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Policy Watch No. 16

Credible Data for the Public Good: Constraints, Challenges, and the Way Ahead [HTML and PDF]

Bits and bytes of information propel today’s knowledge society. This Data Revolution is as transformational as it is multi-dimensional. India, however, remains a laggard and is yet to harness the full potential of data for the public good. In this Policy Watch, P. C. Mohanan, former Acting Chairman, National Statistical Commission (NSC), takes the reader through the data collection, analysis, and dissemination process in India. In particular, he points out the deficiencies in the institutional, implementational, and procedural elements of the country’s official statistics machinery. For a country endowed with a multiplicity of resources that are matched by the problems that confront it, the scientific use of data to address peoples’ issues has often been subverted for either political reasons or because of the inability of the structures that are in place to deliver timely and credible data for decision-makers.As the rest of the world races ahead by adapting newer technologies and creating independent bodies that ensure credibility of data, India appears to not only stagnate but regress as well. The way out, Mohanan says, is to harness the available technologies in a meaningful manner, improve statistical literacy, and insulate the statistical system from political vested interests. HTML Version [PDF 549 KB]

Policy Watch No.15

Policy Shortfalls Leave India’s Elderly to Fend for Themselves

One of independent India’s successes, improving life expectancy at birth from about 30 years in the 1950s to the 70s in the 2000s, has also exposed a major flaw in the country’s policymaking process: an abject neglect of state support for the elderly. Barring a few token measures, India’s elders languish in the blind spot of its policymakers. A mix of factors are at play. For all practical purposes, the country’s public healthcare facilities do not inspire the confidence of the people despite experienced professionals and the nearly free services that they deliver. At the other end of this spectrum of healthcare providers are expensive privately run hospitals that can push patients and their families into poverty. Societal changes, including the rising number of nuclear families, smaller family sizes, and migration for employment by the economically active population, have also had their effect on the provision of care for the elderly. In this Policy Watch, Tulika Tripathi, Economist, Centre for Studies in Economics and Planning, Central University of Gujarat , analyses the causes behind the neglect of the elderly by the state. Drawing from studies in Gujarat and other parts of India, she proposes that India’s public policy should be designed to cater to multiple levels, including correcting the rural-urban biases in health infrastructure, creating elderly friendly facilities, and providing support for caregivers. HTML version [PDF 602 KB]

Policy Watch No.14

The Supreme Court of India's Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service

Disruptions, at times, become catalysts for initiating change. Although India’s journey to create digital infrastructure to deliver justice commenced before the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic hastened the pace of the country’s judicial system going online. In this Policy Watch, legal researchers, Siddharth Peter de Souza , Varsha Aithala and Srishti John , discuss some fundamental issues that emerge from India’s plans to move towards e-Courts. This digitalised mode of delivering justice enabled courts to function with some capacity during the multiple lockdowns in India since March 2020. While the authors recognise the value of e-Courts, they argue that unless the digitalisation efforts factor in considerations of equity and inclusion for users, the outcomes would remain hollow and divorced from India’s socio-political reality. The Supreme Court of India recently placed a draft of its Vision Document for e-Courts for public discussion until May 31, 2021. Drawing from this document, the authors critically evaluate India’s approach towards electronic dispensation of justice, highlight conceptual issues relating to delivery of justice as a service that need to be addressed. They call for a fundamental rethink of the vision for e-Courts to ensure that the delivery of justice remains in the domain of public service. The aim of this Policy Watch is to highlight the implications of widening the range of players involved in the process of justice delivery by commodifying it without adequate scrutiny or accountability. Understanding these implications is important to bring about corrective action that will ensure that the administration of justice remains equally accessible and accountable to all. HTML version Related Resources : 1. Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. 2015 . Evaluation Study of eCourts Integrated Mission Mode Project , National Council of Applied Economic Research. [https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/Report-of-Evaluation-eCourts.pdf]. 2. e-Committee, Supreme Court of India . Rules on Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings . [https://tinyurl.com/3rphrrvw]. Related Articles Published in The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy: 1. Priya, R. et al., 2022 . COVID-19: Urban Middle Class Survey Highlights Need for People’s Agency in Policy Making , February 18. 2. Subramanian, S. 2021 . Pandemic-induced Poverty in India after the First Wave of COVID-19: An Elaboration of Two Earlier Estimates , August 19. 3. Shankar, G and Kiumari, R. 2020 . The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar , December 10. 4. Jacob, N. 2020 . Sewage Testing as a Pandemic Monitoring Tool , September 10. [PDF 474 KB]

Policy Watch No.13

The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar

Migration from India’s villages is linked to poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities and, in some States, feudal structures that dominate rural societies. COVID-19 and the lockdown implemented on March 24, 2020, to contain the spread of the pandemic resulted in traumatic conditions for migrant workers stranded across India. Bihar is second only to Uttar Pradesh in the number of out-migrants. In this Policy Watch, Girija Shankar and Rakhi Kumari discuss the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in Baisi, a block (sub-district) in Bihar, from where workers move to 17 States and Nepal as short-term migrants. In an exploratory study conducted in April 2020, they find that the lockdown resulted in drastic changes in villages: the rural economy was disrupted, spending priorities had changed, and savings and investments fell. Interventions by the Union and State governments appeared to have a minimal effect on boosting demand and providing sustainable income support opportunities. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 634 KB] Related Articles Published in The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy: 1. Priya, R. et al., 2022 . COVID-19: Urban Middle Class Survey Highlights Need for People’s Agency in Policy Making , February 18. 2. Subramanian, S. 2021 . Pandemic-induced Poverty in India after the First Wave of COVID-19: An Elaboration of Two Earlier Estimates , August 19. 3. Souza, P. D. S., et al., 2021 . The Supreme Court of India’s Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service , July 10. 4. Jacob, N. 2020 . Sewage Testing as a Pandemic Monitoring Tool , September 10.

Policy Watch No.12

COVID-19: Crisis-hit Rural India Needs Effective Farm Policy Implementation

India's farm sector, which is still the country’s largest employment provider, suffered heavy losses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector, which is socio-economically both diverse and complex, has always faced institutional constraints ranging from debt-dependency to exploitative marketing intermediaries and left the Indian farmer vulnerable to both monsoon and markets. When COVID-19 struck, the Government of India was quick to exempt agriculture from the restrictive lockdown. It also announced sector-specific relief packages and promulgated three ordinances to reform the agricultural sector. In this Policy Watch, Sangeeta Shroff, Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune , writes on the impact of COVID-19 on the farm sector, specifically horticulture and floriculture, which were directly affected as the lockdown coincided with their harvest season. Issues that have long-afflicted the Indian agricultural sector—transport bottlenecks, inadequate storage and cold chain facilities, poor marketing networks, economies of scale, and the absence of efficient linkage mechanisms, to name a few—aggravated the adverse fallout of the lockdown. She concludes with a discussion of government policies, relief packages for farmers during COVID-19 and the possible trajectory of these reforms. Shroff advocates the use of technology as a game changer for Indian agriculture. She concludes on a note that the real answer, however, lies in strengthening rural infrastructure in the form of roads, electricity, schools, sanitation, healthcare, and telecommunications to generate employment, prevent distress migration and ensure that the benefits of growth are not concentrated only in urban centres but are also reaped by rural India. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) Click here for PDF [476 KB] .   Related Resource COVID-19: Press Releases and Updates by the Government of India and WHO [HTML and PDF] . Source : Press Information Bureau, Government of India.   Related Articles Chaturvedi, S. 2020 . Pandemic Exposes Weaknesses in India’s Disaster Management Responses , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, September 3. Mudliar, P. 2020 . A Reality Check on India’s Search for Digital Utopia , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, August 28. Ebenezer, R. 2020. Ensuring Zero Tolerance for all Forms of Forced Labour , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, July 14. Ngullie, O. G.  and  Ansari, A. A. 2020 . India’s Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi’s Beneficiaries , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, June 26. Vijay, G. and Gudavarthy, A. 2020 . A Pandemic as a Political Reality Check , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, April 15.   [PDF 476 KB]

Policy Watch No.11

India’s Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi’s Beneficiaries

Never since the founding of the Indian republic have so many millions depended directly on India’s government machineries for sustenance. One reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home is that the welfare state cannot be replaced and needs to be strengthened. In addition to market failures, the inability of markets to operate under extraordinary circumstances – such as the ongoing pandemic – places the onus on governments to emerge as providers of the last resort. In this interview-based empirical study, O. Grace Ngullie and Arib Ahmad Ansari, Independent Researchers, revisit beneficiaries who were respondents in a previous study by the first author on the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Delhi. (The names of all respondents have been changed to protect confidentiality.) While the earlier study focussed on the comparative benefits of cash transfers vis-à-vis provisioning of ration, the present exploratory study aims to find out the manner in which the PDS has worked for the poor in times of COVID-19 pandemic. This preliminary inquiry finds that the pre-existing problems with the PDS persist, thereby worsening the woes of the vulnerable who have been promised food security during the pandemic. For instance, there were differences reported in the quantity or rations received and promised, the quality of the food grains, exclusion, and access. The authors suggest a set of policy recommendations addressing each of the problems. The recommendations include utilising modern and emerging technologies to address supply chain issues, the creation of new cadre for monitoring, and upwardly revising the allocation. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 523 KB] [ Correction: A typographical error in Endnote 9 [PDF version] was corrected on June 27, 2020, in the HTML version of this Policy Watch The corrected Endnote 9 is: 9. Mander, H. et al. 2020 . A plan to revive a broken economy , The Hindu , May 14. [https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-plan-to-revive-a-broken-economy/article31577261.ece]. Related Resource:  Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Press Releases by the Government of India [HTML and PDF]. Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Related Article: Vijay, G. and Gudavarthy, A. 2020 . A Pandemic as a Political Reality Check , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, April 15.

Policy Watch No.10

Revisiting Bogaram: Liberalisation and Caste in an Indian Village

Bogaram, a village in present day Telangana, which is studied in this Policy Watch for the socio-economic impact of liberalisation on a rural community, was initially the subject of the author’s research in 1996. This Policy Watch is based on a revisit made to the same village in Ramannapet Mandal, Nalgonda district, Telangana State after two decades. This Policy Watch documents the structural changes that have taken place in the village in past 21 years. The major empirical observation that emerged from the study is that the dominant caste of the village, i.e. the Padmashalis (or the traditional weavers), which was emerging as socially, economically, and politically dominant in 1996, has declined in terms of economic and social power over the past 21 years, despite the fact that they are still numerically significant caste and hold the reins of political power. The socio-economic decline of the dominant caste of weavers has happened along with the decline of their weaving occupation as a result of the decline of export markets, lack of local markets for finished cloth, and increasing prices for the raw material, and changes in weaving technology. The study concludes that this decline of the Padmashali dominant caste is in consonance with the decline and pauperisation of the entire village economy in the contemporary context of globalisation and liberalisation. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 732 KB]

Policy Watch No.9

Can the Ten per cent Quota for Economically Weaker Sections Survive Judicial Scrutiny?

The Constitution (103 rd Amendment) Act, 2019 has empowered the state to provide up to 10 per cent reservation in education and public employment for "economically weaker sections" (EWS) of citizens other than the Scheduled Castes (SC), the Scheduled Tribes (ST), and the non-creamy layer of the Other Backward Classes (OBC-NCL). This will be over and above the existing scheme of reservations and increases the total reservations to 59.50 per cent. The fraught legal history of reservations in India shows that from 1951 onwards whenever the Supreme Court gave an adverse ruling on some aspect of reservations in education or public employment, the Parliament responded by amending the Constitution to reverse or overcome the inconvenient judicial pronouncements. The 103 rd Amendment is the latest step in this direction aimed at overcoming the Supreme Court’s rulings that (1) economic backwardness cannot be sole criterion for reservation and (2) the total reservations should not be greater than 50 per cent. Even a Constitutional amendment can be struck down by the Supreme Court if it has the effect of destroying or abrogating the "basic structure" of the Constitution. So, the only possible legal challenge to the validity of the 103 Amendment is a "basic structure challenge". In this Policy Watch, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty , retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, traces the constitutional and legislative history of reservations in India, discusses past ‘basic structure’ challenges relating to reservations, highlights the legal infirmities in the 103 rd Amendment, looks at the different scenarios available before the Supreme Court, and analyses if a successful ‘basic structure’ challenge can be made out in this case. All these years, the “50 per cent ceiling” rule was the only thing that had stood in the way of the demands for greater reservation from various pressure groups. Once this Lakshman Rekha is crossed, there is no going back and we may be letting the genie of proportional representation out of the bottle. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 1.10 MB]

Policy Watch No.8

Fixing Child Malnutrition in India: Views from a Public Policy Practitioner

India is home to the one of the world’s largest flagship programmes for under-6 children, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which was introduced more than four decades ago on October 2, 1975. Tragically, India continues to languish way down in international rankings on child nutrition indices. Nonetheless, there has been a progressive evolution in policies, advanced at times by judicial interventions. Significant financial resources have also been expended on the ICDS and related programmes. Yet, substantial improvements are yet to be seen, especially in the laggard heartland States of northern and eastern India. In this Policy Watch,  Venkatesan Ramani, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Maharashtra cadre and the first Director-General of the Rajmata Jijau Mother-Child Health and Nutrition Mission, the first such mission to be set up in the country in 2005, analyses why both planning and implementation of programmes impacting child nutrition have been deficient. Data gaps have impeded the framing of sound policy measures, leading to one-off actions to solve the problem rather than a concerted effort to address underlying economic and social causes, especially in pockets of high incidence of child malnutrition in the country. Drawing on his experience in Maharashtra, Ramani suggests measures to help reduce child malnutrition in the coming years. Political will and administrative skills, he writes, are key to such changes and need to be accompanied by adequate funding and activating what, in many States, is a rather moribund ICDS machinery. He can be contacted at  [email protected] Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 1.01 MB]

Policy Watch No.7

Winning Voter Confidence: Fixing India’s Faulty VVPAT-based Audit of EVMs

As the world’s largest democracy gears up for a season of elections, including the 2019 General Election, there is an urgent need to examine the integrity of the electoral process. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are ‘black boxes’ in which it is impossible for voters to verify whether their votes have been recorded correctly, and counting mistakes and frauds are undetectable and unchallengeable. The ‘voter verified paper audit trail’ (VVPAT) is an additional verifiable record of every vote cast that allows for a partial or total recount independent of the EVM’s electronic count. It is a critical safeguard that can help detect counting mistakes and frauds that would otherwise go undetected. The success of the VVPAT audit, however, depends on a proper, statistically acceptable, and administratively viable sample plan. The Election Commission of India (ECI)’s prescription of a uniform sample size of just “one polling station (i.e. one EVM) per Assembly Constituency” for all Assembly Constituencies and all States stirs up an avoidable controversy and diminishes voter confidence. The ECI has not made public as to how it arrived at this sample size, and it has also not clearly specified the population to which this sample size relates. The latter is important because in the event of a defective EVM turning up in the sample, the hand counting of VVPAT slips will have to be done for all the remaining EVMs of the specified population. In this Policy Watch, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer , demonstrates that the sample size prescribed by the ECI for VVPAT Audit is a statistical howler that fails to conform to fundamental sampling principles, leading to very high margins of error which are unacceptable in a democracy. By failing to detect outcome-altering miscounts due to EVM malfunction or fraud, it defeats the very purpose of introducing VVPAT. Spending hundreds of crores of rupees on procurement of VVPAT units makes little sense if their utilisation for audit purposes is reduced to an exercise in tokenism. This Policy Watch suggests statistically correct—and administratively viable—sample sizes to eliminate the risk of electoral fraud and infuse public confidence in the electoral process. It suggests ways in which the ECI can set the controversy at rest and make a beginning with the elections for five States whose counting is scheduled for December 11, 2018. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) Related Article Shetty, K.A.V. 2018 . Making Electronic Voting Machines Tamper-proof: Some Administrative and Technical Suggestions , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, August 30. [PDF 1.08 MB]

Policy Watch No.6

Making Electronic Voting Machines Tamper-proof: Some Administrative and Technical Suggestions

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has been consistently claiming that its Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are unique and that tampering is not feasible under real election conditions with its security protocol and administrative safeguards in place. Notwithstanding the ECI’s claims, at various points in time, the entire spectrum of political parties in India [including BJP and Congress] have expressed their reservations about the integrity of its EVMs. There have also been demands to revert to paper ballots. Confidence in the integrity of EVMs is important for voters to trust the outcomes of elections. The ECI cannot allow this confidence to be eroded. It is true that Indian EVMs cannot be hacked because they are not connected to any network and their software is ‘burnt’ into the CPU and cannot be rewritten after manufacture. But what if dishonest insiders and criminals get physical access to the EVMs and replace the EVM’s non-hackable CPU with a look-alike but hackable CPU that can be programmed to count votes dishonestly together with an embedded Bluetooth device that allows it to be remote controlled? All the features and safeguards relied on by the ECI can be easily negated by insider fraud for which there is scope at three stages: (1) at the EVMs manufacturing stage, (2) at the district level, during the long non-election period, when the EVMs are stored in archaic warehouses in multiple locations with inadequate security systems, and (3)at the stage of ‘first level checks’ prior to an election when the EVMs are serviced by authorised technicians from the EVM manufacturers. The threats are real but luckily, the remedies are simple and effective: (1) use of Authentication Units before the polls to weed out counterfeit/tampered EVMs, and (2) effective use of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system at the time of counting to guard against EVM tampering or malfunction. Both are essential. But the ECI has dragged its feet since 2006 in procuring Authentication Units, and has prescribed a minuscule sample of one EVM per Assembly Constituency for hand-counting of VVPAT slips which is grossly inadequate, statistically unsound, and nearly as bad as not implementing VVPAT at all. In this Policy Watch, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, examines the vulnerabilities of EVMs in the light of the ECI’s claims thereof, the adequacy of its security protocol and administrative safeguards, and the risks due to the perfunctory implementation of VVPAT systems as done in the recent Assembly Elections. He provides several practical administrative and technical suggestions to make Indian EVMs tamper-proof. His interest in this matter is strictly apolitical and nothing more than preserving the integrity of India’s electoral process and enhancing its credibility in the eyes of political parties and voters. Click to read this Policy Watch (HTML) [PDF 1.19 MB] Related Article Shetty, K.A.V. 2018 . Winning Voter Confidence: Fixing India’s Faulty VVPAT-based Audit of EVMs , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, November 27.

Policy Watch No.5

The ‘One Nation’ Fallacy in a ‘New’ India

The early years of the Indian republic saw an emphasis on nation building, accomplished through a top-down policy paradigm driven by the Centre and fl

Policy Watch No.4

Slow Agricultural Growth and Agrarian Crisis

India’s agricultural growth in the past two decades has been slower than the rest of the economy. This has led to resentment among the rural populatio

Policy Watch No.3

Reservation in Educational Institutions: Who Gains from Abolishing the Common Entrance Test (CET) in Tamil Nadu

At a time when the need for and effectiveness of a Common Entrance Test (CET) to professional colleges is debated across the country, The Hindu Centre

Policy Watch No.2

Net Neutrality and Keeping the Internet Free in India

In February 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released the "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulati

Policy Watch No.1

Passive Police: Institutional Learning Through Inquiry Commissions

Commissions of inquiry set up by the Indian state in three instances – the anti-Sikh riots (1984), the Mumbai riots (1992-93), and, the post-Godhra ri

Policy Watch No. 16

Credible Data for Public Good: Constraints, Challenges, and the Way Ahead

Bits and bytes of information propel today’s knowledge society. This data revolution is as transformational as it is multi-dimensional. India, however

Policy Watch No. 15

Policy Shortfalls Leave India's Elderly to Fend for Themselves [HTML version]

One of independent India’s successes, improving life expectancy at birth from about 30 years in the 1950s to the 70s in the 2000s, has also exposed a

Policy Watch No. 14

The Supreme Court of India's Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service [HTML version]

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the change in the way in which societies - individuals and groups, businesses and governments - op

Policy Watch No. 13

The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar

Migration from India’s villages is linked to poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities and, in some States, feudal structures that dominate rural societies. COVID-19 and the lockdown implemented on March 24, 2020, to contain the spread of the pandemic resulted in traumatic conditions for migrant workers stranded across India. Bihar is second only to Uttar Pradesh in the number of out-migrants. In this Policy Watch, Girija Shankar and Rakhi Kumari discuss the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in Baisi, a block (sub-district) in Bihar, from where workers move to 17 States and Nepal as short-term migrants. In an exploratory study conducted in April 2020, they find that the lockdown resulted in drastic changes in villages: the rural economy was disrupted, spending priorities had changed, and savings and investments fell. Interventions by the Union and State governments appeared to have a minimal effect on boosting demand and providing sustainable income support opportunities. CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION II. THE MIGRANTS FROM BAISI III. THE DISRUPTED MIGRANT ECONOMY IV. THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON SPENDING PATTERNS V. REVIVING RURAL BIHAR – AN UPHILL TASK   I. INTRODUCTION Bihar, with nearly three times the national population density and about a third of its urbanisation rate, has been a source State for internal migration for centuries. 1   It is India’s most densely populated State (1,102 persons/per square kilometre), compared with a national average of 382. 2 Moreover, with only 11.30 per cent if its population living in urban areas, it naturally follows that Bihar’s population is predominantly rural (88.70 per cent). The Bihar Economic Survey 2019-20, provides sectoral growth rates in GDP/GSDP 3 from 2013 to 2019. 4 Figure 1 shows the growth in GDP/GSDP in the secondary (manufacturing, EGWUS, 5 and construction) and tertiary sectors (transport, communications, and storage), and a sharp decline in the primary sector (agriculture and allied activities) in 2018-19. Picture1jpg   Source : Bihar Economic Survey 2019-20. The State's poor performance in development indicators has placed it in a cluster referred to as the BIMARU, 6 an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh (U.P.).  The State has high levels of poverty and illiteracy, a defunct health care system, and a corrupt political administration.  However, the situation was not the same historically, as the region was the seat of empires in ancient India.  There are several reasons behind the economic decline of Bihar from its ancient glory despite its rich alluvial river valley and generous natural resource endowment. Economic policies and the State’s decline One view on the economic deterioration in the modern period is that it began with the introduction of opium and indigo farming at the behest of the British in the 1920s, which took over almost entirely the land under sugarcane cultivation.  Around the same time, the textile industry, which began in the early nineteenth century and sustained about 60,000 people in the region, was also on the decline 7 , 8 due to a combination of social, economic, and political factors. According to Rasul and Sharma, the process of marginalisation, which began during the colonial rule, was "further reinforced by the [Union] government's policy of 'freight equalization', which nullified the comparative advantage of Bihar and U.P. in natural resources by subsidizing railway freights of industrial inputs like coal, iron ore, steel, cement, and other bulk resources…which undermined the State's "capacity to invest in health, education, and other social and physical infrastructure, and resulted in low human development." 9 Added to these factors is the reality that people employed in the agricultural sector had among the lowest wages across the country.  Between 1987-88 and 1989-90, the average per capita income (at current prices) in the agriculture sector was ₹948, against the national average of ₹1,522.  This deficit was primarily due to a severe lack of research facilities and technology support, and institutional backwardness.  In 1989-90, the per capita net value added 10 in the manufacturing factory sector in Bihar was only ₹305, against the national average at ₹514. 11 Nevertheless, in recent years, the Bihar government has claimed that the poverty ratio has reduced compared with previous years. 12 Migration, an escape from economic and social subjugation A historical trait that has dotted Bihar’s socio-economic landscape is out-migration.  As per the estimate of the Economic Survey of India 2017 , inter-State migration in India was close to nine million between 2011 and 2016, with the highest number of migrants hailing from U.P. and Bihar, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and West Bengal. 13 Migration from Bihar can be traced back to the 1830s when people were moved as indentured labourers to the British colonies of Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, and Fiji. In the 1960s during the spread of the Green Revolution, migration began to Calcutta (now Kolkata), the capital of West Bengal, and in the 1990s and the 2000s, people started moving across the country. 14 This phenomenon of outward migration from Bihar is intricately linked to poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities, and the prevalence of feudalism in the agriculture sector.  In Migration and livelihood in historical perspective: A case study of Bihar, India, Arjan de Haan 15 discussed a unique pattern of migration that existed for 100 years, where the work offered was relatively permanent in nature.  Unskilled labourers migrated to the industries in Kolkata while their roots remained in the villages of their origin.  Their savings were first spent on the basic needs of the family and then on asset creation, like buying agricultural land. 16 In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 on international migration, the then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, pointed out that "Migration is a courageous expression of an individual's will to overcome adversity and live a better life”. 17 Mobility is the inherent characteristic of an individual.  As the World Migration Report 2020, highlights, it “appears to be closely linked with the level of development in each country, which, in turn, is linked with the distribution of the population in each country”. 18 It is the result of the individual’s endeavour towards a social, political, spiritual, economic, and environmental balance.  However, the proximate reasons for migration have always changed with time and space.  Figure 2 shows the change in the reasons and destinations for migration over the period of a decade. Picture2jpg   Source : Report of the Working Group on Migration, Govt. of India, 2017. 19 Migration and the migrants have always been a serious branch of inquiry among researchers and have fascinated policymakers.  Development expert de Haan, in his work on migration 20 in Bihar, focused on “how migration has been caused by and in turn influences poverty and livelihoods for men and women”. Dutta and Mishra focused on the impact of male migration on the lives of the women in Bihar. 21 They pointed out that male migration functioned as the catalyst for enhancing women’s mobility, even as their burden of work increased in agriculture.  Although most women remained in jobs that conformed to their traditional roles; in some communities, the women switched over to other occupations.  In terms of changes in the pattern of household behaviour, the decision on spending of money was taken by the women even in castes placed lower in the social hierarchy. The Government of India sees migration as an opportunity.  Its Report of the Working Group on Migration highlights the view that migrants "fuel the Indian economy by carrying human capital to regions where it is needed, and enabling the acquisition of new skills and a better standard of living". 22 Definitional framework of migrants in India Studies on migration in India are shaped by official definitions.  In addition to migration figures based on place of birth and duration of migration, data are also available on migration by place of last residence, which are more accurate in analysing current migration.  According to the Census of India 2001’s Data Highlights - Migration Tables, 23 "A person is considered as migrant by place of birth if the place in which he is enumerated during the census is other than his place of birth.  As a person could have migrated a number of times during his lifetime, migration by place of birth would not give a correct picture of the migration taking place currently.  A person, on the other hand, is considered as migrant by place of last residence, if the place in which he is enumerated during the census is other than his place of immediate last residence.  By capturing the latest of the migrations in cases where persons have migrated more than once, this concept would give a better picture of current migration scenario." The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), in its 64 th survey, 24 defines migration and migrants 25 as follows: Those movements which resulted in change of the usual place of residence (UPR) 26 of the individuals were treated as migration and a household member whose last usual place of residence was different from the present place of enumeration was considered a migrant. [Emphasis added]. Return to Contents II. THE MIGRANTS FROM BAISI India's internal migration numbers (from rural to other rural areas and urban areas) stood at 73.8 million during the decade ending 2001. 27 The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered India’s migrant workforce vulnerable, especially those working in the informal sector.  In addition to comprehensive government support in health, cash transfer, and other social programmes, these migrants need protection from discrimination. 28 The plight of the migrant workers after the lockdown was imposed was traumatic: images and videos of the multitude treading the roads on foot or by any other means—children in tow, carrying whatever they considered valuable—to make their way home stirred the soul of the nation.  The workers, who were termed the "fuel of the Indian economy", were suddenly considered liabilities.  The Union and State governments, as was required of them, did put in place some relief measures 29 but they were clearly overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and suddenness of the reverse migration.  Soon, the need to recount the figures of the migrants became an urgent requirement, exposing the manner in which the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, had been given the go-by in the past.  As opinion-writers had correctly pointed out: "In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, state governments were taken unawares by inter-state migrants who were desperate to return home.  Many had lost jobs, would not be able to afford rent and were afraid of falling seriously ill away from their families.  The full and proper implementation of this law would have meant that state governments had complete details of inter-state migrant workmen coming through contractors within their states.  While this would still leave out migrants who move across states on their own, a large segment would be automatically registered due to the requirements of the Act.  States would consequently have been better prepared to take steps to protect such workmen during this lockdown.  However, almost no state seems to have implemented this law in letter and spirit." 30 Decades of indifference to this important legislation to safeguard migrant labourers was evident when Governments were unable to provide even estimates, thereby affecting relief work. 31 Baisi’s migrants – patterns and reasons Baisi block in Bihar's north-eastern Purnia 32 district is a remote block with 45,092 households and a population of 2,27,706.  Illiteracy is acute, with only 73,825 persons registered as literate (32.42 per cent). 33 A majority of its population are Muslims and most of them are migrant workers. 34 The Mahananda River that flows through the block, floods its plains almost every monsoon leaving behind very fertile soil.  A major chunk of the population are "non-workers", who, in all probability, migrate mainly to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi, U.P., and Haryana.  Some migration to 17 other States and Nepal also takes place. Picture3jpg   Source :  Government of Bihar [ https://purnea.nic.in/about-district/map-of-district/ ] The weighted mean of the distance travelled by the outward migrants from Baisi block is 1,727.23 km.  The sector in which they find employment determines the duration of migration.  Agricultural labourers migrate for 45 days-60 days in a year during the sowing and harvesting seasons; in the construction sector, migration is for 6 months-8 months depending upon the contractors and the contract; and in tailoring it is for 8 months-10 months.  If migration from the villages is for a short period of time, it is either circular migration 35 or seasonal migration 36 (as in the case of agriculture). Although migration theories view such movement of the workforce simply as consequence of economic development, 37 reasons for migration may vary depending on the socio-economic condition of the individuals.  For some it could be for medical purposes, marriage, or to earn money to repay loans, while for others it could be to shore up savings to construct a house, or for other forms of asset creation.  Higher wages and easy availability of work are, therefore, also factors that attract migrants to venture out of the comfort of their villages/towns. Migrant workers in Bihar generally move in groups and follow familiar patterns.  Workers from a particular village/town migrate to the same State and take up the same occupation (Table 2.); they sometimes find employment in the same company that is referred to them either by their family members or by the contractor. Migration to the same profession from the same village depends on the "caste structure" of that village.  For example, members of the Sharma 38 community in Chopara often find employment as carpenters in Gujarat.  The highest number of migrant workers engaged in carpentry is from the Chopara Panchayat, in tailoring from Minapur, and in construction from Bangaon (Table 1). Table 1: Profession and Panchayat-wise Percentage of Migrants Migrated From Agricultural worker Carpenter Construction Tailoring ASJA MAWAIA 11.57 3.81 2.10 5.61 BANGAON 0.52 3.93 15.87 6.50 CHIRAIA 12.10 11.45 11.46 7.98 CHOPARA 12.63 13.60 3.98 2.90 GANGHAR 0.00 6.20 2.57 7.78 MALHARYA 3.15 8.23 4.74 9.16 MINAPUR 27.89 3.69 15.73 19.36 PURANAGANJ 1.05 13.24 9.56 10.44 SADIPUR BHATHA 3.15 10.14 9.09 3.54 SIRIPUR MALLAHTOLI 0.00 7.15 2.1 7.04 Other Panchayats 27.94 18.56 22.80 19.69 Grand Total 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 Source : Primary data collected by authors from migrant workers in quarantine. Although a majority of the migrants are employed in tailoring, construction, and carpentry, others take up different trades. Table 2 presents the professions generally taken up by migrants from the Baisi block. Table 2: Occupations of migrant workers from Baisi Block Migrant Occupation Number of Migrants Percentage Agricultural worker 190 3.83 Carpenter 838 16.85 Construction 1,474 29.63 Cook 36 0.72 Driver 8 0.16 Electrician 9 0.18 House Keeping 3 0.06 Marketing 6 0.12 Mechanic 10 0.20 Other 71 1.43 Retail Sector 14 0.28 Tailoring 2,029 40.79 Teacher 1 0.02 Technician 285 5.73 Grand Total 4,974 100.00 Source : Official records maintained for the quarantine of the migrant workers. A major chunk of this migrant workforce is employed in tailoring (40.79 per cent), followed by construction (29.63 per cent) and carpentry (16.85 per cent).  Migration begins at a very young age for the residents of Baisi; the youngest among the migrants were found to be 10-year-olds who migrated to Delhi and Rajasthan to work in the construction sector and/or tailoring units. Mohamed Afraz of Harintor Panchayat, a village of 784 houses and a population of 3,867, 39 migrated with his maternal uncle to Rajasthan to be employed in a sports tailoring unit when he was 14 years old.  Initially, he worked with his maternal uncle and gradually acquired the skills required to move into the job market.  Now he is 22 years old and stitches 8-10 pieces of sports material a day.  He is paid on a piece rate basis and ends up earning, on an average, ₹15,000 to ₹20,000 per month. 40 He and his five brothers own less than half-an-acre of agricultural land in which he has a small share.  The land is looked after by his elder brother.  Mohamed got married at the age of 20 years and now his responsibility towards his family has increased. The story is similar for almost all labourers in the tailoring sector who migrated when they were very young. Initially, they spent time picking up skills and later started working, often with the same employer but on a higher wage.  Most of them are either landless or have a paltry share of land.  The needs of the family dictate the duration of migration. 41 The maximum numbers of outward migration came from those in the 20-29 years age group, followed by those in the 30-39 years age group. Table 3: Age Group Distribution of the Migrants Age Group Number of Migrant Percentage 10-19 670 13.47 20-29 2,334 46.92 30-39 1,232 24.77 40-49 516 10.37 50-59 188 3.79 60-69 32 0.64 70-79 2 0.04 Grand Total 4,974 100.00 Source : Official records maintained for the quarantine of the migrant workers. As Table 3 shows, 46.92 per cent of the migrant workers are in the age group of 20-29 years.  With an increase in age, there is a decrease in the percentage of migrants as the responsibility of earning is passed on to the younger generation and the elders remain at home and take care of the family. Amar Kumar Yadav, who used to migrate to Punjab for agricultural work, is now a farm hand in his village.  He is 31 years old and lives with his family.  For the past two agricultural seasons, he did not migrate for work in Punjab but lives in the village and takes care of his family. 42 It is now the turn of his younger brother, aged 24 years, who migrated to Pune this March as a contract worker in a construction firm.  His earnings will enable him to contribute to the construction of his family house, which is in progress in Baisi.  He plans to get married soon and it is his responsibility to provide financial support, as he will require a separate room after his marriage. If seasons, availability of food, and reproductive cycles determine the migratory patterns of birds, agricultural seasons and festivals are the deciding factors for Bihar's agricultural workers.  Normally, a labourer migrates for 9 or 10 months for work and spends 2 or 3 months at home.  Generally, the migrants return home at the end of April when the harvesting of maize is at its peak and for the Ramadan celebrations.  A migrant, Sahanawaz, returns home in mid-April every year to look after the harvesting needs at his small landholding and returns to his workplace after celebrating Ramadan with his family. Table 4: Baisi's Migrants and the Agriculture/Festival Calendar January February March Sowing of Garma rice after harvesting of mustard Migrants at work Migrants at work Harvesting of maize starts at the end of the month Migrants at work April May June Harvesting of maize, solarisation, and selling Start of the month of Ramadan Migrants start returning Ramadan and Eid Harvesting of Garma rice Return of migrants continues Start of monsoon and sowing of rice Migrants stay at home July August September Monsoon and floods Migrants stay at home End of monsoon and floods Transfer of flood relief amount (₹6000 per HH) Bakrid Migrants stay at home Transfer of agriculture loss compensation Migration resumes / begins October November December Sowing of maize (early variety) and mustard Some migrants migrate after the sowing of maize. Migrants at work Sowing of maize (late variety) Migrants at work Migrants at work Source : Based on the authors' observations for two years. Return to Contents III. THE DISRUPTED MIGRANT ECONOMY What is the purpose of migration?  Deshingkar et al., 43 attempt to derive the quantum of remittances using Money Orders sent from different States to Bihar.  However, there are various other methods to transfer money, which has become easier over the years.  After the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, many villagers have bank accounts. 44 A migrant now remits his savings either to his own account or to his wife’s account, albeit with caveats on spending.  In Baisi, migrants generally use more than 50 per cent of their savings to either repay loans or redeem mortgaged jewellery; the rest is spent on agriculture, festivals, marriages, medical exigencies, or for establishing a small business.  Migration had offered them good returns, enabling them to afford a few non-essentials after fulfilling their needs.  The pandemic, however, resulted in several disruptions for the migrant economy. Changing priorities for borrowing Vishal, a moneylender in the Baisi local market, says that during this pandemic, loan disbursal had increased compared with previous years.  Many women mortgaged their jewellery for petty loans.  Often, such loans were to purchase rations, start a small business, or to meet medical expenses.  Why would the women not sell their jewellery to derive the maximum value?  They generally mortgaged their jewellery instead of selling them because someone from the family would migrate for jobs and soon be able to repay the loan and repossess the pawned jewellery.  Although this is a common trend in Baisi, the lockdown changed things around.  There are several loans that are not repaid, he said.  "In February, I was afraid seeing the falling value of gold.  If it continues, I am going to run into a big loss.  Migrants are the major investors in the local markets." 45 A vendor at a textile shop said that his annual income depended on the festival and marriage seasons (October to June).  This year, the entire month of Ramadan was under lockdown.  Although he could not estimate the decline in the number of customers, he is certain that his monthly income fell by 75 per cent.  There was hardly any supply of new clothes and footfalls were also decreasing. The individual's capacity to invest in the market reduced, consumption priorities changed, and people started buying groceries at higher market prices.  The workers who lost their jobs and returned home due to the lockdown met the expenditures from their savings while waiting for the lockdown to end, so that they could return to work.  Not surprisingly, by the end of April, buses from States like Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan were seen in the villages of Baisi Block to ferry back the migrant workers. Bihar is a predominantly maize-growing State, contributing 8.9 per cent of India’s total maize production. 46 It is a cash crop that requires high investments.  Although many migrants do not own much agricultural land, some of them invest in maize cultivation or extend loans to family members. With the imposition of a nation-wide lockdown between March 24, 2020 and May 17, 2020, all shops were ordered to be shut down and only emergency services such as medical stores and ration shops were permitted to function.  In Baisi, however, the lockdown was followed more in the breach.  Barely a week into the lockdown, textile shops were functioning surreptitiously, vegetable vendors were back on the roads, mobile shops up and about, barber shops open, and many other activities going on.  Farmers, for their part, waited for middlemen to sell harvested maize but disappointment was in store, as this year’s price of maize was at least ₹500 lower per quintal than the previous year. 47 Market prices of vegetables, however, remained constant or fell only marginally as locally grown vegetables were in abundance.  This, in turn, affected the vegetable-growing farmers as they were paid less for their produce.  The opportunity to market agricultural produce was lost due to breakdown in the supply chain during the lockdown. Loss of incomes resulted in drastic reductions in consumer spending.  In addition to decreased remittances from the migrants, their investment in the rural economy fell.  The economic consequences of the pandemic have, therefore, been adverse for Baisi’s rural economy on all fronts: income, expenditure, savings, and investment. Return to Contents IV. THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON SPENDING PATTERNS The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought into sharp focus issues concerning public provisioning of food and access to government services.  Bharat Yadav, a 45-year-old construction worker, has been working for the past seven months in a private construction firm in Purnia.  He said the situation in Purnia city, where all shops were shut and there was no movement of people, was far different from what prevailed in the villages.  He receives his monthly salary (₹12,000) either on a weekly or monthly basis.  Construction work, however, stopped after the lockdown.  There are six members in his family.  He has access to the Public Distribution System (PDS) and there is no problem in accessing the ration shop, but he now has to purchase more than what is provided through the PDS, which includes 5 kg of rice, 3 kg of wheat flour, 4 kg potatoes, and 2 kg pulses. This exploratory study in Baisi, conducted during the month of April, finds that soon after the enforcement of the lockdown, the basic need for people was food and medicine.  In many cases, only a single member in the family had access to the PDS, which was not sufficient for the rest of the family members.  The required rations had to be purchased from the nearest PDS outlet, and some households were left with rations that lasted merely 4 or 5 days.  Soon, the price of groceries started increasing in the market.  Though the administration did try to put a check on such malpractices, it could not be enforced beyond a point.  Supply was limited and people had little choice but to buy the commodities at a higher price.  To meet such expenses, they began borrowing money from easily accessible informal sources, for instance relatives. Once support from relatives dried up, they had to fall back on moneylenders.  Those who had jewellery for mortgage could borrow at 4 per cent interest but others, without collateral, had to pay anywhere between 6 per cent and 10 per cent.  A customary practice in Baisi block is that the women generally borrowed money by mortgaging their jewellery. They get an amount equivalent to half the current value of the jewellery.  In an interview, a local moneylender said during the lockdown people borrowed extensively to purchase rations and migrants often took loans to meet their daily expenses. Meanwhile, the Government of Bihar provided some welfare measures: offering free ration for a month to all ration cardholders, a one-time cash transfer of ₹1,000 to ration cardholders, payment of pension for three months in advance to all pensioners, including old age pensioners, widows, and the physically challenged, and releasing pending scholarships to all students (Surya, 2020).  The monetary benefits were deposited directly into the beneficiary's account.  Once the cash transfers were made, people began thronging banks in the hope of withdrawing the sum to buy essentials.  Lockdown restrictions, however, ensured that their access to money in the bank was severely curtailed. Bihar holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of people excluded from the National Food Security Act (NFSA): almost 14 lakh people in the State do not have a ration card. 48 Administrative lapses coupled with the indifferent attitude of officials and political corruption relegated these people to a state of exclusion.  Recognising the need to act in a hurry, the State government took some steps to issue new ration cards during the pandemic.  It was, however, too little too late. The inability of migrants to return to their villages in the early days of the lockdown resulted in a new difficulty to their families.  Across Bihar, it is almost always men who visit government offices for any official work that needs to be done.  Even before the lockdown, interactions with families of migrant labourers revealed that women knew little about government procedures and documents.  In the absence of the men who could not return to their villages, this responsibility of interacting with government officials fell on the women who had no exposure to the workings of officialdom.  They were either guided from afar by their husbands or sought help from tola sevaks (volunteers who assist children with their education and prepare them for enrolment in mainstream school, provide basic literacy to women, and create awareness about social security and welfare schemes among them) or relied on touts who had to be paid for their services. The lockdown brought another additional burden for the women in Bihar.  In families owning agricultural land, the men often returned from their places of employment to work in their fields during the Rabi crop harvest season or the Kharif crop sowing season (see Table 4).  This year, the lockdown put paid to their plans.  The responsibility of managing such farm-related operations also fell on the women who were already saddled with running their households under uncertain conditions.  They had to either seek help from neighbours or spend money hiring farm labour for sowing/harvesting.  Many of those interviewed said that they did not know where their husbands worked as it had never been important for them; some of them only knew the name of the State where their husbands had gone in search of employment. Return to Contents V. REVIVING RURAL BIHAR – AN UPHILL TASK The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its latest 49 briefing note, COVID-19 and the World of Work, observed that [w]orking-hour losses are expected to remain high in the third quarter of 2020, at 12.1 per cent or 345 million full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.  Moreover, revised projections for the fourth quarter suggest a bleaker outlook than previously estimated.  In the baseline scenario, working-hour losses in the final quarter of 2020 are expected to amount to 8.6 per cent, or 245 million FTE jobs. 50 However, developing economies were witnessing weaker economic growth even before the onset of COVID-19.  In India, the real gross domestic product (GDP) had fallen over nine consecutive quarters (EPW, 2020).  According to Dev and Sengupta, 51 industry’s contribution to GDP, which was normally in the range of 30 per cent, had shrunk by 0.58 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019-20, unemployment reached a 45-year high, investments in the private sector decreased, and rural consumption was also on the decline due to the effect of demonetisation. The pandemic, which came at a time when the economy was already slowing down, aggravated the downslide and the prolonged lockdown severely affected the labour market in India through overnight loss of livelihood for many especially those in the informal sector.  A nation-wide lockdown started on March 24, 2020, and continued until May 17, 2020, with conditional relaxations after April 20.  Much research was conducted on the effectiveness of the lockdown; a group of scholars came together to study the policies of five State governments—Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Punjab—and observed that enforcement of lockdown was done in places where there was high incidence of symptomatic infection among the population.  They felt that the governments should conduct more tests in those areas (Sardar, T., et al.).  Soon after the lockdown was announced, all modes of transport were suspended, and migrant labourers were stranded at their places of employment with no work and meagre savings.  As the number of cases began increasing, so did discrimination against the labourers, forcing the migrants to resort to desperate means to return home. The first COVID-19 positive case in Bihar was reported on March 21, 2020. With numbers rising, a central team visited the State. 52 The number of government hospitals, the numbers of beds, doctors, and nurses available became a matter of concern.  This is not surprising given the record of the State Health Department’s utilisation of funds from the Centre and the State. On average, the State’s Health Department managed to utilise only 53.86 per cent of the funds made available to it from the State and central pool from the financial year 2012-13 (Annual Report, 2018-19).  These data clearly point to the State’s inefficient absorption capacity and its failure to use the available funds to improve infrastructure and services.  Against this backdrop, the imposition of the total lockdown by the government was perhaps a mistake.  Instead, the government could have initially implemented a partial lockdown allowing the migrant workers from other States to return home.  A total lockdown could have been enforced once the movement of the migrants had stopped or declined.  A strict quarantine policy for the returning migrants could have eased the possible spread of the virus among the local population.  Improper facilities at quarantine centres also resulted in truancy whereby migrants slipped out during the nights owing to lack of any basic facilities except "free food". 53 Merely offering subsidies to increase purchasing capacity may not be enough, as was experienced during the Bengal famine in 1943.  The then colonial government, faced with severe scarcity of food grains, had allowed grain markets to sell the available grains at cheap prices.  But the absence of regulation resulted in spiralling prices , 54 which worsened the fallout of the famine. It may be argued that comparing a famine and a pandemic is like comparing apples and oranges.  However, lessons can definitely be learnt from the past.  The Bihar government had announced a one-time subsidy of ₹1,000 and additional rations for all ration cardholders but the large-scale exclusion from PDS facility resulted in these benefits not reaching the people.  To overcome this failure, the government employed the services of self-help groups like Jeevika to identify families who were eligible for the subsidy but did not have ration cards. 55 Even after such an exercise, the number of deserving beneficiaries who would remain excluded is still anybody’s guess.  Ideally, the State Government should have provided free rations to all residents for a brief period, as was done by the Governments of Kerala 56 and Tamil Nadu, 57 to name two, and supplemented this by creating livelihood opportunities to boost consumer demand. The State Government now faces an uphill task of reviving the rural economy.  In Bihar, 92.8 per cent of the farmers are small and marginal, which is higher than the national average of 83.5 per cent. 58 The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) fits into the scheme of things here quite well, satisfying both individual and societal needs and is the most easily available option before the government.  Although the performance of the State Government in the implementation of the programme has not been very encouraging, (Chopra, 2016), the fact that it had enormous potential was not lost on them.  The Jind district in Haryana had shown positive results with a 135 per cent increase in physical performance and 36 per cent compound annual growth in financial performance (Sharma & Didwania, 2013).  Tragically, the Union government has reduced the total fund allocation under the MGNREGS by 13 per cent this year. 59 Revising budgetary allocations and establishing efficient monitoring mechanisms to oversee resource utilisation and implementation of ongoing schemes will help in boosting the rural economy in the short term, especially during unforeseen emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.  A series of corrective measures to address institutional weaknesses, if required through effective utilisation of community and local grass-roots institutions, can help in the long run to both upscale rural economies like Baisi and meet the challenges posed by sudden disruptions. Return to Contents   [ Girija Shankar graduated in Agriculture Rural and Tribal Development from Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University in 2016 and joined the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for post-graduate degree in Development Policy Planning and Practices with Rural Planning as a Special interest. He did his field work in the villages of Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra and, as a part of his post-graduate curriculum, worked as a research assistant in a project titled “The emerging trend of formal to informal outsourcing – A study of textile industry in Maharashtra” funded by the Goa Institute of Management. He also interned with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) and is currently working with BRLPS (Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society) as a YP-BPM (Young Professional, Block Project Manager). As a Public Policy Scholar at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Girija studied the working of Farmer Producer Companies in Osamanabad, Maharashtra. Read Policy Report, Farmer Producer Companies: Preliminary Studies on Efficiency and Equity from Maharashtra in January 2019. He can be contacted at [email protected] . Rakhi Kumari graduated in Economics from Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University in 2020, and is pursuing her Master’s degree in Public Administrations from Central University Jharkhand. She has conducted research on women’s participation in agriculture and is currently working on the research topic "Agricultural labour migration in Khagaria District, Bihar". She can be contacted at  [email protected] ]. References: Annual Report (2018-19) .   State Health Society, Bihar. Bhattarai, M., Vishwanathan, P., Mishra, R. N., & Bantilan, C. (2018) .  Employment Guarantee Programme and Dynamics of Rural Transformation in India Challenges and Opportunities.   doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-6262-9 Chatterjee, K., Chatterjee, K., Kumar, A., & Shankar, S. (2020) .  Healthcare impact of COVID-19 epidemic in India: A stochastic mathematical model.  Medical Journal Armed Forces India 76 , 147-155. Chopra, D. (2016) .  Political Commitment in India's social policy implementation: shaping the performance of MGNREGA.   School of Environment and Development.  Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre (ESID). Sardar, T., Nadim, S. S., Rana, S., & Chattopadhyay, J. (2020) .  Assessment of Lockdown Effect in Some States and overall India: A Predictive Mathematical Study on COVID-19 Outbreak.  Chaos, Solution & Fractals .  doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chaos.2020.110078 Sharma, R., & Didwania, M. (2013) .  Performance Analysis of MGNREGA: A case study of District Jind.  Zenith International Journal of Business Economics & Management Research . Surya, S. (2020) .  Government of Bihar's Response to COVID-19 (till April 19, 2020).   PRS Legislative Research.   Endnote: [ All URLs are last accessed on December 10, 2020 ] 1. Although in the initial stages of outmigration, the region comprising present day Bihar (which was created in 1912) was a source for military recruits for the Mughals and the East India Company, after the Permanent Settlement Act of 1793, a mix of factors resulted in distress migration. ( Draft Policy Framework for Improving the Conditions of Labour Migrants from Bihar , Prepared by Aajeevika Bureau and TISS for the ILO-supported State Consultative Meeting on Labour Migration from Bihar, October 12, 2017.) [https://tiss.edu/uploads/files/Policy_Brief_-_State_Consultative_Meeting_on_Labour_Migration__from_Bihar.pdf]. Return To text. 2. Government of Bihar (n.d.) .  Distribution of Population Decadal Growth Rate, Sex Ratio, Density and Literacy by State - 2011 . [https://state.bihar.gov.in/main/cache/1/Figures/Table-001.pdf]. Return to Text. 3. GDP/GSDP: Gross Domestic Product/Gross State Domestic Product is the standard measure of the value-added created through the production of goods and services in a country/State during a certain period. Return to Text. 4. Government of Bihar. 2020 . Bihar Economic Survey 2019-20 , Finance Department, p. 5. [http://finance.bih.nic.in/Reports/Economic-Survey-2020-EN.pdf]. Return to Text. 5. Electric, gas, water supply and other utility services. Return to Text. 6. BIMARU is a term coined by the demographer Ashish Bose in 1985 for the States of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh "to pinpoint India’s demographic malady" when he was "asked to brief the then Prime Minister [Rajiv Gandhi] on India’s family planning programme." (See: Ashish Bose, Beyond Population Projections: Growing North-South Disparity , Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42 No. 15. April 14-20, 2007. p. 1328.) In the Hindi dialect of eastern U.P., bimaru means 'sick' (or 'sickly). (See: Ashish Bose, National Population Policy, 2000: Swaminathan to Shanmugam , Economic and Political Weekly , Vol. 35, No. 13 (Mar. 25-31, 2000), p. 1059.). Return to Text. 7. de Haan, A.  2002. Migration and Livelihood in Historical Perspective: A Case Study of Bihar; India, The Journal of Development Studies , pp. 115-142. Return to Text. 8. Datta, A., and Mishra, S. K. 2011 . Glimpses of women's lives in rural Bihar: Impact of male migration, The Indian Journal of Labour Economics , Vol. 54. Return to Text. 9. Rasul, G., and Sharma, E. 2014: Understanding the poor economic performance of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India: a macro-perspective, Regional Studies, Regional Science , Vol. 1, No. 1, 221-239, DOI: 10.1080/21681376.2014.943804. Return to Text. 10. Net Value added: Net value added is the value of output less the value of both intermediate consumption and consumption of fixed capital. Return to Text. 11. Sharma, A. N. 1995 . Political Economy of Poverty in Bihar, Economic and Political Weekly , October 14, Vol. 30,  No. 41-42, pp. 2587-2602. Return to Text. 12. Op. cit. Government of Bihar. (2020). Return to Text. 13. Sharma, K. 2017.   India has 139 million internal migrants. They must not be forgotten , World Economic Forum , October 1. [https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/india-has-139-million-internal-migrants-we-must-not-forget-them/]. Return to Text. 14. Datta, A., and Mishra, S. K. 2011 .  Glimpses of women's lives in rural Bihar: Impact of male migration, The Indian Journal of Labour Economics , Vol. 54, p. 458. Return to Text. 15. Arjan de Haan is the director of IDRC’s Inclusive Economies Programme and a development expert who focuses on poverty and public policy. Return to Text. 16. Op. cit. Return to Text. 17. United Nations. 2006. The Secretary-General[‘s] Address to The High-Level Dialogue of the General Assembly on International Migration and Development , September 14, New York. [https://www.un.org/migration/sg-speech.html]. Return to Text. 18. International Organization for Migration (IOM). 2019. World Migration Report 2020 , UN, New York, p.5. [https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/wmr_2020.pdf]. Return to Text. 19. Government of India. 2017. Report on the Working Group on Migration , Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, January. [http://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/1566.pdf]. Return to Text. 20. Op. Cit. Return to Text. 21. Op. Cit. Return to Text. 22. Government of India. 2017. p. 7. Return to Text. 23.  Census of India. 2001. Data Highlights, Migration Tables , Government of India.   [https://censusindia.gov.in/Data_Products/Data_Highlights/Data_Highlights_link/data_highlights_D1D2D3.pdf]. Return to Text. 24. National Sample Survey Office, 2010: Migration in India, 2007-2008, NSS 64th Round (July 2007-June 2008) , Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, June. [http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/533_final.pdf]. Return to Text. 25. The NSSO's 64 th Round surveyed households across India on employment-unemployment and migration, enumerating people who migrated to the place of enumeration during the past 365 days. Return to Text. 26. Ibid : Footnote 1 "A household member whose last usual place of residence (UPR) was different from the present place of enumeration was considered as a migrant member in a household. In this survey, usual place of residence (UPR) of a person was defined as a place (village/town) where the person had stayed continuously for a period of six months or more." p. H-i Return to Text. 27. Op. cit. Census of India, 2001. Return to Text. 28. World Bank. 2020 . COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens, Migration and Development Brief no. 32 , World Bank, Washington, DC, April. [https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/33634/COVID-19-Crisis-Through-a-Migration-Lens.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y]. Return to Text. 29. The Economic Times . 2020 . More than 21,000 camps set up for over 6,60,000 migrants: State governments , April 1. [https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/more-than-21000-camps-set-up-for-over-660000-migrants-state-governments/articleshow/74920798.cms]. Return to Text. 30. Krishnan., et al. 2020. Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, must be rationalised to remove requirements that disincentivise formalisation , The Indian Express , May 9. [https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-lockdown-inter-state-migrant-workmen-act-6400710/]. Return to Text. 31. Raghu, C. 2020. Lack of identity of migrant workers , countercurrents.org , June 4. [https://countercurrents.org/2020/06/lack-of-identity-of-migrant-workers/]. Return to Text. 32. Purnia is also spelt as Purnea. The Census of India uses the former spelling, and the Government of Bihar’s District website uses the latter. In this Policy Watch, the spellings in the Census of India are used for all place names. However, in the District Map, which is reproduced from the Government of Bihar’s website, the spelling used on the website is retained. Return to Text. 33. Directorate of Census Operations, Bihar. 2014. Census of India, 2011 – Bihar, Series-11, Part XII-B, District Census Handbook Purnia, Village and Town-wise Primary Census Abstract (PCA) . [https://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011census/dchb/1009_PART_B_DCHB_PURNIA.pdf]. Return to Text. 34. Deshingkar, P., et al. 2006 . The Role of Migration and Remittances in Promoting Livelihoods in Bihar , Overseas Development Institute, London. December. [https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/2354.pdf]. Return to Text. 35. Circular migration, also known as repeat migration, is temporary and usually repetitive movement of a migrant worker between home and host areas. For further reading on impact of lockdown on seasonal migrants, read Ravi Srivastava's Understanding Circular Migration in India: Its Nature and Dimensions, the Crisis under Lockdown and the Response of the State (Institute for Human Development, WP 04/2020). [http://www.ihdindia.org/Working%20Ppaers/2020/IHD-CES_WP_04_2020.pdf]. Return to Text. 36. Seasonal migration is the movement of population from their place of origin for short periods depending on the sector in which they work as migrants. Return to Text. 37. de Haan, A. 2002. Op. cit. Return to Text. 38. The Sharma community is involved in carpentry in Bihar, and they are classified as an Other Backward Class.  Return to Text. 39. Census 2011 . Harintor Population - Purnia, Bihar , Census Population 2020 Data. [https://www.census2011.co.in/data/village/223988-harintor-bihar.html].   Return to Text. 40. From an interview with the respondent. Return to Text. 41. The major reason for the migration is in search of livelihood opportunity, however, short-term migration is basically for the need of the family either for the medical purpose, marriage or for repaying debts. Return to Text. 42. From an interview with the respondent. The migrant starts as a second/additional earner in the family and then becomes the primary source of income.  Return to Text. 43. Op. cit. Return to Text. 44. Under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, total number of accounts in the rural/semi-urban areas is 31,396,414. [ https://pmjdy.gov.in/statewise-statistics ]. Return to Text. 45. In Baisi, women invest a large amount in purchasing jewellery if they have money in hand to spare. Return to Text. 46. Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare. (n.d.) . Farmer's Portal – Maize , Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. [https://farmer.gov.in/m_cropstaticsmaize.aspx]. Return to Text. 47. In 2019 the price of maize was ₹1,700/- to ₹1,900/- per qtl and in 2020 it is ₹1,100/- to ₹1,200/- per qtl. Return to Text. 48. PTI. 2020. 14 lakh people in Bihar not getting benefits under food security act: Paswan , The Economic Times ,   April 23. [https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/14-lakh-people-in-bihar-not-getting-benefits-under-food-security-act-paswan/articleshow/75323510.cms]. Return to Text. 49. As on December 7, 2020. Return to Text. 50. International Labour Organization. 2020. ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the World of Work, Sixth Edition, Updated estimates and analysis , September 23. [https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_755910.pdf]. Return to Text. 51. Dev, M.S., and Sengupta, R. 2020. Covid-19: Impact on the Indian Economy , Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai, April. [WP-2020-013.pdf (igidr.ac.in)]. Return to Text. 52. Tewary, A. 2020 . Coronavirus | Central team visits Bihar as COVID-19 cases rise , The Hindu , July 19.  [https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/as-cases-surge-central-team-visits-bihar-to-assess-the-covid-19-situation-and-preparedness/article32130388.ece]. Return to Text. 53. Tewary, A. 2020 . Coronavirus | Migrant workers slip of out Bihar quarantine centres at night, return by day , The Hindu, April 8. [https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-many-quarantined-bihar-villagers-missing-from-centres-at-night/article31291139.ece]. Return to Text. 54. Brennan, L. 1988. Government Famine Relief in Bengal, 1943, The Journal of Asian Studies , August, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 541-566. Return to Text. 55. Kumar, M. 2020. Bihar: Ration card-less families identified as eligible by as eligible by 'Jeevika' to be paid assistance of Rs 1,000, says CM , Times of India, April 21. [https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/bihar-ration-card-less-families-identified-as-eligible-by-jeevika-to-be-paid-assistance-of-rs-1000-says-cm/articleshow/75279178.cms]. Return to Text. 56. The Hindu. 2020. COVID-19 | Kerala to provide free ration to all . March 25. [https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/covid-19-kerala-to-provide-free-ration-to-all/article31160410.ece]. Return to Text. 57. PTI. 2020. Tamil Nadu to continue free Covid ration for family cardholders in June , The Economic Times, May 27. [https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/tamil-nadu-to-continue-free-covid-ration-for-family-cardholders-in-june/articleshow/76032890.cms]. Return to Text. 58. Behera, D., et al. 2013. Enhancing agricultural livelihoods through community institutions in Bihar, India (English) ,   South Asia rural livelihoods; Series 3 note no. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. April 1. [http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/467261468258525242/Enhancing-agricultural-livelihoods-through-community-institutions-in-Bihar-India]. Return to Text. 59. PTI. 2020. Budget 2020: MGNREGA funds down by 13%, marginal dip in other rural development schemes , The Economic Times, February 1. [https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/budget-2020-mgnrega-funds-down-by-13-marginal-dip-in-other-rural-development-schemes/articleshow/73847723.cms]. Return to Text. Related Resources COVID-19: Press Releases and Updates by the Government of India and WHO [HTML and PDF] . Source : Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Full Text: World Migration Report 2020 . Source : International Organization for Migration, November 2019. [https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/wmr_2020.pdf]. World Bank Report: COVID-19 Crisis through a Migration Lens [PDF 1.69 MB] . Source: The World Bank Group (April 2020). [http://hdl.handle.net/10986/33634]. NSSO Data: Migration in India, 2007-2008 [PDF 4.5 MB] . Source : National Sample Survey Office Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (June 2010). Related Articles Chaturvedi, S. 2020 .  Pandemic Exposes Weaknesses in India’s Disaster Management Responses , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, September 3. Mudliar, P. 2020 .  A Reality Check on India’s Search for Digital Utopia , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, August 28. Ebenezer, R. 2020.  Ensuring Zero Tolerance for all Forms of Forced Labour , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, July 14. Ngullie, O. G.  and  Ansari, A. A. 2020 .  India’s Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi’s Beneficiaries , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, June 26. Vijay, G.  and  Gudavarthy, A. 2020 .  A Pandemic as a Political Reality Check ,   The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, April 15.

COVID-19: Crisis-hit Rural India Needs Effective Farm Policy Implementation

India's farm sector, which is still the country’s largest employment provider, suffered heavy losses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The se

Policy Watch No. 11

India's Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi's Beneficiaries

Never since the founding of the Indian republic have so many millions depended directly on India’s government machineries for sustenance. One reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home is that the welfare state cannot be replaced and needs to be strengthened. In addition to market failures, the inability of markets to operate under extraordinary circumstances – such as the ongoing pandemic – places the onus on governments to emerge as providers of the last resort. In this interview-based empirical study,  O. Grace Ngullie and Arib Ahmad Ansari, Independent Researchers,  revisit beneficiaries who were respondents in a previous study by the first author on the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Delhi. (The names of all respondents have been changed to protect confidentiality.) While the earlier study focussed on the comparative benefits of cash transfers vis-à-vis provisioning of ration, the present exploratory study aims to find out the manner in which the PDS has worked for the poor in times of COVID-19 pandemic. This preliminary inquiry finds that the pre-existing problems with the PDS persist, thereby worsening the woes of the vulnerable who have been promised food security during the pandemic. For instance, there were differences reported in the quantity or rations received and promised, the quality of the food grains, exclusion, and access. The authors suggest a set of policy recommendations addressing each of the problems. The recommendations include utilising modern and emerging technologies to address supply chain issues, the creation of new cadre for monitoring, and upwardly revising the allocation. CONTENTS I. REVISITING DELHI'S PDS BENEFICIARIES II. QUANTITY, QUALITY, ACCESS – THE PROBLEMS PERSIST DURING THE PANDEMIC III. IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON ACCESS TO FOOD IV. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS V. CONCLUSION   I. REVISITING DELHI'S PDS BENEFICIARIES The severe and unprecedented economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made millions of people lose their livelihoods and become helpless making them rely increasingly – in some instances entirely – on government welfare schemes for their basic needs. The purpose of this exploratory empirical study is to assess the efficacy and the resilience of the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India as a provider of food security for the poor in times of debilitating emergencies of the nature of the COVID 19 pandemic. Though there has been plenty of good research 1 on the implementation of India’s PDS over the years with social scientists suggesting many relevant interventions, which facilitated gradual improvement in the overall strength of the PDS; none of these envisioned a time when the PDS would assume such a central role in the Indian state’s response to the extreme economic hardship brought about by this deadly pandemic. In times like these the market economy loses its automatic resource allocation ability and the responsibility of saving a sinking economy falls squarely on the state. Under such circumstances, the steps that governments take hold the only promise of hope for the struggling millions. This makes government initiatives the most crucial cogs in the overall response to a pandemic. The viability and the success of such programs depend on how aligned they are with the needs and the problems faced by the most vulnerable section of the population. Structure of the Delhi inquiry The importance of this study lies in getting first-hand evidence of the most acute problems faced by the people hit hardest by the pandemic – the poor who have lost their means of income because of either closure of workplaces, loss of jobs, or the inability to reach workplaces owing to the lockdown and need state support to live – through direct interaction with them. We begin with the principle that any initiative to alleviate the suffering of the poor has to primarily learn about the nature of their suffering. To this end, we ask how the PDS has worked during the time of the pandemic in providing relief to the vulnerable: where it is falling short, what are the aspects left unaddressed, where and to what extent PDS is misdirected, and so forth. Once we establish an understanding of the above, we aim to go forward to suggest ways, based on the information collected directly from the respondents, through which welfare policy measures such as the PDS can be made more effective and inclusive to help people tide over the periods of crisis. Accordingly, this empirical inquiry was structured under four themes. First, we tested people’s awareness about the government announcement on the increase of food grains allotment through the PDS due to the pandemic. The Government of Delhi, where this inquiry was conducted, announced a total of 7.5 kg food grains per person per month and the central government announced 10 kg of food grains per person per month. Second, we examined access to PDS during this pandemic. We verified the sought information on the food grains received by the respondents and identified problems faced by the people when accessing the PDS during this pandemic. Third, we assessed the impact of the PDS in reducing the hardship of the poor by examining the adequacy and quality of ration received by the beneficiaries in the context of attaining food security. Fourth, we studied the impact of the pandemic on livelihood and food access and explored government interventions that could alleviate the problems of job loss and food insecurity during this pandemic. Revisiting beneficiaries Constrained by the ongoing pandemic, which necessitated keeping a physical distance from respondents, we conducted telephonic interviews in June with PDS beneficiary households we came in contact with from a previous study (Ngullie 2017). These residents of households live in the districts of Northeast (Karawal Circle), Northwest (Kirari Circle), West (Vikaspuri Circle), and South West (Matiala Circle) in Delhi. The rationale for the selection of sites relied on the maximum number of PDS households in each district and circle. At the time of the sampling for the first study (in February 2015), Kirari had 44,449 PDS households, Karawal had 38,763 PDS households, Vikaspuri had 41,228 PDS households, and Matiala had 40,340 PDS households. At the time of the study, the list of households’ name with the house address was available at the website of the National Food Security, Delhi. To choose a sample of 40 PDS households, we adopted Systematic Random Sampling to make the survey evenly representative. For example, we divide the total number of beneficiaries in a Circle (say 1,000) by ten (to select 10 households from each Circle), which gives us 100. Subsequently, our target households would be 100 th , 200 th , 300 th and so on. This method enables us to make an unbiased selection from the entire list of beneficiaries. In case a particular beneficiary is not traceable or unavailable for some reason, the preceding beneficiary of the first selection is taken, that is, the 99 th if 100 th is not available, the 199 th if 200 th is absent, and so on. This method seeks to find the nearest possible alternative to the chosen beneficiary in case of her absence. We traced the households’ addresses, conducted the survey, and requested their phone numbers (with consent) for follow-up purposes. This time, out of 40 households contacted, 18 households, comprising 102 individuals, responded and enthusiastically consented to participate in the interview to study the working and the impact of the PDS in the current pandemic. Out of the 18 households, six are from the Scheduled Caste (SC) category, five are from the General category, three are from the Muslim community, two are Other Backward Caste (OBC-Hindu), and another two are OBC-Muslim. The respondents, who spoke on behalf of their households, comprised of 14 females and four males (husband or son) of the head of the household. The senior female in the family is the head in the ration card. Each interview lasted about 30 minutes. Return to Contents II. QUANTITY, QUALITY, ACCESS – THE PROBLEMS PERSIST DURING THE PANDEMIC We find it interesting that all the respondents were aware of the enhancement of food allocation owing to the lockdown under the PDS announced by both the State and the central governments. However, not all households received the same amount of food grains. Variations were reported in the quantity of food grains received from the PDS versus that which was announced. Out of 18 households, only eight households received the announced amount of 10 kg per person; eight households received 8 kg per person; one household received 5 kg per person; another household received only 4 kg per person for each month. For example, Sumitra, a resident in Kirari, North West Delhi received only 20 kg of ration for her four-member household at the rate of 5 kg per person. Gitanjali Devi and Vidhya Devi, residents in Karawal, North East Delhi received 8 kg of food grains per person per month for their family. As in normal, non-pandemic, times, the beneficiaries in Delhi received wheat and rice in the ratio of 4:1. For example, for a person receiving a total of 10 kg of food grains, the allocation would include 8 kg of wheat and 2 kg of rice, and for a person receiving 8 kg of food grains, it would be 6.4 kg of wheat and 1.6 kg of rice. As a special arrangement for the pandemic, the beneficiaries received special kits containing the following items: one litre of refined oil, a pair of soap, and a packet each of salt, sugar, chilli powder, and channa or chhole . Yet again, the distribution was not uniform as one-half of the respondents received it only once in the last two months and the other half received it twice. Exclusion – a major setback We found the exclusion of eligible members as a major setback in the PDS. Out of 102 individuals from 18 households, only 78 are registered in their respective family’s ration cards. For example, Naina Singh has eight members in her household but only five are listed in the ration card, which reduces the food entitlement for the family. Sangeeta Devi, an intermittent informal labourer is a sole breadwinner in a family of five, whose husband is bedridden due to a chronic illness she chose not to disclose, and who received a total of 24 kg of food grains for three members registered in the ration card. These cases reflect the extent of exclusion in the food distribution system. Denial of food entitlement to some eligible members not enlisted in the ration card was found to be pervasive. All the respondents have been struggling to register new members in the family’s ration card. With many citing bureaucratic hurdles, it indicates that government agencies are reluctant to update their ration cards. Whenever they approach the Fair Price Shops (FPS) or the rations office to register new members, they are either turned away or are asked to come at a later date making them give up the hope of getting it done. Eventually, they make peace with whatever reduced amount of ration they receive. In an exclusive case, a man used his Aadhaar card to collect his share of the ration after failing to add his name to the family’s ration card. Shalini Devi's husband told her that he had filled up the ration card form and submitted it to the 'government' a ‘hundred times’ to get it updated; yet, it failed. Her husband managed to collect ration for the last two months based on his Aadhaar card. In this context, technological up-gradation embodied in the shift from ration card to Aadhaar card as the eligibility for receiving ration might work for the excluded individuals. On the other hand, several respondents informed about the low coverage of Aadhaar cards since not all family members possess one. For instance, only three out of five in a family or only five out of eight in another family possessed Aadhaar cards. Absence of behavioural norms at Fair Price Shops We find it alarming to learn that beneficiaries are troubled by the long queues and congestion at the Fair Price Shops in this time of the pandemic. Geetanjali Devi, a mother of three from Karawal, North West Delhi, was deeply concerned about the risks associated with the collection of rations in overcrowded spaces. Being a widow, she had no helping hand other than her children but she never allowed her children, despite their insistence, to collect ration. The problem of overcrowding was conspicuous and they evoked concern about the near-complete disregard for physical distancing norms. Though the beneficiaries expressed remarkable awareness of the protective measures to be undertaken during the COVID-19, they helplessly put themselves at risk because of the indispensable need for food. Respondent Shahana Khatoon reasoned that the constant increase in cases in Delhi might be due to people having to step out of their houses to fulfil their basic needs and hence, suggested the government deliver these basic needs at their doorstep. Inadequate quantity of disbursement Interrogating whether the ration from the PDS satiates the recipients’ needs for a month elicited the sharpest responses from the beneficiaries. While some responses expressed shock, some were clothed in amusement, and still, others bordered on anger upon an assumption that the entitled ration would ensure their basic monthly food needs. Najma Khatoon said " Majak kar rahe ho kya?" (Are you joking?). Mahesh, son of beneficiary Prabhawati Devi retorted " Aap khud sochiye, kaise poora hoga itna kam ration" (Please think for yourself how can such a meagre quantity suffice for the whole family). He illustrated that all his six family members physically labour throughout the day and their minimum wheat consumption is about 2.5 kg per day, amounting to 75 kg per month, whereas they receive only 8 kg per month per person amounting to only 48 kg per month from the PDS as the maximum amount. The beneficiaries admitted the benefit of doubling the ration in times of pandemic and expressed satisfaction and preferred frequent distribution of the kits, favouring such diversification of items that include cereals and other food essentials. With some members of the households excluded from the PDS, there was complete unanimity amongst the respondents on the need to increase the allocation of ration per household. The current food allocation lasts in the range of 12 to 15 days. The food grains and the free-of-cost kits during this pandemic has only given them temporary relief in an overarching climate of extreme hardship. Inconsistent quality The majority of the respondents reported that the quality of ration is inconsistent— sometimes it is fine, sometimes it is awful. Some expressed disappointments with the quality of wheat. Sugandha Devi explained, " Bohot kharab gehu hai, roti kaari kaari banti hai aur swaad bhina hi hota" (the quality of the wheat is substandard; roti made from the wheat looks black and without taste). Another respondent, the son of beneficiary Nirmala Devi, reported that sometimes the packet of wheat contains a lot of thorns in it. The residue wheat after removing the thorns is a much-reduced quantity. The complaints were mainly of bad quality of wheat. Most of the respondents were satisfied with the quality of rice. Water woes and poor hygiene A pertinent issue that arose on the sidelines of our discussion over the telephonic interviews was the acute water crises across different locations in Delhi during this lockdown. Households residing in Kirari (North West) and Karawal (North East) in particular were the worst affected by the water crises. According to them, the water supply has been disrupted ever since the lockdown began and it only comes for half an hour in a day which is grossly inadequate. Water tankers came initially after complaints by residents but as the lockdown extended those tankers also stopped their service. Dhapar, a father of two, daily wage labourer and a resident of Kirari said, " Ration chhod dijiye, paani ka samasya hai, jab paani hi nahi milega to jiyenge kaise"  (Do not ask about ration, water is the main problem here: unless we get water how will we live). Asha Rani exclaimed, "How can the authorities expect us to follow the sanitization norms when we do not have enough water!" She indicated a lack of adequate water as a contributing factor behind the rise in cases. This particular issue we feel requires urgent remediation by government authorities if we are to get even close to our mitigation targets. Loss of livelihood due to lockdown All the respondent households suffered either a lay off from the employer or loss of income as a result of the pandemic. Out of 14 respondents who worked as labourers, seven did not get even a single day of work due to lockdown. The income of some respondents who were self-employed reduced to a negligible amount under the effect of the lockdown. Phoolwati’s husband narrated that they earn a livelihood by rearing buffalos and selling milk. However, for the last two months, buyers are unable to pay for the milk but are borrowing milk on credit and making promises to pay later when they regain their incomes. This has foreclosed any hope of income that they had from their animal rearing livelihood. This appears to be a representative case for many others who are self-employed, having exhausted their income owing to the macroeconomic shock that this pandemic has produced. Emphasising that a "labourer is the pillar of the economy; the government needs to take care of the labourer", Priyank, a respondent, suggested that the government could provide employment assurance or subsistence allowance during such economic crises. He reflected that the government could have established manufacturing units for masks, sanitizers, protective equipment, and other such high demand medical equipment in rural areas to address the shortage of these essentials on one hand and employ rural residents on the other. Return to Contents III. IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON ACCESS TO FOOD The loss of livelihood induced by the pandemic has severely hampered people’s access to food. Given the fact that massive unemployment and loss of livelihood has already engulfed the working millions due to the pandemic, and that some members of the households are excluded from the PDS, the quantity of ration provided by the government cannot act as a bulwark against hunger and want. It naturally leads us to the question of how they survive for the rest of the days without any source of income. Most of the respondents borrowed money to meet their food requirements. Thereafter consuming the ration from the PDS that lasts up to 15 days, they borrow money from their neighbours and friends. Similarly, those who received the kits only once in the last two months used their savings and borrowed money to buy these items again. Few are surviving on meagre savings while the rest are borrowing money from friends and neighbours. None of them could access bank credit due to lockdown. Each had developed their networks of informal borrowing, which they relied upon in times of extreme distress. In such a scenario, they expressed their anguish at falling deeper into a debt trap and not having a clue as to when they will be able to come out of it. The respondents declared that their meagre savings, ration from the PDS, and borrowed money from neighbours and friends are their only hopes of survival. The high share of food expenditure To fully understand the impact of the pandemic on economic access to food in Indian households, one has to consider the overall share of expenditure on food that Indian households incur on average. The average share of food in household total spending amounts to 43 per cent in urban India and rises to 53 per cent in rural India (NSSO 2011-2012: 106-107) 2 . For perspective, we can compare it to French households that spent only 13.2 per cent of their total expenditures on food and non-alcoholic beverages in 2017 (Eurostat 2018).  These statistics while confirming Engel’s law— the poorer a household, the larger the share of total expenditures spent on food— also point to the uneven impact of economic hardship on access to food. The kind of economic shock generated by the COVID-19 might be the same for France and India, but its effect on the access to food is graver on the Indian population. Persistent problems aggravate suffering Our empirical studies prove that most of these problems have been occurring from way back (Ngullie 2017, 2018). Corruption, thus, has not been rooted out in Delhi, even though the Arvind Kejriwal government hiked the FPS dealers’ commission by 300 per cent in January 2018. The implementing machinery of the government has not yet established a proactive accountable system for the people. That many eligible individuals are excluded from the PDS has been enumerated time and again. Similarly, long wait and queue at the Fair Price Shops is a commonly reported problem. The lack of water and poor hygienic practices leading to food insecurity has been stressed many times. Moreover, the allocation norm of 5 kg of food grains per person per month under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 is grossly inadequate to meet basic monthly food needs. During this pandemic, PDS with enhanced ration has been a relief to the poor but with many shortcomings such as unequal distribution, exclusion, absence of social distancing norms at Fair Price Shops, and inadequate ration for the households alongside inconsistent quality. These problems have remained unaddressed for long. However, these lacunae in the PDS have never affected the vulnerable section so adversely as they do now. We have to examine these problems with one eye on the surrounding circumstances which have changed drastically for the worse in the wake of the pandemic. Earlier, even when the quantity was inadequate, distribution unequal, exclusion pervasive, quality inconsistent, people had other sources of income to supplement the ration they received under the PDS. One or two individuals from the household sending remittances from the city, income from various kinds of self-employment, and so on, provided succour to the poor in times of difficulty. Given the fact that all these sources have completely dried up, the situation is grim. Under such an overarching climate of hardship, we believe that any set of recommendations to be effective will have to speak to this new reality. Conscious of the above exigencies, we have attempted to make recommendations with a focus on the immediate measures that can be taken to reduce extreme hardship. Return to Contents IV. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS We propose to make recommendations corresponding to the specific problems identified during the course of this exploratory empirical study. It is submitted that these suggestions are not exhaustive. Problem 1: Unequal/Uneven distribution For tackling the issue of unequal distribution we suggest taking the help of the new blockchain technology to reduce leakages and enhance transparency. The PDS involves a long chain of transactions right from the procurement of the food grains by the government agencies to the disbursement to the beneficiaries. The reasons for one household receiving 10 kg per person and another household in the same locality receiving 5 kg per person could go back to the PDS supply chain. The entire supply chain has various junctures, which are prone to manipulation leading to leakages, theft, and eventually culminating in the unequal distribution. Food grains are first procured by the government under the Minimum Support Price. Then, they go to millers identified by the government for hulling and are returned to the government. Next, food grains are moved to the State godowns from where they are further moved to the Block godowns within the State by selected transporters. Finally, from the Block godowns, food grains are sent to the Fair Price Shops for distribution. 3 This entire supply chain can be a part of blockchain using the distributed ledger technology. With the help of blockchain technology, every point where the product is moved and then stopped for collection or storage gets stored in the electronic ledger. This way the food grain can be tracked from the place where it is despatched to its destination. At present, we have the GPS tracking of trucks carrying PDS supplies from the FCI godowns. Installation of GPS was taken up for the first time in the 11 th Plan (2007-2012) on a pilot basis in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh for tracking movement of vehicles transporting rations ( The Hindu Business Line , December 4, 2012). More recently, Delhi and Telangana Governments had issued directives that all trucks carrying ration items will have to have a GPS Tracking Device in them. Within Delhi, the Delhi State Civil Supply Corporation (DSCSC) had been entrusted with the installation of GPS trackers on trucks carrying rations ( The Hindu , July 29, 2015). While the GPS technology did help to an extent in preventing the diversion of grains in movement or during transportation, but it could not prevent the diversion of grains from the godowns or the FPS under the watch of officials. It is here that we could upgrade to blockchain technology. Given the Government of India’s emphasis on digitization and adoption of new technologies, there cannot be a better and a more opportune time to inaugurate the blockchain technology. However, as with every new technology, the full development of blockchain infrastructure might take time. Therefore we need some more immediate measures. One such mechanism for checking and making the process of distribution more accountable was suggested in mid-June by the Delhi High Court in a petition filed by Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan which sought time-bound redress of complaints regarding non-supply of rations and transparency in the distribution of food grains. A Bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad directed the Sub-Divisional Magistrates in every district to conduct a surprise visit at the FPS coming under their territorial jurisdiction and ensure proper functioning. We suggest that a separate cadre of government employees be established for this purpose and stationed at all the FPS. They could be called Ration Inspectors and their job would be to ensure impartial and hassle-free delivery of food grains from the FPS. The formation of such a cadre only needs a notification by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and the legislation can take place later. We do have a provision for periodic inspection of FPS by the Circle food supply officers and Special Commissioners as ordered by the Delhi government in response to numerous complaints received by the beneficiaries in 2015. Unfortunately, with no accountability and lack of supervision of these officers, inspections have been few and sporadic, and consequently, progress on the ground has been negligible. Therefore, having a cadre of officers permanently stationed at the FPS would have an impact. To ensure impartial discharge of duties by such ration inspectors, the existing Lokpal framework can be utilized. Any collusion or discrimination by the ration inspectors can be reported by any member of the public to the State Lokayukta who will initiate summary proceedings and adjudicate upon the guilt of the official. The period for disposing a complaint by the Lokayukta can be fixed at one month by making minor changes in the Delhi Lokayukta and Uplokayukta Act, 1995. Problem 2: Exclusion For including the excluded in the PDS during this pandemic, Abhijeet Banerjee, Amartya Sen, and Raghuram Rajan have gone on record recommending a temporary ration card for a period of six months to everyone who is in need with minimal checks. They have rightly remarked: “The cost of missing many of those who are in dire need vastly exceeds the social cost of letting in some who could perhaps do without it.” 4 We support this mechanism as it is an expedient remedy to counter an immediate situation. The Delhi government has initiated this type of temporary e-coupon system; this facility is available in Delhi government’s website, which allows an applicant to login with the mobile number providing details of family members and Aadhaar and generate e-coupon to collect ration from designated relief centres. We have not verified this initiative. For many years, many eminent scholars have been proposing universal food security legislation instead of a targeted one that excludes many deserving persons (see Swaminathan, M 2000; Sen, A 2009; Himanshu and Sen 2011; Ghosh 2010). Similarly, K.R. Venugopal, former Secretary to the Prime Minister 5 suggested that ration should be issued to every person even without a Ration Card or Aadhaar Card based on a spot summary enquiry. Such a method would enable government officials to know the beneficiaries while dispensing with the necessity of possessing an identity card. This will help the cause of their dignity as well. The emphasis should be on giving something to everyone who has come to collect ration throughout the period of lockdown. Doing away with the need of Ration Cards is particularly important in the current situation because of at least two facts: (i) lakhs of migrant workers stranded outside their home States do not have a ration card, (ii) lakhs of people who never applied and never possessed a food card have become needy due to the lockdown. A recent petition by the former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in the Supreme Court has argued for universal coverage of food security. They contended that despite the government’s move to double the entitlement under the PDS, a large number of people who do not have food cards or who do not have it at the time of need are being left out. The Supreme Court declined to pass any directions and instead directed the petitioners to first make a representation to the government. Interestingly, in a 2016 judgment in Swaraj Abhiyan v Union of India 6 , the Supreme Court had ordered all the State governments affected by drought to provide 5 kg of grains per person per month to everyone who wanted it including those who do not hold a ration card. State governments have not yet implemented this judgment in letter and spirit. Something along these lines needs to be done. This verdict should be deemed to include all State governments irrespective of their drought status and carried into effect without any further delay. The government officials would do well to remember the important principle given by the three stalwarts of economics – the cost of missing many of those who are in dire need vastly exceeds the social cost of letting in some who could perhaps do without it. The proposed One Nation One Ration Card scheme should become operational immediately. Had it been in place, much of the misery experienced by migrant workers, who found themselves ineligible to take rations in the States where they worked, could have been avoided. Problem 3: Absence of social distancing norms and congestion at the collection points Aiming to weed out corruption and diversion of food grains, and to attain transparency in service delivery, on March 6, 2018, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi approved a proposal for doorstep or home delivery of ration to bring ‘maximum ease’ for the PDS beneficiaries 7 . Meanwhile, the central government’s stand on the doorstep delivery is contradictory; even as the central government supports the idea, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) rejected the Delhi government’s proposal. This power struggle between the central government and the State government was simplified by the Supreme Court ruling on Article 239AA of the constitution— that in the matters within the legislative competence of the State Legislature, that is, every matter except Police, Public Order and Land as provided under Art 239AA clause 3 the LG has to act on ‘aid and the advice’ of the elected government 8 Following the ruling, the Delhi government approved it again but it has not been implemented yet. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, doorstep delivery of packaged ration might ease the problems of beneficiaries and prevent transmission of the disease. During this pandemic, all the respondents complained of overcrowding at the ration collection points. They also expressed fear of catching the disease due to the complete absence of social distancing norms, but still went ahead to collect the ration. This act of risking infection for food at FPS reflects the humanitarian crisis. Desperate queues and huge congestion for free ration have proven the indispensability of the PDS and the need to strengthen it especially in terms of ensuring coverage of eligible individuals while taking into account behavioural norms strategy such as doorstep delivery of ration in the context of this pandemic. If the doorstep delivery takes time to be rolled out, the government can consider increasing and diversifying distribution points. Government schools have already been used as PDS delivery points but other public spaces such as sports stadia, public parks, post offices can be roped in to distribute ration as an emergency measure. Problem 4: Loss of livelihood and Income We suggest the government should consider increasing both the coverage and the amount of cash transfers to all the vulnerable groups. 9 The Rs. 500 direct benefit transfer to the female accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana which has been recently rolled out is grossly insufficient. The financial inclusion infrastructure put in place by the Jan Dhan Yojana can come handy at this time. The Union government can start with transferring either a one-time lump sum amount or smaller periodic amounts to all Jan Dhan Account holders. Thomas Reardon et al. have suggested cash for work schemes to employ workers to distribute emergency food rations, to upgrade sanitation in markets and other public spaces. 10 We support this suggestion. Problem 5: Inadequate Quantity If the problems listed under the heads of 'Exclusion' and 'Unequal distribution' are addressed, the core of the problem of inadequate quantity would be addressed. In a previous study in Delhi, on average, a person required 6.18 kg of wheat and 2.96 kg of rice per month (Ngullie 2017). In this connection, 10 kg of food grains consisting of wheat and rice are suitable, during all times, and not just due to COVID-19. Secondly, various State governments should consider establishing community kitchens providing free food as done by the Kerala government to cater to the hungry as an immediate measure. Kerala’s community kitchens have been quite successful in the current situation. Problem 6: Inconsistent quality On this issue, we think that technology-driven solutions have the potential to resolve immediate challenges as well as long term challenges. Use of upcoming technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things could be urgently adapted to eliminate the menace of adulteration and bad quality food grains. The monitoring of the quality of drinking water using machine learning has already been established by scientists. 11 Machine learning used in combination with sensor technology is used to measure the pH, colour, and turbidity of water and the result is recorded in a database. The system sends alert messages to the user whenever a recorded parameter is lower than the recorded values. Likewise, machine vision systems have shown to be effective in monitoring and evaluation of grain quality. 12 Such technologies should be promoted and employed as soon as possible for the purposes of monitoring PDS food grains. Return to Contents V. CONCLUSION An infectious respiratory disease, COVID-19, has again driven home the importance of well-designed and meticulously implemented food security policies that provide for timely access to adequate quality and quantity of food (and water), and good hygienic norms in times such as the ongoing pandemic. Most of the problems that India’s poor are encountering could be attributed to a lack of implementation of the existing food security framework, although the ‘law may look good on paper’ (Basu 2015). Barring a few recommendations like providing rations to needy people even without food cards and opening community kitchens, most other recommendations involve strengthening the existing PDS and other levers of food security. For instance, sections 14, 15, and 16 of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 mandate all State governments to set up grievance redress mechanisms and a State Food Commission to oversee the proper implementation of the law. However, States have not ensured such a mechanism to date. Some States have constituted their food commissions but they do not function fully. The NFSA also entitles persons who could not get their supply of food grains or meals to a food security allowance. It also entitles pregnant and lactating mothers to a maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000 in addition to meals. If these provisions of the NFSA had been implemented, a lot of suffering could have been avoided. Return to Contents   [ Dr. O. Grace Ngullie did her MPhil and Ph.D from the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, under the supervision of Prof. Niraja Gopal Jayal. She is interested in the theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding the links between Politics, Governance, and Public Policy especially with problems related to Poverty, Inequality, and Gender issues. The policy interventions she has researched in depth are in the areas of Self-Help Groups, Public Distribution System, and Cash Transfers. She has worked as a Research Officer at the Indian Institute of Public Administration for the projects of Government of India on Concurrent Evaluation of Government Welfare Schemes. As a Public Policy Scholar at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Dr. Ngullie authored the Policy Report, The Politics and Governance of Social Policies in Delhi: Comparing Cash and In-kind Transfers in July 2018. Her recent work is on Gender Study in the Indian Administrative Service which she wrote for the  Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. She can be contacted at [email protected] . Dr. Arib Ahmad Ansari completed his schooling from Cambrian Hall, Dehradun. He graduated with a Bachelor in Law at the Aligarh Muslim University. He worked as a practising lawyer in Delhi for some time but his interest in multidisciplinary research led him to pursue M.Phil and Ph.D from the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. In his doctoral work, which he completed under the supervision of Prof. Niraja Gopal Jayal, he examined the ideas of nation and the judicial constructions of national identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. His Ph.D got awarded in 2018. He currently works as a freelance researcher. His areas of interest include Rights, Citizenship, Nationalism, International Law, Constitutional law, Law and Economics, and Politics of Recognition and Redistribution. He can be contacted at  [email protected] ]. Endnote: [Note: A typographical error in Endnote 9 was corrected on June 27, 2020, in the HTML version.] 1. A collection of literature is available at the Right to Food Campaign ’s website. [http://www.righttofoodcampaign.in/food-pds/articles]. Last accessed June 26, 2020. Return To text. 2. A more recent household consumption survey was conducted in 2017-18 but the data has not been released yet. Return to Text. 3. Centre of Excellence in Blockchain Technology, National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology . 2020 . Public Distribution System (PDS) . [https://blockchain.gov.in/pdspage.html]. Last accessed on June 25, 2020. Return to Text. 4. Sen, A, et al. 2020 . Huge numbers may be pushed into dire poverty or starvation…we need to secure them , The Indian Express , April 17. [https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/coronavirus-india-lockdown-economy-amartya-sen-raghuram-rajan-abhijit-banerjee-6364521/]. Return to Text. 5. Venugopal K. R. 2020 . The Problem Of Plenty: Steps To Beat The Hunger Pandemic , Outlook Poshan , April 21. [https://poshan.outlookindia.com/story/the-problem-of-plenty-steps-to-beat-the-hunger-pandemic/351199]. Return to Text. 6. WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 857 OF 2015. Return to Text. 7. Aam Aadmi Party’s Website. 2018 . Cabinet approves doorstep delivery of ration under PDS , March 6. [https://aamaadmiparty.org/cabinet-approves-doorstep-delivery-of-ration-under-pds/].Last accessed June 23, 2020. Return to Text. 8. Govt of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India, Civil Appeal no 2357 of 2017. Return to Text. 9. Mander, H. et al. 2020 . A plan to revive a broken economy , The Hindu , May 14. [https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-plan-to-revive-a-broken-economy/article31577261.ece]. Return to Text. 10. Reardon T. et al. 2020 . Covid 19’s Disruption of India’s transformed food supply chains , Economic and Political Weekly , May 02, Vol. LV, No. 18. [https://www.epw.in/journal/2020/18/commentary/covid-19s-disruption-indias-transformed-food.html]. Return to Text. 11. Ashwini C. et al. 2019 . Water Quality Monitoring Using Machine Learning And lot , International Journal of Scientific and technological Research , Vol. 8, Issue 10. [http://www.ijstr.org/final-print/oct2019/Water-Quality-Monitoring-Using-Machine-Learning-And-Iot.pdf]. Return to Text. 12. Vithu P. and Moses J. A. 2016 . Trends in Food and Science Technology, Elsevier , Vol. 56, pp. 13-20. Return to Text.   References: Ashwini C. et al. 2019. Water Quality Monitoring Using Machine Learning And lot , International Journal of Scientific and Technological Research , Vol. 8, Issue 10. [http://www.ijstr.org/final-print/oct2019/Water-Quality-Monitoring-Using-Machine-Learning-And-Iot.pdf]. Basu, K. 2015 .  The Republic of Beliefs: A New Approach to 'Law and Economics' , Policy Research Working Paper 7259, World Bank Group, Development Economics Vice Presidency, Office of the Chief Economist. [https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/21991]. Himanshu and Sen, A. 2011 . Why not a universal food security legislation?, Economic and Political Weekly , Vol. 46 (12), pp. 38-47. Rajagopal, K. 2020. Supreme Court orders Centre and States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to stranded migrant workers , The Hindu , May 26. [https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-takes-suo-motu-cognisance-of-migrant-workers-issue/article31679389.ece]. Ghosh, J. 2010 . The Political Economy of Hunger in 21 Century India , Economic and Political Weekly , October 30, Vol. xlv (44), pp. 33-38. [https://www.epw.in/journal/2010/44-45/perspectives/political-economy-hunger-21st-century-india.html]. Ngullie, O. G. 2017. Food for the Poor: A Comparative study of the Public Distribution System and the Cash Transfer Scheme in Delhi , Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Ngullie, O. G. 2018. The Politics and Governance of Social Policies in Delhi: Comparing Cash and In-kind Transfers , Policy Report No. 22, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Chennai. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/publications/policy-report/article24542070.ece/BINARY/Policy%20Report%20No.%2022.pdf]. National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). 2011-2012. "Level and Pattern of Consumer Expenditure 2011-2012", Tables 6C-R and 6C-U, p. 106-107. More recent household consumption survey was conducted in 2017-18, but the data has not been released yet. Eurostat. 2018. How much are households spending on food? , April 12, 2018. [https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/DDN-20181204-1?inheritRedirect=true%20]. Lasania, Y. Y. 2015 . GPS to Track PDS Anomalies , The Hindu , July 29. [https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/gps-to-track-pds-anomalies/article7474647.ece]. Press Trust of India . 2009. Amartya Sen favours universal PDS . Business Standard , August 8. [https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/amartya-sen-favours-universal-pds-109080803035_1.html]. Last accessed  June 26, 2020. Swaminathan, M. 2000. Weakening Welfare: The Public Distribution of Food in India , LeftWord Books, New Delhi. Vithu P. and Moses J. A. 2016. Trends in Food and Science Technology, Elsevier , Vol. 56, pp. 13-20.

Policy Watch No. 6

Making Electronic Voting Machines Tamper-proof: Some Administrative and Technical Suggestions

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has been consistently claiming that its Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are unique and that tampering is not