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

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Targeting to the 'Poor': Clogged Pipes and Bureaucratic Blinkers

Drawing on a household and village-level community survey of social income, this paper offers a critique of the widespread use of targeting in Indian social policy primarily through the use of the below poverty line card system, to include or exclude groups from access to subsidised goods and sometimes to public works. It argues that targeting is inefficient and inequitable. In India, this situation is largely an outcome of the bureaucratic raj, which has created a vast system of clogged pipes. While successive governments have dismantled state controls and interventions for the private sector, delivery of services, especially to the poor, is still firmly controlled by the same bureaucratic system, with its attendant problems. Given the limitations of targeting, the principle of universalism is worth considering as an alternative.

SPECIAL ARTICLE

Targeting to the ‘Poor’: Clogged Pipes and Bureaucratic Blinkers

Renana Jhabvala, Guy Standing

Drawing on a household and village-level community survey of social income, this paper offers a critique of the widespread use of targeting in Indian social policy primarily through the use of the below poverty line card system, to include or exclude groups from access to subsidised goods and sometimes to public works. It argues that targeting is inefficient and inequitable. In India, this situation is largely an outcome of the bureaucratic raj, which has created a vast system of clogged pipes. While successive governments have dismantled state controls and interventions for the private sector, delivery of services, especially to the poor, is still firmly controlled by the same bureaucratic system, with its attendant problems. Given the limitations of targeting, the principle of universalism is worth considering as an alternative.

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