more support for a dole

chandrabhan prasad, in a very insightful article, explores new ways in which dalits could be integrated into a post-reforms economy- i found this section very interesting:
Do such schemes actually reach their intended beneficiaries? Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, shocked the nation in 1987 when he admitted that only 15% of welfare money reaches its target. Two decades later, on 17 January 2008, his son, Congress general secretary and member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi, claimed that only 5% of welfare money reaches its intended beneficiaries. In other words, in two decades, we have more than doubled the inefficiencies of the welfare system. When we all know that billions of rupees don’t reach their intended beneficiaries, why do we continue to waste money and corrupt an entire society?

The next government should create a database of all families in distress, declare them pensioners, and deposit money directly into their bank accounts. It can be done. If the Election Commission of India can reach out to all the families in India and make photo ID cards for them, surely the Union government can identify some 15-20% of families in real distress and fund them directly. (italics mine).
he is, as you can plainly see, talking about a dole. such as the one proposed by the tdp in andhra pradesh and discussed in these posts.


Smoke Screen said...


I've read your posts on what you call the "TDP's proposal for dole" with considerable interest. The idea of a dole is of course sound. And objections to the proposal seem largely to centre on implementation.

But I'm curious about why you think the TDP's promise is credible at all. Colour TVs, free power . . . Haven't we seen and heard all of this before? Is the TDP's scheme a brazen attempt to "buy" voters (as JP charges in his complaint to the EC) Or a proposal for dole?

Why not speak of concrete plans for good governance? Because people who do (like JP?) will never win an election?

kuffir said...

'But I'm curious about why you think the TDP's promise is credible at all.'

smoke screen,

credible- in what sense? i mean if you're taking the broad line that all political parties/politicians are not credible, that's a discourse that is deceptive, in my view. because even when i do believe politicians are a part of the ruling classes, they're not the whole of it. in fact, i think they represent the most reasonable part (from the perspective of the marginalized) of it- people who bring legitimation to the ruling classes by negotiating certain concessions to the ruled. without politicians, the face of the ruling classes would be even uglier, i believe.

if you are talking about the tdp or other parties in ap., specifically, i'd like to point out that the history of the last three decades shows that the tdp had to fight quite hard every time it had to regain power. unlike the congress, the tdp couldn't/can't rely on a certain historic legacy that makes it a 'natural party of governance'. so it had to work harder, accommodate more, to gain the confidence of many sections that it now counts among its support base (although with not as much confidence as the congress). and if you also check the record of many successful regional parties, especially in south india, you'll agree that many radical ideas have come from the regional parties and not the so-called national parties in the last few decades. i hope to write a more detailed post on this in the near future.

i completely agree with jp that the colour tvs and free power promises are regressive. and that the tdp, which refused to bend on 'free power' in both the 1999 and 2004 elections should actually promise these even more sorry ideas now speaks of the recognition of lack of consensus on reforms across the country. and of its own unimpressive record on such fronts in the social sector- such as health, education and poverty, despite starting the debate on 'good governance' and taking some tentative initiatives on that lines in its last stint of rule.

as for jp's own agenda- i've been thinking of analyzing that in a future pot too :)

but, broadly two issues- one, jp appeals to a lot of the educated middle classes because he takes on politics as practised today- the corruption and the degeneration. but f you look closely, you realize, it's also an old babu's perspective. here lies the problem- i identify the indian bureaucracy as a part of the ruling classes, composed as it is of mostly upper caste,landed individuals. india's urban, industrial middle class also comes from mostly these sections- though there is a divide in this broad class on how to retain and expand control over india's polity and society, there is no difference on the issue of how unreliable, and ugly, india's practising political class is.

second, many of the reforms (administrative, electoral) he suggests are desirable and have long been pending at the central level, some for decades, and have never managed to reach parliament. the political class (unless it bends a little more and co-opts more sections of the ruled by yielding more negotiating space to them, and i hope the dole will help this process) is inherently incapable of taking on the bureaucracy and other ruling class interests i've mentioned because they're a part of it. consider the implementation aspect of various welfare measures- why do they fail? forget welfare, why does general governance- like health, education, justice, security is so very inefficient and inadequate? it isn't just finances- many west european countries spend less on these sectors (as percentage of gdp) than india does. even many sub-saharan african, asian countries fare much better than india.

my problem is- does jp, despite all the concept papers he'd contributed to the now defunct nac in which he talks about corruption and inefficiency in very painstaking, honest detail, understand the problem of misgovernance totally?

kuffir said...

i call it the 'tdp proposal of a dole' because it works faster into people's memory now, i hope :) i've been writing about a dole for most of my blogging career now (check the category 'dole',please). there have been many indian economists (one former rbi top exec) and others who've written about the dole- but i think it's only now that the concept has been brought into wider public discourse.. so right now the tdp is more useful in that sense- as a trigger to debate.

anu said...

Been reading your posts tagged ‘dole’ for sometime now, and especially liked your spelling out a link for school drop-outs reduction with such policies…. The part that still doesn't connect for me is the actual money transfer process -bank accounts. Needy families probably can be identified, given accounts and money transferred but I've always wonder about ones who are not recognized as 'families' ones for whom creating accounts itself presents a problem; the ones without addresses, the footpath dwellers, seasonal migrant laborers etc who are routinely left out of the census records.

The linked article in this post: insightful? In parts maybe, but sweeping suggestions there are bound to only increase the visceral hatred that such policies draw in our country. The part about ‘caste neutralizing’ he had studied and was based on some data, quite fascinating. An interesting phenomenon by itself.

About dole in the linked article: Who are distressed families? Would've helped if it was explained.
To me anybody who is faced with periodic or perpetual lack of access to food, clothes, shelter and inability to have children in schools, show the highest levels of distress. And these people may not even show up in a database based on census records. And randomly picking a slice of another country's reforms and adapting it here is less likely to achieve the same results.

Dole appears to be an accepted way of life in the US. And it is there for everybody. At one extreme the policies keep the poorest clothed, fed and children (http://www.hud.gov/homeless/index.cfm) in schools, and the other end a laid off banker/(unemployed) will get his dole in the form of unemployment checks (http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/unemployment-insurance/). For, their policies seem to recognize distress at various levels; hunger is distress, seeing a lifelong dream and effort to give a child an good education dissipating, is distress. Both have to be addressed and they are, hence a lot less resentment towards dole policies by people in general.

All this is greatly helped by their elaborate databases. Stored information is constantly up-dated, retrieved for verification and examined for misuse or mismanagement. It also helps that these systems are transparent and the policies self-correct when they show signs of derailment.

Wonder if we can simultaneously aim for dole distribution and records creation of the distressed? (like in disaster management). Debate will surely throw up clues and give direction. Looking forward to read more on the topic :)

kuffir said...

'The part that still doesn't connect for me is the actual money transfer process -bank accounts.'

well, that's where folks like you come in- biometrics could be a useful tool in building databases. the process has already been adopted, a few years ago, in many indian states. iris recognition methods are being used in the process of identifying heads of families in the issue of ration cards. so useful databases already exist. they only need to be fine-tuned.

the dole could be universal or targeted- the tdp proposal targets beneficiaries- very poor, poor and lower middle classes. i'd talked about a universal dole in my posts- a dole for all rural families so that 1) it isn't seen as 'charity' extended to some sections 3) it could lead to more efficient implementation. but the tdp scheme will eventually work out to a universal scheme because more than a large majority of all rural families (and urban poor) would fall within its targets.

transfers to bank accounts would be very simple- electronic transfers to accounts in nearest branches of banks. or the money can even be accessed through smart atm cards (this would definitely lead to more banks and more formal credit in rural a.p.,). that's one of the best features of the scheme- it keeps out/avoids all the middlemen, from the state secretariat to district collectorates to blocks and division offices to tehsil/taluk/mandal offices to panchayats.

how about people without famlies/homes? they constitute anything between 0.5-2% in urban india (i'd referred to people who live on footpaths in mumbai in a recent post- they number around half a million in a city of 1.3-2 crore people). and most of them trace their roots to rural india. in rural india, they'd constitute an even smaller part of the population- i think ngos can play a great role in bringing these people into the fold of the dole.

insightful? i would regard anything in the indian mainstream media that doesn't focus on cricket, films, celebrities of various kinds, tantrum-throwing politicians etc., as insightful :)

'And randomly picking a slice of another country's reforms and adapting it here is less likely to achieve the same results.'

well, we've picked democracy. the pds, nregs.. the dole represents a natural evolution of ideas- mexico and some other latin american countries have picked it up. pakitan has picked it up. if i remember right, even sikkim has a similar cash transfer policy. it is now as indigenous as universal adult franchise.

caste neutralizing is a subject that i've been interested in too- i feel it's very necessary- there are a couple of unfinished drafts in my dashboard.

yes, i've been studying the dole in the u.s., u.k., france etc.,

Smoke Screen said...


Many thanks for your detailed and analytical response. Much food for thought.

No, I do not subscribe to the notion that all political parties are not credible. That is a generalization that serves little purpose. However I will admit to being skeptical about election promises, specially about what prompts them.

I’m oversimplifying here, but your reasoning seems to be that the TDP’s cash transfer scheme will help bring dole into public discourse. Sounds suspiciously like a non sequitur to me, but I’m willing to buy it. It is in all likelihood a scam waiting to happen, but if the idea takes root, perhaps it will be perfected over time.

I agree with your analysis of the TDP and the Congress vis-à-vis AP.

However, my inability to see the TDP’s promise as dole stems from this reasoning:

One of the reasons Naidu lost the election in 2004 was the image he’d acquired of being anti-poor. Reddy of course exploited that.
Now, in these 5 years that Naidu sat in the Opposition, has he actually thought about what he’d done wrong? Is that how he came up with the idea of dole? Or, having seen what Reddy did to win the election, has he now understood the need to change track to win an election? And therefore this slew of promises on the eve of elections?

Is there enough evidence from his work over the last 4 years to suggest that this is a well thought out scheme?

On the other hand, does it matter? It does I should think. For very obvious reasons.

I greatly look forward to your post on JP. And yes, I will read all your other posts on the subjects.

kuffir said...


'but your reasoning seems to be that the TDP’s cash transfer scheme will help bring dole into public discourse'

yes, that's the idea. what i mean is even if the tdp doesn't win, the idea will be planted in public discourse. which means that it'd improve with time, as politicians and the media and the middle classes and the aam aadmi, weigh its merits and problems, against other social welfare ideas, and i'm sure many will find that it has many more advantages than other such ideas. this is an idea, and in india ideas take a long time to become programmes. the nregs is based on a programme that was started in mahrashtra over three decades ago. and the idea floated around in public discourse for more than a decade before that.

it's a non sequitur in the sense that the tdp may not able to win and hence this idea might not become a programme. but whatever party comes to power will have to contend with growing interest in this idea, among the public and the political class.

if the tdp comes to power it'd mean this idea has sunk in faster than i picture it'd. yes, scams are possible- and they'd come to light faster than in other programmes. that's the advantage with this programme- it is monitor the records and hence performance because, not too many people are involved in the middle- you could check what amount has been paid to who in the state secretariat and match this against records in the individual bank accounts. benami accounts would definitely find their way in- but not as many, and as untraceable as with other programmes.as you say, it could be perfected over time.

as for naidu's record- well some folks at uoh, among others, have certainly contributed by drawing certain conclusions about it for the people :)

there are two kinds of orthodoxies among our intelligentsia and arguing with them is not unlike dealing with members of two different schools of vedantists.

as i said, i'm unhappy with naidu's previous record in the social sector- education, health poverty etc., but the things he's accused of are entirely different. more farmers have committed suicide in the last five years than in the nine years of naidu's tenure. i'd talked about the crisis in indian agriculture in several posts. the problems began long ago- almost, ironically, at the same time as the green revolution. but the agriculture policy establishment in india wants to pursue the same mix of formulae to save indian agriculture again- indian farmers be damned. the consensus seems to be- the indian farmer should remain a farmer, even if he keeps making less and less from it every year.

that naidu has resorted to populism now is more a failure of the orthodox elements to think anew.

Smoke Screen said...

"some folks at uoh, among others, have certainly contributed by drawing certain conclusions about it for the people"

Point taken. :)

However, not everyone at uoh interprets politics and one is not always guilty by association!

Thanks, again. The discussion was enlightening.

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