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

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Understanding Leakages in the Public Distribution System

This article attempts to resolve the puzzle of public distribution system leakages using the latest available data. Leakages remain high, but there is clear evidence of improvement in recent years, especially in states -- including Bihar -- that have undertaken bold PDS reforms. The main source of leakages is the "above the poverty line" quota, which is due to be phased out under the National Food Security Act.

Caste and the Power Elite in Allahabad

This article examines the social composition of public institutions in Allahabad, and specifically, the share of different castes and communities in positions of power and influence - the Press Club, the university faculty, the Bar Association, the police, and the commanding positions in trade unions, non-governmental organisations, media houses, among other public institutions. These turn out to be heavily dominated by a small group of upper castes - Brahmins and Kayasthas in particular. Disadvantaged castes, for their part, are largely relegated to subordinate or menial positions. The findings raise troubling questions about the resilience of caste hierarchies. Aside from better enforcement of reservation norms, there is an urgent need for more voluntary attention to diversity in public life, of the sort that has significantly reduced ethnic or gender imbalances in other countries.

Do Not Dilute NREGA

[An Open Letter to the Prime Minister on NREGA by economists based in India and elsewhere in the world.]

We are writing to express our deep concern about the future of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

Rural Poverty and the Public Distribution System

This article presents estimates of the impact of the public distribution system on rural poverty, using National Sample Survey data for 2009-10 and official poverty lines. At the all-India level, the PDS is estimated to reduce the poverty-gap index of rural poverty by 18% to 22%. The corresponding figures are much larger for states with a well-functioning PDS, e g, 61% to 83% in Tamil Nadu and 39% to 57% in Chhattisgarh.

Cash Transfers and UID

We support cash transfers such as old-age pensions, widow pensions, maternity entitlements and scholarships. However, we oppose the government’s plan for accelerated mass conversion of welfare schemes to Unique Identification Authority (UID)-driven cash transfers.

Regional Patterns of Human and Child Deprivation in India

This paper takes a look at regional patterns of human and child deprivation in India, based on district-level data. It presents and compares two simple summary indices of living conditions at the district level: a standard "human development index" and a variant of it focusing specifically on children.

Citizens' Statement: Repression in Koodankulam

We are appalled at the police repression unleashed on the people protesting peacefully against the Koodan­kulam nuclear plant. The repression has forced them to take to a jal satyagraha.

Child Sex Ratio and Sex Selection

Two comments point out fundamental fl aws in the article "Declining Child Sex Ratio and Sex-Selection in India" (EPW, 18 August 2012), which tried to demonstrate that stopping rules can affect the sex ratio andthat sex-selective abortions do not infl uence the child sex ratio.

From Calorie Fundamentalism to Cereal Accounting

Utsa Patnaik's new critique of our work on food and nutrition is wholly unconvincing. Her analysis of international patterns of "total" cereal consumption, interesting as it may be, does not invalidate anything we wrote, and certainly does not indict us of any "fallacies". And her attempt to demonstrate that the decline of cereal intake in India reflects "severe demand-deflation for the majority of the population" is based on a circular argument.

Nutrition, Poverty and Calorie Fundamentalism: Response to Utsa Patnaik

Utsa Patnaik's critique ("A Critical Look at Some Propositions on Consumption and Poverty", 6 February 2010) of the authors' earlier paper on food and nutrition ("Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations", 14 February 2009) does not stand up to scrutiny. She claims that the observed decline in calorie intake at given levels of real per capita expenditure is an illusion due to faulty price indexes, but does not offer any evidence that the consumer price index actually underestimates cost of living increases. Patnaik's "alternative deflator" and "direct poverty lines" are devoid of any convincing rationale. The charge of miscalculations in the original paper is incorrect, and reflects a misunderstanding of what was done.

The BPL Census and a Possible Alternative

This paper explores the possibility of a simple method for the identification of households eligible for social assistance. In exploring alternative approaches for identifying a "social assistance base", of which the bpl list can be seen as a particular case, this note explores possible uses of simple exclusion and inclusion criteria. It first considers the possibility of a quasi-universal approach, whereby all households are eligible unless they meet pre-specified exclusion criteria. It then looks at various inclusion criteria for drawing up a sab list. Finally, it explores four simple ways of combining exclusion and inclusion criteria to construct a sab list. The intention here is to point to possible directions of further enquiry, including experimental applications of the suggested method, rather than to present definite recommendations. Whether any convincing method of selecting sab households actually exists is an open question. Some of the findings here can be read as a reinforcement of the case for a universal approach. Indeed, the search for a "safe" way of excluding privileged households, without significant risk of exclusion for poor households, remains somewhat elusive.


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