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Ashok Kotwal
On demonetisation
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
On the evening of 8 November, the Prime Minister announced on national television that Rs. ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The GDP conundrum
Posted on: 16 Nov 2016
Ever since India’s Central Statistical Organisation came out with the new GDP series with ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The idea of a universal basic income in the Indian context
Posted on: 26 Sep 2016
The idea of an unconditional basic income given to all citizens by the State, has caught o ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: Ideas for reforms in education policy in India
Posted on: 18 Nov 2015
A New Education Policy is being formulated in India based on a time-bound grassroots consu ... read on »

Topic: Poverty

Inequality and economics: Tony Atkinson’s enduring lessons
Andrea Brandolini
Posted on: 25/04/2017 09:34:53

Sir Tony Atkinson, the doyen of inequality economics, passed away in January. This article, by a longstanding friend and co-author, outlines his contributions to the analysis and measurement of inequality – and many other areas of economics, including taxation, social protection, and the welfare State. The ultimate goal of Atkinson’s research was to translate economic analysis into policy actions: economics is a tool for understanding the world and taking informed decisions on policies, but economists must strive to communicate their results beyond the narrow circles of decision-makers, making them accessible for public discussion.
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The decline of rural earnings inequality in India
Deepti Goel , Shantanu Khanna , René Morissette
Posted on: 05/04/2017 09:29:37

While earnings inequality remained virtually unchanged in urban India between 2004-05 and 2011-12, it declined sharply in rural India over this period. This column finds that although the change in the distribution of education among paid workers had an inequality-increasing effect, there was a net decline in rural inequality because returns to increased levels of education improved more for low-earning workers than high-earning ones.
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Disintermediating the State: Would a universal basic income reduce poverty more than targeted programmes?
Justin Sandefur
Posted on: 31/03/2017 09:28:43

Commenting on the discussion of the universal basic income in India’s Economic Survey 2016-17, Justin Sandefur contends that a modest version of UBI could potentially save money and shift expenditure in a progressive, pro-poor direction.

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Constructing housing for the poor without destroying their communities
Rohini Pande
Posted on: 24/03/2017 09:29:00

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana aims to achieve housing for all by 2022. However, vacancy of 23% was reported last year in urban housing built under the programme. In this article, Rohini Pande, contends that take-up can be increased if policies are designed in a way that allows the intended beneficiaries to preserve their social networks when they relocate.
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Income inequality in a globalising world
Miguel Niño-Zarazúa , Laurence Roope , Finn Tarp
Posted on: 17/02/2017 09:38:34

Since the turn of the century, income inequality has risen to be among the most prominent policy issues of our time. This column looks at inequality trends in recent decades. While relative global inequality has fallen, insufficient economic convergence, together with substantial growth in per capita incomes, has resulted in increased absolute inequality since the mid-1970s. The inclusivity aspect of growth is now more imperative than ever.
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The tale and maths of universal basic income
Jean Drèze
Posted on: 15/02/2017 09:33:20

Commenting on the discussion on universal basic income in the recently released Economic Survey, Jean Drèze argues that UBI is an idea whose time will come, but that time is still quite distant as far as India is concerned.

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Inequality in the typical country in the last 25 years
Jose Cuesta , Christoph Lakner , Mario Negre , Ani Silwal
Posted on: 10/02/2017 09:54:43
Tags:  


While inequality has received a great deal of attention in the public debate in recent times, the poor quality of data available on this issue is a constraint. Based on a recently-compiled database of the World Bank, this column presents the trend for within-country inequality for the average country.
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Decoding universal basic income for India
Jean Drèze
Posted on: 20/01/2017 22:18:04

In this article, Jean Drèze argues that while universal basic income is a good idea in principle, as far as India today is concerned, it sounds like premature articulation. It could also become a Trojan horse for the dismantling of hard-won entitlements of the underprivileged.

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Aadhaar, demonetisation, and the poor
Silvia Masiero
Posted on: 09/01/2017 10:01:26

There is a view that an Aadhaar-centred apparatus of digital inclusion can shield the poor from the problematic effects of demonetisation. In this article, Silvia Masiero argues that constraints of technology ownership, access to informational networks, and infrastructural readiness prove the argument wrong. Other means are needed to reduce the severe humanitarian consequences of sudden cashlessness.
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Assessing the impact of demonetisation through the gender lens
Mitali Nikore
Posted on: 04/01/2017 09:49:44

In this article, Mitali Nikore, Senior Consultant at PwC India, highlights how demonetisation is impacting women differentially, and offers policy suggestions on how the negative effects can be mitigated.
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Policymaking in the ‘grey zone’?
Prerna Mukharya
Posted on: 17/11/2016 09:30:00

Prerna Mukharya, Founder of Outline India – a social enterprise that focuses on data collection, impact assessments and evaluation studies, predominantly working with rural populations in remote areas – discusses the impact of the currency ban on their work.
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Politician’s pain is poor man’s gain: Income distribution in close-election constituencies
Shabana Mitra , Anirban Mitra
Posted on: 09/11/2016 10:01:41
Tags:   democracy


Studies have highlighted the role of electoral competition in directing the flow of public funds. Analysing data from India, this column finds lower income inequality and polarisation in tightly contested constituencies, implying that the poor gain more from electoral competition relative to the rich.
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Surrogacy bill: Implications and way forward
Souvik Dutta , Subhasree Sarkar
Posted on: 06/11/2016 09:06:25
Tags:  


Contributing to the ongoing debate on India’s surrogacy bill, Dutta and Sarkar discuss the potential implications of the bill on the country’s billion-dollar surrogacy industry. They contend that India could follow in the footsteps of Israel and adopt a more pragmatic and holistic approach to regulating commercial surrogacy, rather than banning it altogether.
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A universal basic income to step up economic reform
Nimai Mehta
Posted on: 28/10/2016 09:45:46

In this article, Nimai Mehta, Academic Director of the Global Economics and Business Program at the American University, highlights the political challenge of introducing the wider set of reforms needed if a universal basic income (UBI) is to lift the poor out of poverty, and of ensuring fiscal affordability of UBI. Further, he shares some initial ideas on how these objectives may be achieved by leveraging the evolving Centre-state relations.

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What do we know about the wealthy in India? A pre-liberalisation analysis
Rishabh Kumar
Posted on: 26/10/2016 09:16:41

Academic attention on the metamorphosis and concentration of wealth has so far excluded poor countries. This column analyses wealth distribution in India, post-independence and pre-liberalisation. It finds that during this period of modest economic growth, the importance of the elite, especially the top 0.01%, declined quite dramatically relative to national income.
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Universal basic income for India
Vijay Joshi
Posted on: 21/10/2016 14:00:42

In this article, Vijay Joshi, Emeritus Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford, sets out his proposal for a universal basic income (UBI) in India. He contends that ´deep fiscal adjustment´, in combination with UBI, would make a huge positive difference to the lives of people, present and future, and provide an essential underpinning for the acceptability of radical economic reform.

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Poverty reduction in India: Revisiting past debates with 60 years of data
Gaurav Datt , Rinku Murgai , Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 10/10/2016 09:42:23
Tags:  


There has been much debate about the poverty impacts of economic growth and structural transformation in developing countries. This column revisits these issues using a newly constructed dataset of poverty measures for India spanning 60 years. There has been a downward trend in poverty measures since 1970, with an acceleration post-1991, despite rising inequality. Post-1991 data suggest stronger inter-sectoral linkages. Urban consumption growth came with gains to both the rural and urban poor. The primary/secondary/tertiary composition of growth has ceased to matter, as all three sectors contributed to poverty reduction.
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Banning commercial surrogacy in India
Ajit Karnik
Posted on: 05/10/2016 09:54:08
Tags:  


In an attempt to protect the welfare of surrogate mothers, the Indian government has proposed to introduce legislation that will ban commercial surrogacy in the country. In this article, Ajit Karnik, Professor of Economics, Middlesex University, Dubai, discusses the threats that are associated with the welfare of surrogate mothers and argues that a ban would compromise their interests further as it would inevitably lead to the emergence of an illegal market for such transactions.
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Minimum standard of living for all Indians
T. N. Srinivasan
Posted on: 30/09/2016 09:38:12

In this article, T.N. Srinivasan, Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Economics, Yale University, contends that the idea of an assured minimum income for all citizens of India was being discussed as early as the 1960s, but could not be implemented then on account of certain circumstances.

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The universal basic share and social incentives
Karl Ove Moene , Debraj Ray
Posted on: 30/09/2016 09:18:22

In the previous article in the series, Debraj Ray proposes a simple amendment of the universal basic income called the universal basic share. In this article, Debraj Ray and Karl Ove Moene (University of Oslo), discuss how the universal basic share combines social considerations of fairness with incentives for the collective good.

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The universal basic share
Debraj Ray
Posted on: 29/09/2016 09:22:11

Debraj Ray, Professor of Economics at NYU, proposes a simple amendment of the universal basic income – what he calls the ‘universal basic share’. The idea is to commit a fixed fraction of the gross domestic product to the provision of a basic income for all.

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Is India ready for a universal basic income scheme?
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 28/09/2016 09:28:10

Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics, contends that potential resources do exist to fund a universal basic income scheme, via subsidy cuts and/or raising more tax revenue - but the real issue is whether there will be political support to do so.

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Universal basic income: The best way to welfare
Abhijit Banerjee
Posted on: 27/09/2016 09:30:28

Abhijit Banerjee, Professor of Economics at MIT, suggests replacing welfare schemes of the government by a single universal basic income, which entitles every adult resident to a minimum weekly income as long as they verify their identity every week.

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Basic income in a poor country
Pranab Bardhan
Posted on: 26/09/2016 10:11:42

Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley argues that even though universal basic income is being considered unaffordable in some developed countries, it may well be feasible and desirable in a poor to medium-income country partly on account of low poverty thresholds and existing social safety nets that are threadbare and costly to administer.

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Insights from long-term studies of Indian villages
Himanshu , Praveen K. Jha , Gerry Rodgers
Posted on: 23/09/2016 10:06:52

Much of our knowledge of change in rural areas depends on longitudinal village studies. Drawing upon a number of village studies carried out over the years in India, this column provides a broad picture of how the economic and social structures of villages are changing, and the consequences for production, employment, migration, inequality and other key issues.
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Surrogacy bill: Boon or ban(e)?
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 07/09/2016 23:58:30
Tags:  


The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 proposes a complete ban on commercial surrogacy and restrictions on altruistic surrogacy. In this article, Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics, contends that the bill does not provide any compelling argument for the ban. Rather, by singling out those who are not even allowed the option of altruistic surrogacy, it reveals its biases.
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How participatory is work planning under MNREGA?
Akshay Ahuja
Posted on: 26/08/2016 09:30:59

In 2014, the Ministry of Rural Development introduced the ‘Intensive Participatory Planning Exercise’ (IPPE) framework in 2,500 most backward blocks of the country, with the objective of making the work planning process under MNREGA more participatory. In this note, Akshay Ahuja, senior project officer at HCL Foundation, shares his experience of supporting the local administration of Hardoi district in Uttar Pradesh in implementing IPPE on the ground.
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Is India a tax haven for the rich?
Himanshu
Posted on: 10/08/2016 09:57:32

In April, the government released tax data, which provided a break-up of taxes by income categories for the year 2012-13. In this article, Himanshu, Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, contends that by increasing tax exemptions and subsidies for the wealthy, and through various tax giveaways, the government has reduced its capacity to spend more on essential sectors such as health, nutrition and education.
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How serious is the neglect of intra-household inequality in poverty measures in India?
Stephan Klasen , Rahul Lahoti
Posted on: 01/08/2016 10:17:46
Tags:  


Poverty measurement at the household level assumes that the poverty status of all household members, irrespective of age and gender, is the same as that of the household. This column presents a framework to measure multidimensional poverty at the individual level and finds that intra-household inequality in poverty measures vastly increases the differences in poverty rates between genders and across age groups. The framework is especially important given that the World Bank plans to measure poverty rates for men and women separately.
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Does good governance reduce foodgrain diversion in PDS?
Sohini Paul
Posted on: 24/07/2016 21:58:35

In 2011-12, various states undertook measures to curb leakages of foodgrains from the Public Distribution System. Some of the pioneer states also implemented the National Food Security Act - a rights-based approach to food security - in 2013. Against the backdrop of these reforms, this column analyses whether there is any marked difference in the leakage pattern of foodgrains across states.
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Food Security Act: How are India’s poorest states faring?
Jean Drèze , Prankur Gupta , Reetika Khera , Isabel Pimenta
Posted on: 29/06/2016 09:57:28

The National Food Security Act was passed in 2013. This column reports findings from a recent survey on the status of the Act in six of India’s poorest states. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal are doing quite well - the PDS is in good shape and most people are covered; however, Bihar and Jharkhand are yet to complete essential PDS reforms.
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The ‘poverty line’ – III
S. Subramanian
Posted on: 27/05/2016 09:28:59

In the last of a three-part series on the poverty line, Prof. S. Subramanian, former National Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research, discusses how the official methodology of poverty measurement in India has thrown the door open to anarchy.
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The ‘poverty line’ – II
S. Subramanian
Posted on: 26/05/2016 09:19:01

In the second of a three-part series on the poverty line, Prof. S. Subramanian, former National Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research, argues that there is a built-in incentive for official poverty lines to be pitched ‘low’.
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The ‘poverty line’ – I
S. Subramanian
Posted on: 25/05/2016 09:19:36

In the first of a three-part series on the poverty line, Prof. S. Subramanian, former National Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research, contends that the term should not be bandied about frivolously.
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Socially disadvantaged groups and microfinance in India
Jean-Marie Baland , Rohini Somanathan , Lore Vandewalle
Posted on: 16/05/2016 03:12:36

The benefits of microfinance are in the details. This column takes a look at lending by commercial banks in India to self-help groups – smaller, informal community-based groups – as a new and successful microfinance initiative. Different ways of thinking about getting credit to the poorest and most marginalised in society can work, but only if the institutions are properly geared up for their customers
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Aadhaar Bill: UID without excessively compromising privacy?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 06/05/2016 09:31:31
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?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 05/05/2016 09:31:37
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?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 04/05/2016 09:28:28

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?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 03/05/2016 09:28:26

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?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 02/05/2016 11:59:47
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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Debate: The Aadhaar Bill
Parikshit Ghosh , Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 02/05/2016 11:53:43
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


In a debate on the Aadhaar Bill, commentators from academia and civil society will weigh in on issues around potential benefits and privacy concerns.

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Local political elite capture and BPL card allocation
Sitakanta Panda
Posted on: 08/04/2016 09:58:55
Tags:   PDS


There is significant anecdotal evidence for the fact that local political connections at the grassroots level is an important channel through which leakages take place in welfare schemes in India such as the PDS. Analysing data from a nationally representative household survey, this column finds that politically-connected households are more likely to be allocated a BPL card - a gateway to obtaining various benefits from the government.
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How doorstep banking increased savings and income in Sri Lanka
Michael Callen , Suresh de Mel , Craig McIntosh , Christopher Woodruff
Posted on: 30/03/2016 09:58:53

Recent findings in development economics indicate that microloans are likely to perform best when accompanied by financial education, insurance, and savings products. This column presents evidence from an experiment in Sri Lanka, which involved offering saving accounts with door-to-door deposit collection services to otherwise unbanked rural households. It suggests that the programme incentivised participants to increase savings by increasing their income.
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Increasing economic divide within backward castes
Ashish Singh
Posted on: 28/03/2016 00:26:22

While the high level of socioeconomic inequality between the forward and backward caste groups in India is well documented, there is little research on inequalities within the backward caste groups. This column finds that economic divide within Scheduled Castes and within Scheduled Tribes has been on the rise over the past three decades.
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Afterword: What lies ahead for MNREGA?
Farzana Afridi
Posted on: 18/03/2016 09:32:16
Tags:   MNREGA


In an afterword to the e-symposium on ‘10 years of MNREGA and the way forward’, I4I Editor Farzana Afridi contends that the evidence summarised in the e-symposium suggests that MNREGA is not merely a poverty alleviation programme. Given its multiple potential benefits, MNREGA needs more than mere lip service or it risks dwindling into irrelevance.

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MNREGA, 10 years on: Glass half-full or half-empty?
Kunal Sen
Posted on: 18/03/2016 09:20:53
Tags:   MNREGA


In this article, Kunal Sen, Professor of Development Economics and Policy at the University of Manchester, evaluates whether MNREGA has achieved its broader development objectives. He further analyses why the programme’s implementation has been challenging, and what the implications of weak implementation have been for its objectives.

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MNREGA: Technology vs. technocracy
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 17/03/2016 10:30:58

In this article, Reetika Khera, Associate Professor of Economics at IIT Delhi, argues that for MNREGA to flourish in the future, technologies that empower workers should be encouraged, and the tendency to over-centralise the implementation of the programme should be reversed.

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Four key administrative reforms to strengthen MNREGA
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 17/03/2016 10:03:05

In this article, Ashwini Kulkarni of NGO Pragati Abhiyan, discusses four key administrative reforms that can strengthen the implementation of MNREGA, and enable the programme to fulfill its objectives more effectively.

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MNREGA: Vision and reality
Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 16/03/2016 09:39:11
Tags:   MNREGA , Bihar


In this article, Martin Ravallion, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University, contends that the main proximate reason for MNREGA’s disappointing performance is that many people in poor areas of rural India who want work under the scheme have not been able to get it. To match the reality of MNREGA with its grand vision, poor people need to be made more aware of their rights and entitlements under the scheme, and the supply side needs to be more responsive.

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How has MNREGA impacted the lives of women and children in India?
Subha Mani
Posted on: 15/03/2016 11:07:04

In this article, Subha Mani, Professor of Economics at Fordham University, summarises evidence that shows that MNREGA has mostly positively impacted the lives of women and children in India.

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MNREGA and its assets
Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 15/03/2016 09:34:44

Critics of MNREGA believe that the programme is a dole to dig a hole and hence, a huge waste of resources and that it would be better to simply provide cash. In this article, Sudha Narayanan, Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, argues that evidence from various states on the quality of MNREGA assets suggests that this ‘dole-hole’ view of is largely unfounded.

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MNREGA’s impact on rural labour markets
Laura Zimmermann
Posted on: 14/03/2016 09:55:38
Tags:   MNREGA , wages


In this article, Laura Zimmermann, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia, provides an overview of the research on the impact of the initial phase of MNREGA on rural labour markets in India. The evidence suggests that the programme has served as an important short- and long-term safety net, and has had some employment generation effects during the agricultural off-season. However, the effect on rural casual wages is less clear.

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Introduction to e-Symposium: 10 years of MNREGA and the way forward
Farzana Afridi
Posted on: 14/03/2016 09:42:44

India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – the largest public works programme in the world – completed a decade in February 2016. As a contribution to the discussions, I4I Editor Farzana Afridi is hosting an e-symposium to summarise the existing evidence on various aspects of the programme, and to discuss the future of the programme.

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Access to information and the poor
Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 19/02/2016 09:23:33
Tags:   IT , MNREGA


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recently ruled against charging different subscribers different prices for data services. In this article, Martin Ravallion, Edmond D. Villani Chair of Economics at Georgetown University, contends that we certainly need to improve access of the poor to knowledge about public services that can help them, but such efforts should be explicitly targeted at them. Relying on prevailing processes of knowledge diffusion may simply reflect and even reinforce existing inequalities.
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Bringing global evidence into the MNREGA discourse
Inayat Sabhikhi
Posted on: 12/02/2016 09:32:46
Tags:   MNREGA


MNREGA – the largest public works programme in the world – completed 10 years this month. In this article, Inayat Anaita Sabhikhi, Project Officer, United Nations Development Programme, at the Ministry of Rural Development, summarises evidence on MNREGA from four recent reports of international and national organisations. She contends that MNREGA’s high global rankings among social security programmes and the positive evidence on its impact should boost efforts to strengthen its implementation.
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A conversation on development - I
Kaushik Basu , Parikshit Ghosh
Posted on: 03/02/2016 09:36:07

Parikshit Ghosh (Associate Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics) speaks with Kaushik Basu (Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, World Bank and former Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India) on issues ranging from the change in World Bank’s mission and its engagement with the world, rising inequality in the developed world, managing the negative side effects of growth, to the role of behavioural economics and paternalism in development, and the exclusionary nature of the ongoing digital revolution.

This part of the interview focuses on global issues. This is the fourth in the series of I4I Conversations.

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From the top to the bottom of MNREGA
Megan Sheahan
Posted on: 08/01/2016 09:31:50

MNREGA – the world’s largest public works programme - is intended to be demand-driven and has local implementation at its core. In this note, Megan Sheahan, Research Support Specialist at Cornell University, shares her experience of visiting MNREGA work sites in some of the most deprived communities in Andhra Pradesh. She finds that while the scheme has enabled a jump in earnings and created useful assets for villagers, beneficiaries have little control over the timing or type of work allocated to them.
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Against the tide: Deaton’s economics
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 17/12/2015 14:02:01

In a tribute to Angus Deaton, recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics, Reetika Khera, who did her post-doctorate research at Princeton University under Deaton, outlines his India-specific contributions both as a rigorous economist and a public intellectual. She discusses Deaton’s great concern with measurement issues, and the over-reliance on randomised controlled trials as evidence for policymaking; and his support of government action for social policy.
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Beyond leaky pipes: Fixing enrolment systems of welfare schemes
Shrayana Bhattacharya , Soumya Kapoor Mehta , Rinku Murgai
Posted on: 09/12/2015 09:18:42

Policy initiatives of JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile numbers) trinity and direct benefit transfer focus on unclogging the supply of benefits under welfare schemes by reducing payment leakages. This column shows that bottlenecks to the entry of deserving beneficiaries into such schemes and misallocation of resources to the ineligible are even more significant, and deserve similarly high-profiled attention.
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JAM and the pursuit of nirvana
Jean Drèze
Posted on: 13/11/2015 09:38:09

The Finance Ministry is proposing to roll all subsidies into a single, lump-sum cash transfer to households, on the back of the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile numbers) trinity. In this article, Jean Drèze, Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, argues that a single-minded focus on high-tech cash transfers as a foundation for social policy in India is fraught with dangers.
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Angus Deaton’s ideas for India
Diane Coffey , Dean Spears
Posted on: 30/10/2015 09:43:53

In a tribute to Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in Economics, Diane Coffey and Dean Spears – former graduate students of Prof. Deaton at Princeton University – review some of his work on the well-being of the poor in India, and discuss the paradoxes and puzzles that still remain.
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The coexistence of prosperity and poverty in India
Dhairiyarayar Jayaraj , S. Subramanian
Posted on: 21/10/2015 09:41:41
Tags:  


Credit Suisse recently reported that the richest 10% Indians own about 75% of the country’s wealth, highlighting the growing problem of inequality. This column presents trends in inequality in India during 1961-62 – 2002-03 based on relative, absolute and intermediate measures. It demonstrates that growth may be considered inclusive or exclusive depending on the measure of inequality used.
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Angus Deaton: The real world economist
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 20/10/2015 09:03:57
Tags:   consumption


In a tribute to Angus Deaton, recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics, Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, outlines Deaton’s contribution to economic and policy analysis, and to bridging the gap between theory and empirics. He also highlights the strong connection to India in his work.
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Can microcredit improve food security among the rural poor?
Asad Islam , Chandana Maitra , Debayan Pakrashi , Russell Smyth
Posted on: 28/09/2015 09:52:23

A core objective of microcredit in Bangladesh is to make the rural poor more food secure. To what extent has this been achieved? Analysing household data from Bangladesh, this column finds that participants of microcredit programmes are more food secure, with improved calorie availability, reduced child stunting and better maternal nutritional status. However, programme participation in itself does not improve dietary diversity.
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Are self-help groups helpful?
Upamanyu Datta
Posted on: 11/09/2015 10:05:57

While a lot of funding goes towards community-driven development projects, rigorous evidence on their socioeconomic impact is limited. This column evaluates the impact of JEEViKA – a rural livelihoods project in Bihar that seeks to empower marginalised women by organising them into self-help groups. It also highlights the importance of understanding how these initiatives work, and the challenges involved in evaluating their impact.
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Income inequality in India: Trends from the World Top Incomes Database
Amit Basole
Posted on: 31/08/2015 10:18:03

Given the lack of reliable wage or asset data, tax returns-based World Top Incomes Database is important for measuring income and wealth inequalities. Analysing the India series of the database, this column find that starting in the 1980s average incomes grew faster than ever before, but that most of the gains went to the super rich. The trends mirror massive shifts in Indian political economy during that period.
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Moving beyond the growth-versus-redistribution debate
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 14/08/2015 10:06:45

The two dominant narratives on the state of the Indian economy – one centred on growth and the other on poverty – are in a constant state of conflict. In this article, Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, argues that we need to move beyond the stale growth-versus-redistribution debate and focus on economic mobility through investments in human capital.
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Inclusive finance for inclusive growth: A gender perspective
Vigneshwara Swamy
Posted on: 31/07/2015 09:51:29

While research has established that financial inclusion programmes lead to economic upliftment of poor families owing to the participation of women, the evidence on the impact of such programmes on women empowerment is mixed. Based on a household survey data in India, this column finds that female-headed households that participate in financial inclusion programmes gain more in terms of economic well-being, vis-à-vis male-headed households.
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Why numbers matter
V. Ramani
Posted on: 23/07/2015 11:52:30
Tags:   data


The delayed and partial release of data from the ‘Rapid Survey on Children’ by the Indian government has given rise to questions and speculation. In this article, former bureaucrat V. Ramani discusses the broader issue of the lack of suitable, public data on the social sector in India and the inability or unwillingness of the government to use existing data to monitor outcomes.
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Growth and inequality: The contrasting stories of India and Brazil
Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa , Gerry Rodgers
Posted on: 29/06/2015 09:47:37
Tags:   Brazil


The development paths of India and Brazil are, in some ways, mirror images of one another. While growth and inequality were both high in Brazil until 1980 and then declined – first growth declined in the 1980s, and later inequality – the reverse is true for India. This column compares the experiences of the two countries, examining their patterns of growth and inequality and the factors that underpin them.
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Do ruling coalition-affiliated MLAs bring more development to their constituencies?
Samuel Asher , Paul Novosad
Posted on: 22/06/2015 10:10:31

Despite the dismantling of the License Raj in the 1990s, interaction with government officials remains an important impediment to doing business in India. This column analyses the role of politics in determining which regions succeed and fail, and finds that MLAs from ruling parties make it easier for firms to do business in their constituencies. They do so not by providing public goods, but by helping firms clear bureaucratic hurdles that would otherwise hinder their operations.
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A symposium on Piketty - II: Capitalist dynamics and the plutocrats
Pranab Bardhan
Posted on: 17/06/2015 00:00:00

In the last part of the series on Piketty, Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley, discusses the implications for further study that Piketty’s book has for developing countries such as India. He emphasises the need for collecting more serious information on wealth ownership in India.
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A symposium on Piketty – I: Nit-Piketty
Debraj Ray
Posted on: 15/06/2015 00:00:01

In this part of the series on Piketty, Debraj Ray, Professor of Economics, New York University, attempts to clear the confusion caused by the theoretical discussion in Piketty’s book.
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A symposium on Piketty: Introduction
Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 15/06/2015 00:00:00

Thomas Piketty’s book on ´Capital in the Twenty First Century’ has made waves. The fact that a 700-odd page tome full of numbers and graphs can become an international bestseller is itself noteworthy. It may be a testament to the concern that people have over the growing inequality within developed countries. What is startling is its claim that the developed world may be gravitating to the pattern of wealth distribution based on inheritance that characterised the pre-modern world. The contribution this book has made in putting together historical data that clearly indicate the trend of growing inequality is truly monumental. However, the notion that the crux of the matter is the fact that the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of income growth may be confusing even to well-trained economists. Our motivation in putting together this symposium on Piketty’s book is to clarify the ideas in this important book on the burning issue of the day – ‘growing inequality’.
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Private investment and income disparity across Indian states
Jagannath Mallick
Posted on: 03/06/2015 00:00:00

Liberalisation reforms in India in the 1990s offered private investors the freedom to choose their investment location in the country. This column finds that income disparity across low-income states in India increased in the post-reform period, while it reduced across middle-income states. This is largely explained by private investment, which in turn depends on human capital and infrastructure of states.
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The crisis of farmer suicides
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 04/05/2015 00:00:00

More than 15,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide per year, on average, in the last two decades – a suicide rate that appears to be higher than that of the general population. In this article, Maitreesh Ghatak emphasises the need to think of farmer suicides as a policy problem, rather than tragedy, and to deliberate on the causes and remedies.
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The Chhattisgarh experience and the National Food Security Act
Prasad Krishnamurthy , Vikram Pathania , Sharad Tandon
Posted on: 20/04/2015 00:00:00

Many of the reforms introduced under the National Food Security Act are modeled on PDS reforms implemented in Chhattisgarh. These reforms are widely believed to be responsible for the state’s success in improving the distribution of food grains through PDS. However, this column shows that Chhattisgarh’s success pre-dates most of the reforms on which the Act is modeled.
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The financial inclusion agenda and Aadhaar
MS Sriram
Posted on: 18/03/2015 00:00:00

The central government is pushing financial inclusion in a big way. In this article, MS Sriram discusses the role of identity in financial inclusion, and the importance of Aadhaar in this context. He argues that while Aadhaar has facilitated opening of bank accounts by providing a verifiable identity to the poor, it has distracted the financial inclusion agenda by claiming to be a ‘fix-all’ solution.
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Solar power for street vendors? Lessons from an experiment in Bihar
David Szakonyi , Johannes Urpelainen
Posted on: 06/02/2015 00:00:00

Rapid urbanisation in developing countries is aggravating the issue of insufficient access to energy for basic needs such as lighting. This column discusses lessons from an experiment in Bihar wherein street vendors were provided solar-powered lights, the batteries of which were charged at centralised stations installed in urban marketplaces. Based on problems encountered in terms of the mode and cost of operation, it suggests that the provision of electric grid connections, with stand-alone solar lights as backup, may be a better approach.
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Big and small ideas in development economics: Theory, evidence and practice
Kaushik Basu , Karthik Muralidharan
Posted on: 03/02/2015 00:00:00

Karthik Muralidharan, Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego speaks with Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, World Bank and former Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India, on the World Bank’s global development agenda; inequality and the design of anti-poverty policies; contribution of recent academic research to development policy; research evidence, political economy and policymaking; State capacity for implementation; and law and economics.
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Transforming landholding agricultural workers into farmers
Ravi Kumar
Posted on: 07/01/2015 00:00:00

Some believe that MNREGA has negatively impacted agriculture by reducing the supply of labour available for farm work. This column refutes this view and argues that MNREGA has enabled agricultural workers with small and marginal landholdings to move up the social and occupational ladder – from wage workers to farmers - by complementing their farm income and providing for start-up investments in agriculture.
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Financial literacy: When, what and how
Parul Agarwal
Posted on: 05/01/2015 00:00:00

The need for financial literacy and its importance for financial inclusion have been widely recognised. Based on various research studies on financial literacy initiatives, this column outlines financial services’ needs of a poor household at various stages of its life cycle. It contends that customising financial literacy programmes according to the stage of life of targeted individuals is crucial for their effectiveness.
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Impact of MNREGA on labour markets
Clément Imbert , John Papp
Posted on: 22/12/2014 00:00:00

There is an active, ongoing debate on whether MNREGA should be retained in its current form. This column reports on research which suggests that MNREGA increased rural and urban wages and reduced seasonal rural-to-urban migration. It argues that the effect of MNREGA on labour markets should play a role in the discussion on whether and how to reform the scheme.
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Response to the Bhagwati-Panagariya rejoinder on MNREGA
Dilip Abreu , Pranab Bardhan , Maitreesh Ghatak , Ashok Kotwal , Dilip Mookherjee , Debraj Ray
Posted on: 14/12/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   MNREGA


In a recent article, Abreu et al. refuted the Bhagwati-Panagariya argument for phasing out MNREGA in favour of cash transfers. In this article, Abreu et al. respond to claims in a rejoinder by Bhagwati-Panagariya, regarding net benefits of MNREGA employment, the self-selection feature of the programme, and rural asset creation.
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Workfare as an effective way to fight poverty: The case of India´s MNREGA
Shamika Ravi
Posted on: 11/12/2014 00:00:00

The fundamental appeal of a workfare programme, vis-à-vis a welfare programme, is that it helps in targeting the beneficiaries. This column assesses the welfare impact of MNREGA on poor rural households. It finds that the programme had a significant effect on extreme poverty in the first few years of implementation by improving food security, financial inclusion and mental health.
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Financial inclusion for agricultural growth: An alternative approach
Pushkar Maitra , Sandip Mitra , Dilip Mookherjee , Alberto Motta , Sujata Visaria
Posted on: 08/12/2014 00:00:00

Traditional, group-based microcredit has had limited success at enabling farmers to expand the cultivation of risky but profitable cash crops. Evidence suggests that this is mainly because of its mechanisms for borrower selection and enforcement of repayment. This column proposes a new approach that leverages local intermediaries and aligns their incentives with farmer profits, to generate better outcomes for agricultural production and incomes.
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Assessing the quality and usefulness of MNREGA assets in Maharashtra
Upasak Das , Ashwini Kulkarni , Sudha Narayanan , Krushna Ranavare
Posted on: 05/12/2014 00:00:00

Questions have been raised regarding the quality and usefulness of assets created under MNREGA. To examine the validity of the scepticism, this column reports results from a study of MNREGA assets in Maharashtra. While the assets are largely found to be useful and durable, the study suggests that greater attention to design and maintenance, and local participation in the decision-making process can lead to further improvement.
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What´s the plan for MNREGA?
Abhijit Banerjee
Posted on: 02/12/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   MNREGA


The new government’s plans to scale back MNREGA have elicited a mixed response. In this article, Abhijit Banerjee contends that both supporters and critics, and indeed the entire nation, deserve to be told why this is the one programme of the previous government that has been singled out for the axe, if for no other reason than to inform our views about the design of future programmes.
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The Bihar story: Resurrection of the state
Jitan Ram Manjhi
Posted on: 26/11/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   Bihar


In the not so distant past, the Indian state of Bihar was a byword for corruption, lawlessness, poverty, and absence of governance. Over the last decade or so, the state has demonstrated a remarkable turnaround and has consistently been amongst the fastest growing regions in the country. At IGC Growth Week, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi outlined the key initiatives that made this possible.
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How gender inclusive is MNREGA in practice?
Upasak Das
Posted on: 21/11/2014 00:00:00

MNREGA mandates that a third of all workers under the programme should be women. But how gender inclusive has the implementation of the Act been? This column uses nationally representative data to analyse participation of women in MNREGA. It finds that while the programme has performed well overall in terms of providing opportunities to women, there is significant variation across states and sub-populations.
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MNREGA´s swan song: Not everyone´s idea of ´achche din´
Amitava Gupta
Posted on: 14/11/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   MNREGA


Over the last few months, the central government announced a set of measures to restrict MNREGA. The rationale essentially revolves around corruption in the scheme and lack of economic viability. In this article, Amitava Gupta refutes this justification and argues that the attack on MNREGA is a attack on the rights of the poor to a fair share in the nation’s prosperity.
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(Mis)Leading attack on MNREGA
Dilip Abreu , Pranab Bardhan , Maitreesh Ghatak , Ashok Kotwal , Dilip Mookherjee , Debraj Ray
Posted on: 12/11/2014 02:02:35
Tags:   MNREGA


Bhagwati and Panagariya have argued for phasing out MNREGA in favour of cash transfers. In this article, Abreu et al. contend that the argument is based on inflating the costs of the programme and deflating the benefits. While they do not claim that all is well with MNREGA, they believe it needs better governance, not slow suffocation.
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A critical assessment of the Rangarajan Panel Report on poverty measurement
Ranjan Ray , Kompal Sinha
Posted on: 30/10/2014 00:00:00

An expert committee headed by C Rangarajan was appointed by the government to rethink poverty measurement in India. This column provides a critical assessment of the recently released report of the Committee. It contends that while the Committee has proposed some positive changes, it missed an opportunity to mark a significant departure from previous approaches to poverty measurement.
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Is the proposed restructuring of MNREGA desirable?
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 20/10/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   MNREGA


The rural development ministry plans to restrict MNREGA to the 200 most backward districts, and reduce the wage component of the total expenditure of the programme. In this article, Ashwini Kulkarni - a member of the National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations working on MNREGA - argues against the proposed changes.
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The ‘urban sprawl’ and declining rural-urban inequality
Viktoria Hnatkovska , Amartya Lahiri
Posted on: 29/09/2014 00:00:00

India has experienced rapid urbanisation in the past three decades. Has urbanisation impacted the economic wellbeing of rural and urban workers? This column finds that the rural-urban wage gap has shrunk dramatically over this period. This is largely explained by the process of ‘urban sprawl’, which involves assimilation of rural areas into adjoining urban areas, and the resulting relative increase in urban labour supply.
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Please weight
Maitreesh Ghatak , Debraj Ray
Posted on: 05/09/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   statistics


The latest wealth index by New World Wealth that looks at multimillionaires has ranked India eighth in the global rich list. This article contends that looking at absolute numbers may be misleading. Accounting for population and economic differences across countries, it shows that while India does not stand out in terms of income going to the top 1%, it does in terms of income going to the top 0.1%.
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Can MNREGA buffer negative shocks in early childhood?
Aparajita Dasgupta
Posted on: 29/08/2014 00:00:00

Exposure to negative shocks such as drought during early childhood is known to have lasting, detrimental effects on human development outcomes. This column examines whether a household’s access to MNREGA, later in the life of the child, can offset the impact of early childhood shocks. It finds that programme access, although incapable of correcting for past deficiencies, does mitigate the impact of recent shocks.
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How well does DBT work on the ground?
Sweta Trayambak
Posted on: 04/08/2014 00:00:00

PM Modi has emphasised fast-tracking roll-out of the Adhaar-based Direct Benefits Transfer programme. In this note, Sweta Trayambak – who has worked with the district administration of Ramgarh in Jharkhand on the roll-out of DBT - highlights the key strengths of the programme, and problems faced in implementation on the ground.
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Squaring the poverty circle
Angus Deaton , Jean Drèze
Posted on: 30/07/2014 00:00:00

An expert group headed by C Rangarajan has recommended a poverty measurement methodology for India. In this article, Deaton and Drèze argue that the method proposed by the expert group to set poverty lines is both theoretically and empirically implausible. A simple and transparent benchmark, amenable to democratic debate, would be more useful.
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The challenge of fulfilling aspirations
Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 15/07/2014 00:00:00

This year’s election is a watershed in Indian history. This editorial discusses possible reasons for the stunning defeat of the previous government. While there is no denying that the previous government could be faulted for many things including creating a leadership vacuum and letting corruption go unchecked, the knockout blow came from its inability to reform the institutions that are responsible for fulfilling legitimate aspirations of the masses. What should the central government do?

Ashok Kotwal will be moderating a Panel Discussion on “Emerging Challenges: Economic and Social” between Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) and Mukul Kesavan (Jamia Milia) on 16th July, 6-8 pm, Le Meridien Hotel, New Delhi.

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MNREGA: Populist leaky bucket or successful anti-poverty programme?
Dilip Mookherjee
Posted on: 28/05/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   MNREGA


MNREGA – the world’s largest workfare programme - formed the backbone of the UPA government’s anti-poverty programme, and may well represent its most important legacy in the long run. This column reviews various studies on its performance, and provides a perspective on its broader macroeconomic effects. It argues that while MNREGA was far from perfect in terms of implementation, it was much more effective than other existing schemes in benefitting the poor.
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The plight of ‘complimentary’ migrants: Children at brick kilns
Parul Agarwal
Posted on: 09/05/2014 00:00:00

Migration for work is meant to benefit families of migrant workers. But what if the families migrate along with the worker? Based on visits to brick kilns in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, Parul Agarwal describes the plight of children of migrant workers in the Indian brick manufacturing industry.
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Going beyond the Gujarat versus rest of India debate on growth rates
Ranjan Ray
Posted on: 07/05/2014 00:00:00
Tags:   Gujarat


This column attempts to widen the ongoing growth rates-based debate on ‘Gujarat vs. rest of India’ by ranking Indian states on prices, cost of living, household expenditures and inequality, which measure how well states have truly fared in the past two decades. It highlights the spatial differences in terms of these indicators, and finds that prices vary across states at any given point in time. Inequalities have risen significantly in recent years, though there are sharp differences across states. It also shows that Gujarat has always ranked highly in terms of living standards.
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Can MNREGA improve credit worthiness of participating households?
Subhasish Dey
Posted on: 11/04/2014 00:00:00

Based on household survey data from West Bengal, this column analyses the impact of MNREGA on economic outcomes of participating households. It finds that the ‘local’, ‘guaranteed’ and ‘government-related’ nature of MNREGA work helps improve credibility of workers with potential lenders such as grocery store owners, if they participate in the programme in a sustained manner. Access to informal credit helps improve consumption.
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How innovations in telecom can promote inclusive growth
Ashima Goyal
Posted on: 28/03/2014 00:00:00

Applications of Information and Communications Technology, such as mobile banking, have potential to promote inclusive growth and equity. This column analyses conditions under which innovations in ICT can benefit the less well off, and how such innovations can be expedited. It recommends public provision of supporting infrastructure, focusing on consumer needs and reducing transaction costs for consumers.
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Growth, structural change, and poverty reduction: Evidence from India
Rana Hasan , Abhijit Sen Gupta
Posted on: 21/03/2014 00:00:00

Poverty reduction in India has been relatively slow even in years of high economic growth. A possible explanation is that growth has mainly been driven by sectors that generate fewer jobs for the poor. This column analyses this explanation and finds that structural change or the reallocation of jobs from low productivity to high productivity sectors, plays a key role in reducing poverty.
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Direct Benefits Transfer: An idea whose time has come
Varad Pande
Posted on: 14/03/2014 00:00:00

About a year ago, the Government of India launched a Direct Benefits Transfer programme that involves transferring government benefits and subsidies directly to residents through a biometric identification system. In this Note from the Field, Varad Pande, a government official who has been closely associated with the roll-out of the programme, reviews its promise and potential.
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UID project: Does evidence matter?
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 05/02/2014 00:00:00

The Indian government has been pushing to make UID compulsory, and is now moving towards charging for use of authentication services. This article asserts that the three key selling points of UID – corruption control, inclusion and portability – have been achieved in several states in major welfare programmes, by creatively using simpler technology that is free of the hassles attached to UID.
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Bali conundrum: WTO and Indian agriculture
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 15/01/2014 00:00:00

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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Unintended consequences of India’s child labour ban
Prashant Bharadwaj , Leah K. Lakdawala , Nicholas Li
Posted on: 08/01/2014 00:00:00

Bans and regulations against child labour are among the most popular policy tools used to address the problem throughout the developing world. But how well do they work in practice? This column analyses the effectiveness of India’s flagship legislation against child labour, the Child Labour Act of 1986. It finds that a few years after the ban, employment levels of children under the legal working age of 14 rose relative to those of legal age.
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Some thoughts on paternalism in poverty programmes
Jishnu Das
Posted on: 23/12/2013 00:00:00

“…it is pretty ironic the number of conversations I have had with development people about the poor and their drinking - over drinks.” – Paul Niehaus.
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Some reflections on the National Food Security Act
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 10/12/2013 00:00:00

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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How backward are ‘Other Backward Classes’ in India?
Ashwini Deshpande , Rajesh Ramachandran
Posted on: 04/12/2013 00:00:00

Since reservations were provided in government bodies for lower castes in the early 90s, ‘Other Backward Classes’ have been an important force in Indian politics at all levels. Has there been a corresponding change in traditional economic hierarchies? This column finds significant gaps in the standard of living between OBCs and higher castes. However, there is evidence of catch-up among younger people.
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A suggestion for WTO negotiations
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 02/12/2013 00:00:00

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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Estimating the nutritional impact of the Food Security Bill
Tara Kaul
Posted on: 18/11/2013 00:00:00

The provisions of the new National Food Security Bill seek to expand the value and reach of food subsidies provided through the Public Distribution System. This column analyses the nutritional impact of the PDS, and provides an estimate of the impact of the Bill on the caloric intake of current beneficiaries of the programme.
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Connecting India’s youth with development in red bastions
Varad Pande
Posted on: 13/11/2013 00:00:00

The Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship is an initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development that recruits young professionals to work with local governments for grassroots development in left-wing extremism affected areas. In this article, Varad Pande talks about the objectives, challenges and successes of the programme.
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Doing a number on the Food Security Bill
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 11/11/2013 00:00:00

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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´Muktidhara´: A sustainable livelihood project in West Bengal
Sourabh Bhattacharjee , Animesh Ghosh
Posted on: 14/10/2013 00:00:00

In this ‘Note from the Field’, two Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows describe a government funded project in the state of West Bengal that seeks to generate self-employment opportunities and sustainable livelihood options for rural people via self-help groups. They discuss the successes of the project and the lessons that can be learnt for the design and implementation of other such initiatives.
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Migrating out of poverty: The role of finance
Meghana Ayyagiri , Thorsten Beck , Mohammad Hoseini
Posted on: 13/09/2013 00:00:00

Financial liberalisation has been controversial as it is not clear whom the expanded credit allocation actually benefits. Using variation across time and states in India, this column finds strong evidence that financial deepening reduces rural poverty, especially among the self-employed. Financial deepening is also found to be associated with an inter-state migration trend from rural areas into the tertiary sector in urban areas.
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Correct costs of the Food Security Bill
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 28/08/2013 00:00:00

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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Getting India wrong
Partha Dasgupta
Posted on: 12/08/2013 00:00:00

In this article, Partha Dasgupta argues that deliberations on economic development, as in the recently published books by Bhagwati-Panagariya and Dreze-Sen respectively, are of little instrumental use if they ignore the role that high population growth and environmental destruction play in the persistence of poverty.
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The National Food Security Ordinance: Five misconceptions
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 07/08/2013 00:00:00

The National Food Security Ordinance was promulgated in July 2013. The public debate that ensued, especially the criticism in the business media, has tended to be either devoid of facts or factually incorrect. This article attempts to correct the terms of the debate with relevant facts.
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Star Wars
Debraj Ray
Posted on: 05/08/2013 00:00:00

Debraj Ray gets to the heart of the growth versus redistribution debate and argues that a sectoral imbalance in growth is inevitable. While occupational choice is an important way to deal with this, it is slow and imprecise. Action on the part of the government may be critical to even things out.
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Economic growth versus social development: The spatial dimension
Ranjan Ray
Posted on: 31/07/2013 00:00:00

In the context of the economic growth versus social development debate sparked off by Bhagwati and Sen, this column argues for a more nuanced approach to assessing progress. Combining nationally representative data on expenditure and social indicators for the different states in India, it explores the spatial dimension of the country’s economic development.
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What explains the steep poverty decline in India from 2004 to 2011?
Ashok Kotwal , Pronab Sen
Posted on: 29/07/2013 00:00:00

Ashok Kotwal, Editor-in-Chief, Ideas for India, interviews Pronab Sen on the recent poverty figures that show a steep decline in poverty in India between 2004 and 2011. According to him, the shift in terms of trade in favour of agriculture and higher rural wages accelerated the trickle down of the fast economic growth to the poor.
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A success story from Keonjhar
Chandrasekhar Bhuyan
Posted on: 12/07/2013 00:00:00

The final narrative in our three part series on what development means to real women comes from Keonjhar in Odisha. In spite of facing deprivation and setbacks early in life, today Basanti Naik successfully oversees the implementation of MNREGA projects in her village. Her life gives a very positive feedback about the success of government run programmes, but there are still thousands of women waiting to create their success stories.
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Empowering women for development
Belmati Jonko
Posted on: 05/07/2013 00:00:00

In conversation with a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow, Bahrin Bhuyinya, a resident of the Khunti district in Jharkhand shares her story. While she feels that the village has significantly benefitted from government schemes in the past decade, it is the increased involvement of women in the village panchayat that has truly empowered Bahrin and others like her. This is the second narrative in our three part series on what development means to women in some of the most remote parts of the country.
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Recession and child labour: The poverty link revisited
Sahana Roy Chowdhury
Posted on: 01/07/2013 00:00:00

While poverty is believed to be the main cause behind child labour, higher poverty is not seen to be associated with higher child work participation rates across Indian states. This column explores the impact of recessionary income shocks on the decision of parents to send their child to work, and finds that recession exacerbates child labour only in regions with a higher cost of living.
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Lost in transition
Arindam Banerjee
Posted on: 28/06/2013 00:00:00

As part of a special three part series, the Prime Minister’s rural development fellows bring us voices from the field about what development means to women in some of the most remote parts of the country. What is the impact of government programmes on the day to day lives of the people they are supposed to help? The first account in this series is of Kajalmani Soren in Lalgarh, West Bengal. Coming from a family of landless labourers, she talks about her experience with the National Rural Health Mission, the Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Public Distribution System.
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Food Bill: Neither populist nor unaffordable
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 19/06/2013 00:00:00

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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Lack of aspirations as a poverty trap
Sayantan Ghosal
Posted on: 10/06/2013 00:00:00

Much of the literature on chronic poverty focuses on external constraints as impediments to escaping the poverty trap. A new strand of research suggests psychological factors such as a lack of aspirations and low self-esteem could reinforce these traps. This column presents results from an ongoing study that demonstrates that it is possible to change these psychological factors.
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Boosting shared prosperity in South Asia
Ejaz Ghani , Lakshmi Iyer , Saurabh Mishra
Posted on: 04/03/2013 00:00:00

Two-thirds of the poor in India and other South Asian countries live in the lagging regions. This column examines whether there are poverty traps that make it difficult to achieve shared prosperity, and if the current fiscal decentralisation arrangements in South Asia are working to the benefit of the poor regions. It highlights the need for shifting the locus of policy from the national to sub-national level, and from leading to lagging regions.
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Why is poverty declining so slowly in India?
Arka Roy Chaudhuri , Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 25/02/2013 00:00:00

Despite two decades of fast growth of per capita GDP, India has experienced a very slow decline in poverty. The column suggests that this disconnect between GDP growth and poverty decline can largely be attributed to the positive feedback emanating from a skill biased growth pattern.
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Infant mortality in times of recession
Sonia Bhalotra
Posted on: 30/01/2013 00:00:00

Can recessions have permanent effects on people’s health in developing countries? This column looks at infant mortality in India and finds that recessions make things worse. The paradox is that this is often because women are working more, which in isolation is something to be welcomed. It calls for a balance to be struck between empowering mothers and protecting the most vulnerable.
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Helping the poor to save
Parul Agarwal , Deepti KC , Mudita Tiwari
Posted on: 23/01/2013 00:00:00

Do poor people save? This column portrays the saving and financial behaviours and preferences of the poor. It recommends designing and marketing savings products that address the constraints they currently face.
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Creating entrepreneurs: A big new idea in development
Oriana Bandiera , Robin Burgess , Imran Rasul
Posted on: 07/01/2013 00:00:00

Can the world’s poorest people become entrepreneurs? This column outlines results from an evaluation of the Ultra Poor programme in Bangladesh, a scheme that the NGO behind it claims is a staggering success.
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Cash Transfers – through the postal system or the banks?
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 20/12/2012 00:00:00

The central government has announced the conversion of 29 poverty schemes to Direct Cash Transfers. Should this be implemented through banks or the postal system? This article assesses the pros and cons, and recommends experimenting with different systems.
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Political reservation in India: The effect on poverty
Nishith Prakash
Posted on: 10/12/2012 00:00:00

Over the last 60 years, India’s Constitution has set aside seats in parliament for people from historically discriminated groups, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This column documents one of the first studies to quantify the effects of this policy on poverty. It finds that while more politicians from Scheduled Tribes help to reduce poverty, politicians from Scheduled Castes have no overall effect.
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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: is it working?
Participants: Jean Drèze , Ashwini Kulkarni , Neelakshi Mann , Varad Pande , Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 29/11/2012 10:42:21

MNREGA is one of the government´s largest flagship schemes, and is the largest job creation programme of its kind in the world. Supporters believe that it is necessary to help rural workers smooth income in times of distress and increase labour market access for marginalised groups, whereas critics argue that it is taking labour from the troubled agricultural sector and doing more harm than good. What does the evidence really tell us - is MNREGA working or would resources be better spent elsewhere?
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South Asia’s bottom half billion
Ejaz Ghani
Posted on: 09/11/2012 00:00:00
Tags:   South Asia


South Asia has more people in extreme poverty than Sub-Saharan Africa. This column asks why such conditions continue in the second fastest growing region in the world. It argues that growth is extremely important and necessary but not sufficient for reducing poverty – policymakers need to combine it with social policies that will provide better education, healthcare, and bring about social change
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The root of poverty: Ruinous healthcare costs
Anirudh Krishna
Posted on: 26/10/2012 00:00:00

While natural disasters and political turmoil rightly grab our attention, this column shows that it is everyday events that drag most people into poverty. For many, the first of these is illness and this column argues that this is where the first battle lines against poverty must be drawn. People need more affordable, accessible, and higher quality healthcare.
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Why some poverty-fighting programmes show no net impact
Jonathan Morduch , Shamika Ravi
Posted on: 16/10/2012 00:00:00

An increasingly popular way to tackle acute poverty is ‘targeting the ultra-poor’. The scheme provides not only money but also training and support and has been hailed a huge success in its origin country Bangladesh. But this column evaluates a copycat scheme in southern India and finds that the gains are met by losses elsewhere and that, overall, the effect is minimal.
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Child malnutrition in India and what can be done about it
Pushkar Maitra , Anu Rammohan
Posted on: 15/10/2012 00:00:00

While many things are getting better in India, the disturbing levels of child malnutrition are hardly changing. This column explores why and asks what can be done. It calls for more conditional cash transfers to poor rural families and better education on how to feed their children.
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Cutting delays in MNREGA wages
Saloni Chopra , Reetika Khera
Posted on: 10/10/2012 00:00:00

Officials in charge of paying MNREGA wages in the state of Andhra Pradesh can now expect to receive fines if there are delays. This column shows how this move was made possible by a simple automated system, how effective it has been, and how the rest of India should follow suit.
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Is economic growth always the best policy?
Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 05/10/2012 00:00:00

Is economic growth the best way to reduce poverty, raise life expectancy, and improve people’s health? This column looks at different Indian states over the last 20 years. It argues that governments that pursue economic growth cannot be accused of neglecting their social aims.
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Microfinance and predatory lending: The same old story?
Latika Chaudhury , Anand Swamy
Posted on: 19/09/2012 00:00:00

Once hailed as a near-miraculous way of lending money to the poor, microfinance is now often seen as exploitation – and governments are stepping in. This column looks at another point in India’s history where lawmakers have intervened in lending practices: following the Deccan Riots between farmers and moneylenders in 1876. It argues that in hindsight this was an overreaction – and perhaps there is a lesson for today.
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The resurgence of poverty
Anirudh Krishna
Posted on: 09/09/2012 00:00:00

Policymakers who aim only at lifting people out of poverty miss an essential fact: even as many people move out of poverty, many others fall back into it. This column argues that tackling poverty requires not only helping the existing poor, but also preventing the growth of future poverty.
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Compensating policies for small schools and regional inequalities
Anjini Kochar
Posted on: 18/08/2012 00:00:00

Despite government efforts, stark inequality in India’s schools persists, particularly in rural areas. This column argues that the failure may lie in policy design – rather than helping the worst schools catch up, policies are helping the better ones get further ahead.
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A plague on all houses
Pranab Bardhan
Posted on: 13/08/2012 00:00:00

Which is better, India´s liberal capitalism modelled on the US or China´s authoritarian state-controlled capitalism? This column argues that dysfunctional governments in both systems are leading to dangerous levels of inequality and triggering populism.
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Food for thought: On the design of school subsidy programmes
Farzana Afridi
Posted on: 06/08/2012 00:00:00

Despite significant increase in primary school enrollments, student attendance rates are less than 70% in public schools. This column argues that India needs to start evaluating its existing school subsidies systematically. It finds that provision of free cooked meals at schools that are sufficient not just in terms of quantity but also quality and variety will ensure better targeting and help get more children in school.
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Right to Food: Let´s get it right
Abhijit Banerjee
Posted on: 25/07/2012 00:00:00

The proposed inter-state resource allocation in the upcoming National Food Security Bill is anti-poor. It will result in unequal treatment of equally poor individuals across rich and poor states. This column explains why, and poses some questions for the way forward.
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A national shame: Hunger and malnutrition in India
Anil Deolalikar
Posted on: 23/07/2012 00:00:00

One area where India’s development falls desperately short is nutrition. Child malnutrition rates are higher in India than in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This column argues that there can be no excuses. Policymakers need to better understand the reasons behind this ‘national shame’ and need to start doing something about it.
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Walking the poverty line
Himanshu
Posted on: 20/07/2012 00:00:00

As India’s Planning Commission seeks to review its measurement of poverty, the issue has become a hot topic for public debate. This column argues that while poverty lines should be used as benchmarks for policy, they should not be used to decide who receives benefits and who doesn’t – nor should they distract us from the real issues of poverty.
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Understanding the differing fortunes of poor people in India and China
Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 18/07/2012 00:00:00

It is no secret that India and China have both been growing impressively and that the incidence of extreme poverty has been falling. But this column shows that if India’s economic growth had been as inclusive as China’s, poverty would have reduced by twice as much over the past two decades. It argues that India is missing an opportunity if it doesn’t allow its poor to participate more fully in its rapid growth.
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