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

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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.

Murder of RTI Activist

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) is deeply shocked and grieved at the brutal murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty in Pune on 13 January.

Open Letter to Judges

In 1997, while adopting the “Restatement of Judicial Values” (also called the Code of Conduct), the judges of the Supreme Court decided that each judge would declare her/his assets in confidence to the Chief Justice of India. This was reiterated in 1999 in a conference of Chief Justices.

Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations

This paper reviews recent evidence on food intake and nutrition in India. It attempts to make sense of various puzzles, particularly the decline of average calorie intake during the last 25 years. This decline has occurred across the distribution of real per capita expenditure, in spite of increases in real income and no long-term increase in the relative price of food. One hypothesis is that calorie requirements have declined due to lower levels of physical activity or improvements in the health environment. If correct, this does not imply that there are no calorie deficits in the Indian population - nothing could be further from the truth. These deficits are reflected in some of the worst anthropometric indicators in the world, and the sluggish rate of improvement of these indicators is of major concern. Yet recent trends remain confused and there is an urgent need for better nutrition monitoring.

Neglect of Children under Six

The following is an open letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh: We are writing to express our deep concern about the neglect of children under six in the Union Budget 2007-08.

Universalisation with Quality

India has some of the worst indicators of child well-being. About half of all Indian children are undernourished, more than half suffer from anaemia, and a similar proportion escape "full immunisation". There is therefore an urgent need to re-examine what India is doing for the survival, well-being and rights of children under the age of six years. Ultimately, this involves addressing the structural roots of child deprivation. However, there is also an immediate need to protect this age group by integrating it in an effective system of child development services that leaves no child behind. In this context, this paper, along with the collection of articles published in this issue, examines the role of the Integrated Child Development Services programme in protecting the rights of children under six.

Employment Guarantee in Jharkhand: Ground Realities

A recent survey in two districts of Jharkhand found many serious flaws in the implementation of the new National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Some of them could be explained as teething problems. As the experience of Rajasthan shows, there is scope for better implementation. All said and done, NREGA has created a sense of hope amongst the rural poor. This sense of hope can be further strengthened if people understand that the act gives them employment as a matter of right, and that claiming this right is within the realm of possibility.

Mid-Day Meals and Children's Rights

the quality of education is based on a narrow view of what school education is Mid-Day Meals about. This outlook is apparent in the dramatic question posed by Singh at the beginning of his article:

Democracy and Right to Food

It is widely accepted that the right to food forms one of the basic economic and social rights essential to achieve 'economic democracy' in India. This right is nowhere near realisation in India, where undernutrition levels are among the lowest in the world. The right to food moreover, does not easily translate into well-defined entitlements and responsibilities. Though serious difficulties are involved in making the right to food fully justiciable, new interventions are possible in at least three ways - through legal action, through democratic practice and through changing public perceptions. More importantly, the right to food needs to be linked to other economic and social rights relating to education, work, health and information, which together hold the promise of radical change in public priorities and democratic politics.

Future of Mid-Day Meals

Spurred by a recent Supreme Court order, many Indian states have introduced cooked mid-day meals in primary schools. This article reports the findings of a recent survey which suggests that this initiative could have a major impact on child nutrition, school attendance and social equity. However, quality issues need urgent attention if mid-day meal programmes are to realise their full potential. Universal and nutritious mid-day meals would be a significant step towards the realisation of the right to food.

Poverty and Inequality in India

This paper presents a new set of integrated poverty and inequality estimates for India and Indian states for 1987-88, 1993-94 and 1999-2000. The poverty estimates are broadly consistent with independent evidence on per capita expenditure, state domestic product and real agricultural wages. They show that poverty decline in the 1990s proceeded more or less in line with earlier trends. Regional disparities increased in the 1990s, with the southern and western regions doing much better than the northern and eastern regions. Economic inequality also increased within states, especially within urban areas, and between urban and rural areas. We briefly examine other development indicators, relating for instance to health and education. Most indicators have continued to improve in the nineties, but social progress has followed very diverse patterns, ranging from accelerated progress in some fields to slow down and even regression in others. We find no support for sweeping claims that the nineties have been a period of 'unprecedented improvement' or 'widespread impoverishment'.

On Research and Action

The value of scientific research can, in many circumstances, be enhanced if it is combined with real-world involvement and action. This approach should be seen as an essential complement of, not a substitute for, research of a more 'detached' kind.

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