another economist supports direct transfers to the poor

Chennai: A system of conditional direct cash transfers to the poor is the “first best option” to address poverty in India, and would also lead to a “more efficient and rational pricing policy,” economist Arvind Subramanian said here on Saturday.

Attributing India’s “abysmal” record in poverty eradication programmes to “minimal state capacity,” Dr. Subramanian said the country’s well-placed equity concerns could be addressed better by direct cash transfer schemes, as they would “attain the [equity] objectives by minimising the demands made on state capacity.” Citing examples from Mexico and Brazil, he suggested linking cash transfer schemes to conditions such as children going to school, or receiving basic immunisation shots. A start could be made by introducing “experimental projects” in some States.

read the news report in the hindu. my earlier posts advocating a dole [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7].


food security causes stagnation

punjab is the lone exception among food surplus states: all the others, like uttar pradesh, bihar, west bengal, haryana, andhra pradesh etc., have higher undernourishment rates than kerala. and the article i'd referred to in this post points out:
What then explains the high levels of child malnutrition in India? Answers lie in looking beyond income levels, economic expansion, conventional poverty, and food availability.
so, why discuss issues like food availability etc., again? because any discussion on undernourishment among children is inevitably guided, by the brahminized left, towards a debate on hunger (which is okay) and then towards food security (things start becoming unstoppably hazier, at this point) and then onto a discussion on the pds, minimum support prices, subsidies, evil neoliberal policies, globalization and so on. so, i wanted to re-emphasize the irrelevance of the issue of food availability in any discussion on undernourishment among children. food availability, i repeat, is irrelevant to undernourishment. at least, not directly relevant.

so, it doesn't matter whether you have an efficient pds (as in kerala) or a barely patronized pds (as in punjab) : it isn't directly relevant to the issue, in my view. in other words, what governments do to increase food production and availability (which is what food security is about) might have nothing to do with how undernourished the children in a state, or the country, are.

but central government policy on food security affects the people of different states in different ways. kerala produces half as much rice as it did in 1961, because most of its farmers, steadily over the years, are actually leaving agriculture instead of trying to increase production. and in the states which have increased production, by two-three times etc., over the last fifty years, a majority of the farmers are still stuck in agriculture.

in kerala, the children are better fed because people have grown more aware, while in the food surplus states, the farmers have been producing more to consume less and remain ignorant.

food security causes stagnation.


do you really need a 'progressive' goverment to ensure less undernourishment?

anoop saha, in response to my last post says:
Of course, Kerala is not an ideal. But the only explanation of low malnutrition in Kerala compared to AP and WB is that the poorest classes (who are most vulnerable to malnutrition) had a far larger stake in the power here than the other states. (italics mine).
please read the rest of his response too here. and let me add that i agree with most of what he has to say on the communists' social base in kerala.
the poorest classes (who are most vulnerable to malnutrition) had a far larger stake in the power here than the other states.
is that the reason why punjab too has a lower proportion of undernourished children? only 27%, less than even the proportion of undernourished children in kerala! do the dalits and other lower castes in punjab (anoop would prefer to call them poorest classes, i guess) have a large stake in power in punjab just as they do in kerala? dalits constitute nearly 30% of the population in punjab- a large presence. does that translate into a large stake in power? and have the governments in punjab been as progressive as the left front governments in kerala?

no, i don't think so.


more food equals more undernourishment

andhra pradesh grows more than 11 million tonnes of rice every year, kerala grows around 0.6-0.8 million tonnes a year- which state has a higher proportion of undernourished children?

andhra pradesh.

which state is food secure?

andhra pradesh, again. the state grows around 5 million more tonnes of rice than it needs while kerala's yearly output satisfies around one-fifth of its needs.

so much for food security.

kerala's governments, especially the left front led coalitions, have long focussed on redistributive justice- is that a reason why there is less undernourishment among children in kerala? then west bengal, where the communists have had an unhindered control of reins, should have a better record, yes?

no. undernourishment among children, between 0-2 years, is 43.5% in west bengal, much worse than in kerala (28.8). and worse than even in andhra pradesh (36.5).

and to think that west bengal is more food secure than andhra pradesh as it produces more rice. so, what's undernourishment all about? and why should any state aim for food security?


the niti and nyaya of undernourishment

in my previous post, i'd talked about prof. amartya sen's lecture in the indian parliament. 'Much of his lecture was devoted to probing the idea of social justice and drawing a distinction between 'niti' and 'nyaya'' according to the news report. undernourishment in india, according to this slightly old, but definitely enlightening article in the hindu, draws its sustenance from exactly that inherited code of niti and nyaya, from ancient laws which decide the place of each man and woman in our society:
What then explains the high levels of child malnutrition in India? Answers lie in looking beyond income levels, economic expansion, conventional poverty, and food availability. The first clue is found in the proportion of low birthweight babies. Estimates for India reveal that 20 to 30 per cent of babies weigh less than 2,500 grams at birth. This suggests the onset of malnutrition in the womb itself and reflects an inter-generational transfer of malnutrition from the mother to the child. Adversely affecting the birth of well-nourished babies is also the poor health and nutritional status of women. According to NFHS-3, close to one-third of Indian women suffer from Chronic Energy Deficiency and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2. (italics mine).
the article goes on to list other causes, all of which stem from gender and social inequalities. it isn't just economics, stupid.

it is mostly sociology and politics. or caste and politics. now, wasn't sen aware that our politicians, most of our media, academia and the indignant classes (especially the brahminized left variety) would draw only lessons in economics from his lecture? does sen himself perceive undernourishment as merely an economic problem?


nobel deception

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday criticised the political class of the country for quietly accepting consistent deprivations such as the “appalling levels” of under-nourishment among children, comprehensive absence of opportunity for basic schooling and continuing lack of entitlement to medical attention.
from the hindu, yesterday (italics mine). and the building in the picture is an anganwadi in my neighbourhood. yes, the shack.

you provide free or subsidized basic schooling through schools and teachers, and free or subsidized medical attention through clinics, doctors and nurses etc- how does one deal with appalling levels of under-nourishment among children? through anganwadis and pds and other clever efforts to ensure food security (and limit incomes in the countryside)?

when prof. sen refers to schooling, medical attention and undernourishment in the same sentence, is he referring to similar problems?
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