Human rights

This is the text of a presentation on the Combatting Corruption with Mobile Phones Project in Portuguese. The talk was delivered online for a conference at UFPA, Brazilian Amazon on 4 Nov 2014. Boa tarde. Meu nome é Vivek, sou um cientista social na Stanford University. Hoje, vou tentar algo muito audacioso: fazer uma apresentação em português. Isso é audacioso porque eu não falo bem o português. Eu aprendi essa língua em um curso de português que fiz por três meses há doze anos atrás. Eu preparei esta apresentação usando o google translate. Agora, você vai entender porque eu falo […]

Combater a corrupção com telefones

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here. Another strong argument for coupons or cash is that the recipients will have the choice to spend it on what matters most to them.  Proponents of reform have argued that the Indian policymakers tend to be paternalistic, and often argue that if the government gives cash instead of grains, poor people may misuse it, including by drinking it away.  They have argued that it’s important to trust poor people to make choices that matter […]

Coupons and cash transfers give people a choice unlike the ...

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here . Some scholars have pointed out that the motivation to dissolve the PDS comes from the ideological belief that the government should not be engaged in providing public services, and of course the material appeal this has for the rich.  The quest for PDS reform started in the context of India’s liberalization and globalization.  Pushed by multilateral agencies, the PDS was converted into a targeted system in 1997.  The motivation of these reforms was not […]

The politics of PDS “reforms”

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here . In evaluating alternatives including cash transfers, it is first important to identify both contributions and failures of the system.  Proponents of reforms today have focused exclusively on the problems, without dwelling on the things that it has done.  There is a reason why the PDS is so popular in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and increasingly in other states including Chhattisgarh.  In all these cases the PDS has worked and means a lot to the […]

The PDS does not work, let’s shift to coupons or ...

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here . Many have argued that half the PDS entitlements reach the “non poor”.  I believe that resources are scarce, and the government should spend the money on people who need it most.  We should thus be concerned if resources are being spent on those who do not need it.  In considering whether resources reach the right people, we should remember that we have a rather poor system of identifying the poor.  The poverty-line based on […]

PDS does not reach the right people, let’s shift to ...

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here . Please read other articles in this topic before getting here… The cost of administering the PDS is high Some economists have pointed out that the cost of administering the PDS is very high, and it is now possible to transfer cash to people at a cheaper rate.  This is one of the strongest arguments for a shift from PDS to cash transfers, in my opinion.  The amount of money that could be transferred just […]

Shifting from PDS to coupons or cash transfers: Assorted arguments

This is a part of a series of articles on the proposal to shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers. To see the introduction, click here . The level of corruption in the public distribution system has been one of the rallying points in the cry for change.  The following are some of the corruption related arguments for change: There is large scale corruption in the system It is undeniable that there is a lot of corruption in the PDS, and something needs to be done about it.  In arguing that we should shift from PDS to coupons or cash transfers, […]

Corruption in the PDS & will coupons or cash transfer ...

The Public Distribution System (PDS) in India has come under a vigorous attack in the recent months.  There have been calls to dismantle the system and to replace with alternatives such as providing coupons or cash transfers.  Without any doubt the PDS has serious problems, and performs abysmally in some parts of India.  Unfortunately, these are also among the poorest regions where the need for protection from hunger is the greatest.   Considering that the PDS is supposed to contribute to something as fundamental as food security, such poor functioning must be addressed. In the recent past there have been discussions […]

Shifting from PDS to coupons or cash transfers: FAQs

“Do you want to wear an anklet or do you want to go to prison?” said a US consular officer in Hyderabad about the tagging of some Indian students in the United States to monitor their movements. These anklets contain a GPS device that closely monitors the movements of the students, and will alert officials in case they move beyond areas that they have been authorised to. The anklets provide a useful analogy to the Unique ID (UID) project by the government of India. Let me explain. In an article entitled Prison without walls, Graeme Wood argues that such radio […]

Understanding UID through “radio tags”

Binayak Sen has just received a life-term jail sentence for sedition or waging war against the state. The specific crime, according to the judgement, was that he conveyed three letters written by a Maoist leader to a Calcutta-based trader. This was supported by a broader claim that Binayak Sen and his wife Ilina have known Maoists, and that Binayak even had Maoist literature at his home! Callous evidence The evidence presented for the critical claims of the case have been disputed. He met Narayan Sanyal several times in jail, under the supervision of jailors and was searched before and after […]

Why even those who oppose Naxalism should support Binayak Sen

NREGA presents an unprecedented opportunity for disabled persons across India to earn a living and to showcase their talents. But as things stand, NREGA is not designed for disabled people to participate in it, but we can change it all with some tweaking.

NREGA for the disabled

I was impressed with Obama’s talk on race during the primaries – particularly his ability to deal with difficult issues. What he did with race, he does not with international relations Obama’s ability to draw attention across the globe is incredible. There are even posters of him with a local political leader in many parts of Madras – something I have never seen of a foreign leader before. His appeal was clear in other parts of the world as well seen from the clamour in Israel and the crowds in Berlin. While he has the charisma to influence, I feel […]

Obama’s worrisome idioms: In reaction to his Berlin speech

Here’s a news item from the Real news network on India’s refusal to sign the cluster bomb treaty along with China, US (not surprisingly), Israel, Russia and Pakistan.What is shocking though is the paltry coverage it got in Indian media for an issue that is clearly important. ToI, NDTV, Zee News, Economic Times, and a few others carried an article straight from Associated Press or other services. Given that India had not signed this treaty, some home work could have been done here – but NOTHING was done. This is true of the highly celebrated Hindu as well. No interviews, […]

India refuses to sign cluster bomb treaty & we know ...

In one of the worst cases of attack on an NREGA activist, Lalit Kumar was murdered this week in Palamu Right from the word go combating corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has been a major agenda of activists of the Right to Food Campaign. Needless to say, it brings activists into conflict with the vested interests that are deeply rooted in India today. This week in Palamu, a young and committed activist – Lalit Kumar – was murdered, perhaps a result of his actions to secure the poorest of people their rights. I am reproducing an […]

Murder of Lalit Kumar, NREGA activist in Palamu, Jharkhand

A growing collection of Ambedkar’s works are available online at Ambedkar is easily one of the finest Indian thinkers ever. Academically, he has a degree in law, a Masters in economics (from London School of Economics), and a doctorate in social sciences (from Columbia University). At Columbia he majored in sociology and economics for his M.A. with a smattering of anthropology, politics and philosophy as other subjects. He also had a stint at University of Bonn. His experience ranges from being a untouchable boy to the principal architect of India’s Constitution. He started and ran a political party and […]

Babasaheb Ambedkar’s works online: Books, articles, talks

This public intellectual makes his integrity history Just before the first phase of elections in Gujarat the current Chief Minister made a controversial remark referring to the “fake encounter” of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. His own government has gone on record stating that it’s a fake encounter – but Modi has justified it stating that Sohrabuddin has been involved in extortions and other criminal activities. The Supreme Court of India is examining this extra-judicial murder currently. With just days to go before the election he decided to invoke Sohrabuddin’s murder. In a rhetorical fashion he asked the crowd what could be done […]

Cho Ramaswamy’s disappointing editorial