, informal sector employment, etc.). What kind of information-gathering powers will Aadhaar confer on the State over and above what it already has?

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Protectionism under the guise of food security
Posted On: 10 Aug 2014

Topics:   Trade , Agriculture

India has backed out of the commitment it made at the WTO negotiations in Bali in November 2013. The implicit explanation is that the government needs to accumulate food grain stocks to provide subsidised grain to the poor and ensure food security. In this article, Kotwal, Murugkar and Ramaswami critique this reasoning and India’s position on the issue.
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Two views on the Budget
Posted On: 12 Jul 2014


The Modi government’s first Budget has received a mixed response. Eswar Prasad and Bharat Ramaswami present two distinct views on the Budget. While Prasad is of the opinion that the Budget hits the right notes and emphasises some key policy priorities, Ramaswami believes that a coherent policy and worldview is yet to emerge.
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Bali conundrum: WTO and Indian agriculture
Posted On: 15 Jan 2014


The outcome of the recent WTO meetings at Bali is a stopgap arrangement, which implies that the Indian government does not have to make any changes in the implementation of the new Food Security Act in the near future. In this article, the authors suggest disentangling consumer support and producer support via cash transfers so that India can build a safety net for its poor without violating WTO agreements.
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Some reflections on the National Food Security Act
Posted On: 10 Dec 2013


The Food Security Bill became an Act with little parliamentary opposition. Yet the public debate has lingered. Would subsidised food grains reduce malnutrition? Won’t it be better to invest in health and education instead? Can we afford the cost of subsidising food for such a large chunk of the population? Should we continue to waste money on the flawed PDS system? How will the grain markets be affected? This column offers a perspective on these important questions.
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A suggestion for WTO negotiations
Posted On: 02 Dec 2013


India’s new food security law is likely to breach WTO’s limit on farmer support. India is keen to ask for a temporary exemption from the rule so that the law can be implemented unhindered. But, in return, it may have to agree on trade facilitation. This article argues that while our food procurement policies do need reform, there is no link between the food security law and free trade.
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Doing a number on the Food Security Bill
Posted On: 11 Nov 2013


In a recent article, Kotwal, Murugkar and Ramaswami pointed out errors in estimation by Surjit Bhalla that led him to assert that the Food Security Bill will increase cost of food subsidy by 336%, and presented correct costs of the Bill. Bhalla then defended his methodology and calculations and criticised the authors’ arguments. This article responds to Bhalla’s defence, and says that the astronomical estimates of the Bill are irrelevant.
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How labels influence the decision to buy genetically modified food
Posted On: 28 Oct 2013

Tags:   consumption

A regulation mandating labelling for all packaged products has been in effect in India since the beginning of this year. This column examines the role of information provided by labels in the decision of consumers to buy genetically modified food. It is found that Indians have a lower threat perception of genetically modified ingredients as compared to Europeans.
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Correct costs of the Food Security Bill
Posted On: 28 Aug 2013


In a recent article, Surjit Bhalla has asserted that the Food Security Bill will increase costs of food grain subsidy by 336%. Correcting errors in his calculation brings this figure down to 18%. In this article, the authors explain the errors and present the correct cost figures of the Bill.

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Food Bill: Neither populist nor unaffordable
Posted On: 19 Jun 2013


Criticism of the National Food Security Bill has led to the government dropping the idea of issuing an Ordinance and instead, saying it would try to get the Bill passed in a special session of Parliament. This article addresses some of the key questions raised by critics of the Bill.
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Grain stocks: Is it a problem of storage capacity?
Posted On: 01 Apr 2013

Topics:   Agriculture

Foodgrains rot due to insufficient storage capacity, even as millions go to bed hungry. This column argues that increasing capacity is only a partial resolution. The crisis has happened before and will happen again unless different ways are found to support farmers and consumers.
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