Under-representation of women’s interests in the Indian Parliament

Women’s issues, except ones that concern their domestic and familial roles, are severely under-represented in the Indian political narrative. I attempt to argue this through an analysis of the Question Hour data from 2006 to 2017.

In elected democracies, there is no specified role of a representative; is the task of a representative to be a delegate of the constituents’ demands and voices, or is it to represent policies, even unpopular ones, that would do their constituents well? According to political theorist Hanna Pitkin, there are four kinds of representations: Formal, Symbolic, Descriptive, and Substantive.     [i]

If we were to understand representation as substantive representation  – the activity of representatives that is taken on behalf of and in the interest of those they represent – we would be able to judge representatives in the parliament based on the questions they ask and the issues they decide to discuss. That is to say, the role the parliamentarian performs during the question hour, if done as prescribed, is one of being a Substantive Representative. This is the metric used in this paper while analysing how women’s interests are navigated in the Indian Parliament.

For this paper, women shall be understood as cis-gendered women. While trans and non-binary identities are important to study, it is beyond the scope of this paper. Additionally, I will be using questions asked during the Question Hour to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, to be questions pertaining to “women’s issues”.  The unintended consequence of defining such a boundary may include exclusion of programmes such as health care and education schemes impacting the population. However, due to the absence of any other Ministry dedicated (solely) towards Women’s Welfare, it can be assumed that the rest of these questions happening to represent women’s interests were accidental or unintentional. They have been excluded since they were not specifically meant to benefit women, even if they do so.

Background Literature

The standpoint theory informs us that women have been left out of the pursuit and creation of knowledge. Thereby, most, if not all, knowledge that has been created over the centuries is inherently androcentric. Proponents of the theory believe that even the ‘empirical’ science is partial towards men; it is not neutral, but in fact, based out of a historically sexist point of view. The theory further emphasises on the need for women to provide the previously underrepresented perspective and are in a better position to represent women’s interests, given the historical bias. Although such a theory runs the risk of essentialising the female identity and women’s interest, it gives us a great starting point to analyse how female parliamentarians navigate their positions as women in the parliament.

Women make up about 11% of the Lok Sabha, asking only about 7.5% of all questions and approximately 13% of these on women’s issues.[ii] This is strikingly different from other minority identities that are politicized in India, such as religion and caste. Muslims make up about 5% of total MPs in the Lok Sabha and ask about 22% of total questions on Muslim issues. SC/ST MPs make up about 24% of the seats in the Lok Sabha, and they raise 41 % of questions on caste issues.[iii] The ratio of women’s numbers in the parliament to the questions they ask is severely disproportionate when compared to similar ratios of other minority representatives.

There are some intersectionalities: a representative can be both a woman and a Muslim, or a member of the SC/ST community and a woman. Are they then more likely to adopt their non-woman identity? Is the ‘woman’ identity of a representative less politicised than their identity as a different minority? Texts concerning women in Hindutva Politics may help to answer these questions.

Sikta Banerjee details that women in the hyper-masculine Hindu Right navigate their position by fitting into the boxes of a heroic mother, a chaste wife, or a celibate warrior[iv]. They adopt these non-sexualized female identities since they are drawn from the Right’s narratives and hence are more accessible. Even in the discomfort that patriarchy creates, such identities provide a comfortable space to exist; an alternative to an outright defiance of the system. Banerjee has found that, “[the] cost of defiance is quite high in India…rebellion remains an alienating, isolating factor”.[v] Furthermore, as Tanika Sarkar put it so poignantly: all women are not feminists.[vi] This means that they may not identify as women-leaders per se. Despite this, there may exist a large-scale movement among (not-feminist) women from the right who bring with them agency and informed consent.[vii]

This perceived alienation between women and their female identity is contrary to the experiences of women in the Parliament such as Malini Bhattacharya. She has noted that, “…there was a tendency in Parliament to push women into certain corners. Just as in social life […], in Parliament also women are pushed into certain spaces saying, “this is where women should intervene””.[viii] If this were true, current participation should suggest that women are only participating in discussions about specific topic areas where it is allegedly acceptable for them to have a say, but that is not the case.[ix]

Contrary to the Parliamentary data, the data from state and local level legislation suggests that an increase in women sarpanches was more likely to be contingent on identity-based investment in women-centric issues, such as availability of drinking water.[x] Jacob and Basu explain that this lack of difference may be the product of the lack of a critical mass of women in the house (globally defined as 33%). We stand at 11.4% in 2014, which is much lower than the global 22.3%.[xi] India doesn’t fare well in comparison with its South Asians neighbours like Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, all of who have reservations for women.[xii] Nepal fills 29.9% of its house with women and ranks highest in South Asia.[xiii]

  (Figure 1: Jacob 237)[xiv]

This brings us to the elephant in the room –   the Women’s Reservation Bill. While the legislature has approved a bill that reserves seats for women in local legislatures, they have been averse to the same in the state and the centre. Proponents argue that the bill will help reach critical masses of women (globally defined as 33%), and that this would alter the outcome and tenor of the parliamentary debates.[xv]  There are two very important oppositions to this bill that we must take into account. The first opposition is that such a reservation would act as a ceiling rather than a base, thereby limiting the number of women who could be had in a Parliament.[xvi] The second opposition is a caste-based opposition which believes that the whole debate on the women’s reservation bill is an upper-caste ploy that is intent on erasing the new wave of lower-caste men who are entering into politics.[xvii] They believe that a blanket women’s-based reservation would erase caste, and the only people who would benefit would be upper-caste women – the biwis, betis and bahus.

Proponents of this line of thinking believe that a lot of women in positions of power are upper-caste women who are merely placeholders for the men in their families. Data shows that dynastic women are more likely to get elected. In 2014, 43% of the women in parliament (12%) had dynastic links as compared to only 19% of the men.[xviii] If this were true, it could be a valid explanation for their passive participation in the process of legislating for women.


For this paper, I will be conducting a quantitative analysis. As previously mentioned, I will be using questions from the last four terms of the Question Hour in the Parliament. The Question Hour is a latent paradigm which can reveal intriguing patterns in the discussion on women’s issues.  As in several western legislatures, during Question Hour, legislators are not restricted by party regulations. They pose up to five questions, four of which must be written. The government is obliged to answer. The speaker allows a maximum of only 250 questions (20 oral) picked via a ballot,[xix] providing us with a rather unbiased metric.

Saloni Bhogale, at the Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University, has been working on the issue of Muslim Representation through the Question Hour data. The data was scraped from the Lok Sabha website, and with her help, a specific sub-set of questions asked to the Ministry of Women and Child was drawn. We were left with a sub-set of 2833 questions that contained the ID number, question number, subject, question, date, member(s) who asked the question, ministry (only the ministry of women and child for this data set), and whether the question is starred or unstarred.  They were then further categorised based on whether they were about children, women, the girl child. Several data points lie in the intersection of these categories and have been accordingly assigned to all applicable categories. Then the questions were further classified into nine categories: Anganwadi, abandonment and adoption, child welfare, economic, education, girl child, law and order, legislation and nutrition, health and growth. Some of these questions applied to more than one category and were assigned to all applicable categories. Lastly, to account for the effects of gender and the party allegiances of the members asking the questions, this data was merged with general election data as scraped, cleaned, and collected by TCPD.


Out of the 2833 questions, eventually, 2519 questions were analysed. 314 questions had to be discarded due to the absence of question text. Ten of these did not have enough data to be classified into women/child/ girl child but remained in the dataset under “cbd” (‘could not be determined’). Analysis of data was conducted in five different ways, a) all questions, b) questions asked about children, c) questions asked about women, d) questions about women and the girl child and lastly, e) questions asked by women.

  1. All Questions
Year No. of Questions
2006 152
2007 173
2008 119
2009 166
2010 275
2011 200
2012 274
2013 275
2014 228
2015 213
2016 253
2017 192

A total of 2519 questions have been asked to the Ministry of Women and Child since its inception in 2006. The trend of the number of questions being asked has remained similar over the years:

The lowest was 152, in the year the ministry was set up, and there seems to be a steady rise but not extremely significant given the highest has only been 275, in 2010 and 2013. The peak in 2013 could be attributed to the Nirbhaya Rape Case in December 2012[xx].

4436 people have asked these questions – since more than one person can ask a question. 3848, which is 87% of these people, are men and 588, which is 13% of them, are women.

From available data for 4340 of these people, 1482 of the questions have been asked by BJP elects, and that’s 34% and 21%, respectively. 1950 of the questions have been asked by others – that is the remaining 45%.

Topic No. of Questions
Aanganwadi 262
Abandonment and
Child Welfare 486
Economic 225
Education 50
Girl Child 94
Law and Order 435
Legislation 484
Nutrition, Health, and Growth 326

A general distribution of questions across topics looks as follows:

Most of the questions asked to the ministry were about child welfare (19.1%), followed closely by legislation at 19% and law and order at 17.1%. Questions about economic interests, education and those about the girl child remain on the fray at 8.9%, 2% and 3.7%, respectively.

  • Questions about Children:

Not inclusive of questions about children within other categories like child + women, there are 1227 questions about children. 2165 people have asked these questions, 1898 of who are men and 267 of who are women – that’s 88% and 12%, respectively.

We have parties available for 2059 of these (106 are missing). Given that data for 106 people is missing, from the remaining people, BJP asked 730 (30%); Congress asked 448 (22%); and 881(43%) questions were asked by members of other parties.

A general distribution of questions across topics looks as follows:

Topic No. of Questions
Aanganwadi 173
Abandonment and
Child Welfare 274
Economic 42
Education 23
Girl Child 31
Law and Order 236
Legislation 171
Nutrition, Health and Growth 164

Most of the questions are about child welfare, closely followed by law and order. The topic of education remained unexplored.

  • Questions about Women

In this category, there are questions asked about women in any combination. That is, it could be a question about both women and children, the girl child and children, about the girl child, children and women and so on.

1282 such questions have been asked about women. These questions have been asked by 2242 people, 1924 (86%) of whom are men and 318 (14%) of whom are women.

Parties are available for 2130 of these members (112 are missing). 740 of these are asked by members of BJP, that is 35%, and 455 of these are asked by members of Congress, that is 21%. 935 of these, that is the remaining 44%, are asked by members of other parties by other parties.

The general distribution of the kind of questions asked looks like this:

Topic No. of Questions
Aanganwadi 89
Abandonment and
Child Welfare 212
Economic 183
Education 27
Girl Child 63
Law and Order 198
Legislation 312
Nutrition, Health and Growth 154

Legislation, at 312 questions, has the most amount of questions asked, and Child Welfare continues to have 212 questions. Education, too, continues to have the least amount of questions asked.

  • Questions only about women and the girl child

This category completely excludes the child, and only includes questions that have been categorised under ‘women’, ‘girl-child’ or ‘girl child and women’.

890 such questions have been asked, by 1585 people, 86% (1338) of whom are men and 14% (206) of whom are women.

Discounting 86 people with missing party data, 35% (520) of the questions have been asked by members of BJP, 22% (326) by members of Congress and 43% (653) by members of other parties.

Topic No. of Questions
Aanganwadi 64
Abandonment and
Child Welfare 116
Economic 139
Education 17
Girl Child 54
Law and Order 153
Legislation 224
Nutrition, Health and Growth 69

The general distribution of questions looks as follows:

The greatest number of questions are those with regards to legislation at 224, followed by law and order at 153 and economic at 139. Child Welfare, at 116, has a considerably large amount of question base in this context.

  • Questions asked by Women

Although this does not qualify under the Substantive Representation of Women, given this paper is about women, it is important to also see what questions women who make it to the house ask. At least one woman has asked 528 Questions to the Ministry of Women and Child.[xxi]

The general distribution of these questions are as follows:

Topic No. of Questions
Aanganwadi 55
Abandonment and
Child Welfare 86
Economic 52
Education 13
Girl Child 12
Law and Order 96
Legislation 106
Nutrition, Health and Growth 68

 Legislation seems to be the most important topic at 106 questions, closely followed by law and order at 96. Child Welfare continues to occupy an important space here at 86 questions.


The Ministry of Women and Child did not exist before January 2006. It was originally set up as a department under the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 1985. That it took 13 houses to set up a ministry dedicated to women, highlights the inadequacy of constructive discourse around women in the country’s policymaking.

Further, it is problematic that the ministry compiles both women and children under one ministry. This suggests that the archaic narrative in Indian politics about a woman’s primary role –as a mother, a wife, a caregiver, is still at large. While the mandate of this ministry says that, “… these efforts are directed to ensure that women are empowered both economically and socially and thus become equal partners in national development along with men”[xxii], the subject allocation that follows this mandate tells a different story. The first item on this subject list is ‘welfare of the family’ and pertinent issues such as the National Commission for Women, the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh and Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity come much lower in the list. Several of the subject areas that do deal with women are concerned with nutrition and crimes such as trafficking and while these are important, women’s issues are only seen as either that of the family or that of crime, and not of equity and opportunity. For decades, feminist critiques have been commenting on the limited appreciation of women’s issues in light of family and marriage,[xxiii] but this conversation has evidently not percolated into the political discourse in India. While questions on economic growth and opportunity made up only 8.9% of the questions asked to this ministry, child welfare accounts for more than twice of that, with as much with 19.1% of the questions. Questions about children alone (1227 questions) make up more than the questions about both women and the girl child put together (890 questions).

Kind of Questions No. of Questions
All Questions 486(/2519)
Only Children 274(/1227)
Women in some capacity 212(/1282)
Only Women and Girl Child 116(/890)
Questions asked by women   86(/528)    

This focus on child welfare remains irrespective of how the data is classified, as seen in the table below.

Irrespective of the nature of the classification, the questions about child welfare make up an average of 17% of the questions.

More than 50% of the questions, irrespective of the classifications, are asked between BJP and Congress. The representatives from BJP seem to be asking more questions than the representatives from Congress, irrespective of classification, which seems counter-intuitive given Congress’s popular narrative[xxiv]. This would make for interesting future research.

Lastly, women make up around 11% of the house and ask around 12% of the questions regarding women’s issues. When such an analysis is done with other identity markers, the difference is starkly noted. Muslims, for example, make up 5% of the house but ask 20% of the questions with regards to Muslim issues.[xxv] This is also true for SC and ST representatives.[xxvi] This points towards literature that suggests that women don’t want to be seen as “only” women’s representatives[xxvii] but as representatives beyond their identity.

What is hence outlined is a concern vis-à-vis the core of an Indian woman’s identity. As equal citizens of this Republic, the constitution bears upon Indian women every one of the same rights that it bears upon the men, to pursue their social, economic and political goals. Therefore, it is critical that the representatives of this country and especially the representatives of Indian women, recognise this and legislate accordingly.

[i] Formalistic Representation: Institutional, formal representation for the represented, Symbolic Representation: The value that the representative holds for the represented, Descriptive Representation: How much a representative resembles those represented? [and] Substantive Representation: The activity of representatives—that is, the actions taken on behalf of, in the interest of, as an agent of, and as a substitute for the represented (Stanford Encyclopedia).

[ii] Bhogale, S. (2018), Text of questions raised in the Lok Sabha (1999 to 2018), TCPD [Forthcoming]

[iii] Bhogale, S. (2018), Text of questions raised in the Lok Sabha (1999 to 2018), TCPD [Forthcoming]

[iv] In the Indian imagination: heroic mother like Rani of Jhansi, a chaste wife like Rani Padmavati, or a celibate warrior like the God Kaali

[v] Banerjee, S. (2006). “Armed masculinity, Hindu nationalism and female political participation in India.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 8(1): 62-83.

[vi] Sarkar, Tanika, “Pragmatics of the Hindu Right: Politics of Women’s Organizations.”  Women’s Studies in India edited by Mary E John, Penguin Books.

[vii] Sarkar, Tanika, “Pragmatics of the Hindu Right: Politics of Women’s Organizations.”  Women’s Studies in India edited by Mary E John, Penguin Books.

[viii] Bhattacharya, Malini. On Being a Woman in Parliament, www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2511/stories/20080606251102600.htm.

[ix] Jacob, Suraj. “Gender and Legislative Performance in India.” Politics & Gender, vol. 10, no. 02, 2014, pp. 236–264., doi:10.1017/s1743923x14000051.

[x] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xi] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xii] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xiii] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xiv] Jacob, Suraj. “Gender and Legislative Performance in India.” Politics & Gender, vol. 10, no. 02, 2014, pp. 236–264., doi:10.1017/s1743923x14000051.

[xv] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xvi] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xvii] Menon, Nivedita, “The Elusive ‘Woman’: Feminism and the Women’s Reservation Bill.”  Women’s Studies in India edited by Mary E John, Penguin Books.

[xviii] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

[xix] Jacob, Suraj. “Gender and Legislative Performance in India.” Politics & Gender, vol. 10, no. 02, 2014, pp. 236–264., doi:10.1017/s1743923x14000051.

[xx] See Harris, Gardiner. “Charges Filed Against 5 Over Rape in New Delhi.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/world/asia/murder-charges-filed-against-5-men-in-india-gang-rape.html?hp&_r=0.

[xxi] As previously mentioned, some questions are asked by more than one person

[xxii] “Ministry of Women & Child Development | GoI.” About the Ministry | Ministry of Women & Child Development | GoI, http://www.wcd.nic.in/about-us/about-ministry.

[xxiii] Satz, Debra, “Feminist Perspectives on Reproduction and the Family”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/feminism-family/

[xxiv] See PTI. “Women Empowerment Must for Country’s Development: Rahul Gandhi.” Https://Www.livemint.com/, Livemint, 28 Feb. 2014, www.livemint.com/Home-Page/bOvloajGWM6w6EBeOrTUaP/Women-empowerment-must-for-countrys-development-Rahul-Gand.html.

[xxv] Bhogale, S. (2018), Text of questions raised in the Lok Sabha (1999 to 2018), TCPD [Forthcoming]

[xxvi] Bhogale, S. (2018), Text of questions raised in the Lok Sabha (1999 to 2018), TCPD [Forthcoming]

[xxvii] Basu, Amrita, “Women, Dynasties and Democracy in India.” Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, Cambridge University Press, 2016.; Bhattacharya, Malini. On Being a Woman in Parliament, www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2511/stories/20080606251102600.htm.

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Latha Iyer
Latha Iyer
2 years ago

Really impressed by the amount of research done, Sukanya and the points you highlight here.. Especially alarming is how we seem to be doing on this and other development parameters vis -a-vis other Asian countries.
Look forward to hearing and reading more thought -provoking insights from you

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The anthropogenic forcing of greenhouse gases has turned out to be a dominant force propelling sea level rise. Sea levels in the 20th century have been rising at an average rate of 0.06m per decade.¹ The Indian subcontinent is highly vulnerable to threats arising from sea level rise given its demography. The country has a coastline that runs for 7,500 square kilometres. These coastal regions are home to about 170 million people.² Between 1996 and 2016, approximately 236 square kilometres of land was lost to coastal erosion placing people’s livelihoods in jeopardy. Based on a government report published in 2016, around 45.5% of India’s coastline has been affected by erosion of varying magnitudes.³ The coastal erosion problem is a complex effect of various natural processes working in the coastal zone and sometimes beyond it. According to recent scientific predictions, 36 million Indians are likely to be living in areas experiencing chronic flooding by 2100.⁴ Increasing climate-induced calamities and accelerating levels of erosion have called for intervention and support from the government in securing the livelihoods of coastal communities.  Existing policies in the country address displacement from rapid-onset disasters such as monsoons and cyclones under disaster reduction and rehabilitation policies. However, displacement due to slow-onset disasters such as coastal erosion are yet to find a place at the policy level. With the intensity and frequency of disasters increasing in the future, we require a foresighted national-level policy on managed retreat and adaptation in India. This paper analyses existing policies and suggests possible adaptation interventions that will help the nation deal better with the problem of coastal displacement. 

We realize that coastal erosion is an extensive and multi-dimensional problem for a vast country like ours. The Indian government has put in place policies, laws and committees to tackle climate change and climate-induced disasters. The main policy measures concerning coastal protection and management in India include the Disaster Management Act of 2005 that has a section dedicated to coastal protection and disaster management and the west coast policies to tackle coastal erosion. The Act provides for the establishment of several statutory bodies such as the National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authorities and District Disaster Management Authorities. It also includes advisory committees, executive committees and sub-committees under the government. The Act lists out the action plan for governments during or post a rapid-onset disaster. It also puts together provisions that allow for the creation of relief funds and their usage during emergencies. The act is inadequate along several lines. The presence of numerous committees and the overlap of duties among authorities mentioned in the Act greatly reduces accountability. Further, the coordination among these bodies appears to be very cumbersome. Disasters cannot be effectively dealt with only through the government’s administrative setup. Even then the role of local authorities and communities in coastal management and protection has been greatly overlooked. The Indian Act also fails to recognize the need for identifying and using traditional knowledge and working together with NGOs.

Efforts are being made to counter the menace of coastal erosion and protect our coasts using both traditional approaches ( hard structures like Seawall, etc.) and the new, innovative soft measures like dune rehabilitation. Policies to curb coastal erosion on the west coast of the country have dealt with structural or hard measures such as the construction of seawalls, revetment, offshore breakwater, groynes/spurs and soft measures like offshore reefs and artificial headlands. Soft measures are usually more effective in the long run when compared to hard measures. Seawalls and other coastal engineering structures end up obstructing the littoral drift of sand and sediment, thus, causing erosion on the northern side and accretion on the southern side of the structure. In the end, they do not prevent erosion as they only transfer the problem further north of the east coast.⁵ The impact of these hard options on neighbouring coastlines create a situation where hard structures are then required in these new areas creating a vicious cycle. An example of such a spiralling effect is the seawall construction in Kerala  (a state government initiative to curb coastal erosion) and its impact on Karnataka’s coastline. The Kerala government has spent around 310 crores building seawalls along its coast.6 Of the 560 km coastline of Kerala, the state has constructed a seawall for 386 km. The government had sought funding assistance to wall the remaining 92 km and demanded INR 2.16 billion from the Centre. Seawalls along the coast of Kerala did help in preventing coastal erosion but as mentioned earlier the littoral drift was obstructed, accelerating erosion rates of the coastline along the state of Karnataka. Groynes suffer from a similar limitation. These man-made structures protruding into the oceans are known to cause accretion on the southern side and erosion on the northern side. Beach nourishment has proved attainable by methods of re-vegetation with temporary offshore breakwaters/artificial reefs. Artificial reefs provide shelter, food and other necessary elements for marine biodiversity to flourish. 

The west coast policies and the Disaster Management Act (2005) focus on mitigation measures mainly undertaken by the government thus alienating local communities from related coastal work. It is important to shift our focus from mitigation to adaptation. Intervention and policies for adaptation are extremely crucial given two main reasons. We cannot mitigate sea-level rise. Even if we drastically cut down emissions, experts concluded that global mean sea-level would rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meters) above 1992 levels by 2100. With high rates of emissions, sea-level rise would be much higher but was unlikely to exceed 6.6 feet higher than 1992 levels. Hence, it is more important to facilitate adaptation than mitigating impacts of sea-level rise. Adaptation policies focusing on alternative livelihoods, social security nets, preemptive retreat and social infrastructure will greatly enhance the resilience capacity of communities thereby enabling better response to a crisis. Existing policies in India address post-disaster management or displacement stemming from rapid-onset disasters but displacement due to slow-onset disasters such as coastal erosion is yet to find a place in Indian policy. Slow onset events are impacting lives and livelihoods leading to the weakening of a community’s resilience. It is important to identify vulnerable areas and build the capacity of local communities to efficiently manage future crises and prevent large scale life and material loss. The second reason comes from the unpredictability that haunts us. Climate change is complex because every system disturbance sets in motion positive and negative feedback. Interactions of various levels create unpredictable events and large scale destruction. The unpredictable nature of climate change and lag is a lesson to build resilience rather than focus on measures that only handle rehabilitation post-disaster. 

Shining a ray of hope on this oncoming crisis is the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, focusing on better protection, conservation, rehabilitation, management and policy design of the coast. NCSCM aims to support integrated management of coastal and marine environments for livelihood security, sustainable development and hazard risk management by enhancing knowledge, research and advisory support, partnerships and network and coastal community interface. NCSCM has the resources for data monitoring and the mission has started on a good note by tackling the issue of defining High Tide Lines (HTL) and putting forward revised regulations for keeping a check on polluting industries/activities and construction activity along critical coastal areas. Though the vision of this institutional regime is applaudable, little has been done on the ground. The notification though uses terminologies like sustainable development, sustainable livelihood, ecologically and culturally sensitive coastal resources, fails to detail the implementation strategies for each of them.⁷ The mission stands great potential in developing into the institutional setup that India needs in developing and implementing adaptation interventions. However, this is conditional on its alignment with the Millennium Development Goals on environmental sustainability and its focus on the long term impacts of all developmental work in the coastal zones of the country. 

Coastal communities are directly impacted by climate impacts causing declining productivity of fisheries and cultivation lands along the coasts. Existing measures do not help communities in dealing with economic losses. Understanding threats to the economic and social well being of the communities underlines the need for adaptation policies that will help reduce the climate vulnerability of communities and enhance their ability to flexibly adapt to changing conditions. Policies which create alternate livelihood opportunities, social infrastructure, planned retreat, and community involved coastal management need to find a place in India’s climate legislations.

The views expressed in the post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the ISPP Policy Review or the Indian School of Public Policy. Images via open source.


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  3.  Status Report on Coastal Protection & Development in India Central Water Commission New Delhi .(2016). http://old.cwc.gov.in/CPDAC-Website/Paper_Research_Work/Status_Report_on%20_Coastal_Protection_and%20_Development_in%20_India_2016.pdf
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  5. Masselink, G., & Lazarus, E. (2019). Defining Coastal Resilience. Water, 11(12), 2587. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/w11122587
  6. Warrier, S. G., Aggarwal, M., Aggarwal, M., Sarkar, S., Sarkar, S., Padmanaban, D., … Gopal, S. (2016, November 9). Walls can’t keep out the sea in Kerala. India Climate Dialogue. https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2016/11/09/cant-keep-out-the-sea-kerala/. 
  7. Krishnamurthy, R., DasGupta, R., Chatterjee, R., & Shaw, R. (2014). Managing the Indian coast in the face of disasters & climate change: A review and analysis of India’s coastal zone management policies. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 18(6), 657-672. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24760673
  8. E. Vivekanandan. Impact of Climate Change in the Indian Marine Fisheries and the Potential Adaptation Options. core.ac.uk/download/pdf/33018848.pdf. 
  9. Barua, Prabal & Rahman, Syed. (2018). Community-based rehabilitation attempt for solution of climate displacement crisis in the coastal area of Bangladesh. 1. 358. 10.1504/IJMRM.2018.10016042. 
  10. Inti Carro, et al.,(2012, August 18) Building capacity on ecosystem-based adaptation strategy to cope with extreme events and sea-level rise on the Uruguayan coast ISSN: 1756-8692 Publication date: https://www.emerald.com/insight/search?q=Inti%20Carro
  11. Climate Change Adaptation in Fisheries and Aquaculture: Compilation of initial examples, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. 1088, Clare Shelton,ISSN 2070-6065 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3569e.pdf
  12. Podesta, John. (2019, September 4)“The Climate Crisis, Migration, and Refugees.” Brookings.www.brookings.edu/research/the-climate-crisis-migration-and-refugees/..
  13.  Alongi, D.M. Mangrove forests: Resilience, protection from tsunamis, and responses to global climate change. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. (2008), 76, 1–13
  14.  Das S (2009) Addressing coastal vulnerability at the village level: The role of socio-economic and physical factors. Working paper series No. E/295/2009. 
  15. Alongi, Daniel. (2002). Present State and Future of the World’s Mangrove Forests. Environmental Conservation. 29. 331 – 349. 10.1017/S0376892902000231.
  16. Kantamaneni, K., Sudha Rani, N. N. V., Rice, L., Sur, K., Thayaparan, M., Kulatunga, U., Rege, R., et al. (2019). A Systematic Review of Coastal Vulnerability Assessment Studies along Andhra Pradesh, India: A Critical Evaluation of Data Gathering, Risk Levels and Mitigation Strategies. Water, 11(2), 393. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/w11020393
  17. Barua, Prabal & Rahman, Syed & Molla, Morshed. (2017). Sustainable adaptation for resolving climate displacement issues of south eastern islands in Bangladesh. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management. 9. 10.1108/IJCCSM-02-2017-0026.
  18. Ministry of Environment and Forests (Department of Environment, Forests and Wildlife). (2011, Jan 6).Coastal Regulation Zone Notification. www.iczmpwb.org/main/pdf/czm_laws/CRZ%20Notification%202011.pdf.

How would you define poverty? There are several definitions and each one of them helps us imagine poverty in different ways. One way to define poverty is the lack of resources required to lead a basic life. By this definition, as long as your basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are met, you are not in poverty. The United Nations defines poverty as the “inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity.” A more quantitative definition from the World Bank defines poverty as living under $1.90 (Purchasing Power Parity) per day. This is the international poverty line. Amartya Sen’s capability approach describes poverty as “a failure to achieve certain minimum capabilities.” This means that poverty is not seen purely as an issue of economic development but includes measures of human rights and access.

It does not take long to realize that poverty has many faces. In a recent project called One Hundred Homes, researchers conducted a visual survey of India to examine what a household falling under a particular income or consumption level as per a standard government survey (IHDS, NSS) would look like in real life. The result was a collection of hundred visual essays showcasing the living conditions of families to understand the connection between wealth and poverty visually. A key insight is that it is almost impossible to predict which household is wealthier just based on the appearance of living conditions. We cannot simply look at assets owned to determine who is better off or worse off. Surveys usually measure poverty through consumption spending in a given period of time on a fixed category of things. This does not account for the value of the house, credit borrowed, subsidies received from the government, etc. In addition to this, the poverty line in itself is based on several assumptions such as calorie requirements and ignores indicators of education, health and wellbeing.

Figure 1: A snapshot from the One Hundred Homes project website (Source: One Hundred Homes)

Poverty, through its appearance and measurement, presents several puzzles. Some obvious facts about poverty may not be true. On the other hand, results from experiments to understand the lives of the poor may be counterintuitive.

For example, one knows about the vicious nature of poverty. But why do the poor remain poor? Do bad decisions cause poverty or does poverty cause people to make bad decisions? Sendhil Mullainathan and other researchers ran a series of experiments to understand how scarcity affects cognitive capability and decision making. For an illustration of how poverty affects thinking, they asked people to memorize a list of words similar to the one below in 20 seconds and asked them to recall as many as they can from memory.

Figure 2: List used by researchers in the experiment to determine effects of poverty on cognitive capacity (Source: Chicago Booth Review)

What’s interesting is that, although “money” was not on the list, people with low income are more likely to remember seeing money in the list than people with high income because words on the list are related to financial concerns. This portrays that money occupies a significant part of the cognitive load of the poor. Further, experiments also depict that people under financial stress perform poorly in cognitive tests such as Raven’s matrices and cognitive control tasks compared to those who are not. This implies that poverty in itself impairs sound cognitive performance. 

A more realistic experiment conducted on Indian sugarcane farmers tested their cognitive abilities pre-harvest and post-harvest. Sugarcane has one harvest cycle per year. Before the harvest, farmers are relatively poor and uncertain about their finances whereas post-harvest, the same farmer is relatively rich. A random sample of small farmers was tested pre- and post-harvest on Raven’s matrices, a measure of fluid intelligence and the traditional Stroop task, which gauges cognitive control. Controlling for other fixed effects such as nutrition, work effort, etc., the experiment showed that being poor reduces cognitive capacity. Farmers post-harvest performed better on cognitive tests compared to pre-harvest.

This research suggests that the poor are less capable not because of their inherent capabilities but because poverty in itself imposes a cognitive load. Imagine if you were to make a decision after staying awake an entire night. Would you be able to make the right decision? The effect of poverty on cognitive function is comparable to losing a full night’s sleep. The poor constantly make important decisions of education, health, consumption and saving in this state of mind. The implication of this is that policymakers need to be aware of the psychological nature and cognitive tax of poverty. Welfare programs with complex ordeals aimed at better targeting may be counterproductive. The timing of welfare policies is also critical. Cognitive aids such as nudge can go a long way in offsetting the effect of poverty on cognition.

This also begs the question, why do the poor have to make more decisions than the rich with regards to essential utilities like savings, healthcare, insurance and so on? A poor person, who may not have access to banking services or formal employment, must decide to save for his or her retirement. On the other hand, the decision is already made by the organization of a rich person through the provident fund. The same goes for insurance, healthcare and even water. A rich person in an urban area can simply open a tap in the comfort of their home and clean water flows out, whereas a poor person has to choose where to procure water from, uncertain of whether it is clean or not, and decide what to do if it is not clean. Poverty impedes cognitive function and affects decision making. Above this, the poor make a significantly greater number of decisions amidst a lot of uncertainty. Both these facts are detrimental to leading a good life. Human beings have bounded rationality and self-control problems, hence fewer the decisions, the better. This is the reason why in developed countries like the United States, essential utilities such as insurance, savings are left to institutions and not the individual. If a poor person has to consistently choose to save every month for his or her retirement, they are bound to run into self-control problems. It is unfortunate that despite evidence on this, policymakers have made little effort to minimize the decisions taken by the poor. What, if not this, is an indication of inequality?

Another puzzle is that of risk and entrepreneurship. More number of poor people are self-employed and own businesses compared to the rich. Entrepreneurship involves risk and uncertainty. If the rich are better at managing risk due to their endowments and safety net, why is it that more poor people start businesses than the rich? This is the mystery of self-employment. That a person for whom it is easier is less likely to do it whereas a person for whom it is harder is more likely to do it.

A possible explanation for this is that the poor are natural entrepreneurs. But the question to ask is whether poor people are creative or does poverty force them to find creative ways of earning their income? This is not to say that poor people cannot be creative. An average poor person is probably as creative as the average rich person. However, there is an overrepresentation of entrepreneurs among the poor. The poor are entrepreneurs not because they want to be, but because they have to be. 

Economics teaches us that people are generally risk-averse. So, they must prefer a salaried job to starting a business. A survey question asking parents regarding their ambitions for their children confirms this belief. The results from rural Udaipur and around the world are that most poor parents want their children to be in a salaried job. Only 7% of parents want their children to run businesses. For the poor, a job is a means to achieve stability and move up the social ladder. However, public policy does not seem to understand this. The policy view is that poor people are more entrepreneurial in nature and several policies have been created to encourage the poor to turn into entrepreneurs. Rural areas have the RSETIs (Rural Self Employment Training Institutes), which focus on providing training for rural youth on entrepreneurial development. There is no such equivalent for urban areas. However, for the urban poor specifically, there is a Self-Employment Programme (SEP) under the NULM, which provides financial assistance to set up self-employment ventures.

From my field experiences of visiting and working with SHGs (self-help groups) of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, the thrust has been for SHGs to begin businesses. NABARD, NRLM and civil society are invested in this idea, providing loans and market support. It is likely that most of the SHGs are not even interested in business but have to involve themselves in order to take advantage of the credit and market support. Even in the recent COVID relief package by the Government of India, the specific relief measure for SHGs was to increase the collateral-free loan limit to Rs. 20 lakh so as to meet their business needs. This differential focus on self-employment for the poor is concerning. 

Additionally, the traditional investment theory of risk-reward ratio does not work for the poor because of capital and technological constraints. Most businesses owned by poor people are not profitable. Different occupations are filled with different amounts of risk and uncertainty. Agriculture is one of the riskiest, yet least profitable occupations. Agriculture is subject to whether uncertainty, price uncertainty, market uncertainty, credit uncertainty, government uncertainty and what not! Hence, a poor farmer is not the same as a poor plumber and public policy needs to give attention to this fact. A reason why agriculture is one of the most intervened sectors by the government is not just populism but also the level of uncertainty tagged with the occupation.

There are many more such puzzles in the world of poverty. To unearth these puzzles, we need to rigorously test the traditional theories we hold about the poor. In a developing world, everybody is undergoing a transformation, with the poor transforming at a faster rate at the margin. Thus, we not only need to ask the right questions but also revisit the existing answers to update our understanding of poverty. Each piece of evidence gives us insights into the lives of the poor and incorporating these insights helps us create better poverty alleviation policies.

The views expressed in the post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the ISPP Policy Review or the Indian School of Public Policy. Images via open source.

The wide-ranging vulnerability induced by the current pandemic has heightened global interest in shock-responsive social protection (SRSP), i.e. adapting social protection (SP) for addressing the impacts of large-scale natural disasters, economic shocks, pandemics and political crises. Figure 1 shows the common SRSP strategies which policymakers can consider for addressing covariate shocks. 

Figure 1. Adapting social protection systems for crises

Until recently, India’s SP system was largely limited to the formal sector. While there is still a considerable degree of fragmentation and multiple federal schemes operate in silos, there is a growing policy recognition for consolidation and convergence backed by integrated systems.1 The last 15 years witnessed a growth in rights-based entitlements and systemic reforms to build a more inclusive system.2 These encompass the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) program, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Public Distribution System (PDS), National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and National Social Assistance Program (NSAP). These programs show a greater degree of institutionalization in terms of legal and/or policy backing, benefit design and implementation processes, resulting in improved coverage. 

The COVID-19 crisis has seen unique innovations involving piggybacking on India’s most extensive safety net, the PDS, for shock response, reiterating its relevance for SRSP. For instance, the Government of Bihar piggybacked on the PDS (although with challenges and swift course corrections)3 to provide a one-off transfer of Rs.1000 to ration-card holders during the COVID-19 crisis. This experience needs to be systematically documented, as it will play a crucial role in informing future preparedness actions. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh (UP)4 and Odisha5 piggybacked on the extensive network of fair price shops (FPS) to distribute food grains (in lieu of in-school cooked meals) to beneficiaries of MDM, while Delhi6 and Kerala7 used it to distribute ‘essential item kits’. Leveraging existing delivery systems helped save crucial time and reduce errors in distribution.

PDS also demonstrated flexibility by expanding vertically (topping up entitlements) and horizontally (increasing coverage). Entitlements for over 80 crore ration-card holders were doubled8 and eligibility was relaxed to include non-ration card holders 9 such as migrant workers10 and some families who are above the poverty line11. On March 26th, the government announced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for the period of April to June, further extended till November 2020, for providing free ration (5 kg of rice/wheat and 1 kg of pulses), in addition to the pre-existing entitlements of PDS beneficiaries12. Several states announced their own relief packages, which supplemented this quantity of ration and/or expanded the basket of items. 13,14 Under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, free rations were extended to migrants from May till August. The pandemic and the consequent exodus of migrants also hastened the speed of ensuring inter-state portability of ration cards through the ‘One Nation-One Ration Card’ (ONORC) approach, though challenges persist. 

Although the PDS played a critical role in alleviating the vulnerability induced by the pandemic, several inadequacies of the system were exposed as well. The challenges posed by the PDS need to be addressed in order to respond better to future crises. The most fundamental criticism of the current PDS regime is the exclusion of eligible beneficiaries. This exclusion is layered and hierarchical, shown in Figure 2. The use of outdated 2011 population census figures to determine the extent of the coverage of the scheme has excluded more than 100 million people from the system.15 The second layer of exclusion emanates from the mandate of linking Aadhaar with ration cards.16 Both these shortcomings represent the plight of vulnerable non-ration card holders who suffer disproportionately because of the difficulty in identifying them for delivering immediate relief. As the ONORC does not address the previous two layers of exclusion, it is plagued by their associated drawbacks too. 

Figure 2. The PDS Exclusion Hierarchy: Introducing ONORC without accompanying measures for addressing the deeper issues of large-scale exclusion is merely touching the tip of the iceberg 

Another welfare program that can learn from the PDS and respond better to future shocks is NREGS, which came to the rescue of many distressed workers in the wake of the widespread job losses induced by the current pandemic. 17  While this surge in demand resulted in significant expansion of the program, spatial mapping of the newly issued job cards across rural districts with their population shares of outmigration and poverty revealed substantial unmet demand. 18 At the same time, the lack of a national urban employment guarantee (UEG) scheme left the urban poor unprotec#srsp18ted. The long overdue UEG is finally under consideration19, and its timely implementation will bring urban informal workers within the ambit of wider crisis management. However, the success of both NREGS and UEG depends on the ability of the states to generate sufficient employment opportunities corresponding to the surging demand. Mobilizing local authorities for identifying such opportunities is a prerequisite to yield tangible results, especially during crises. Another important issue is that of inadequate compensation. NREGS wages are lower than the minimum wage for agriculture in many states.20 Times of crisis unquestionably demand a top-up over the guaranteed wage. The recent guidelines on streamlining NREGS wage payments21 is a welcome move, however, the government must still consider switching to cash payment during difficult times at least in remote areas. NREGS therefore presents a case for both horizontal and vertical expansion.

In conclusion, the detrimental consequences of delayed SP response22 witnessed during the current pandemic only strengthens the case for instituting an emergency response framework across these schemes to fast-track assistance deployment when it is needed the most. The starting point for making SP shock-responsive is to map existing SP systems in terms of their coverage, adequacy and comprehensiveness: to understand the reach of routine SP systems, their capacity to deliver relief adequately and the range of risks covered. An efficient way to do this is to transition from multiple independent program databases to an Integrated Social Protection Information System. Additionally, the shortcomings of existing systems that hinder effective coverage during crises demonstrate that successful adaptation of such systems for emergency response requires them to be resilient in the first place. Given that the case for short-term universalization of SP during a crisis rests on fiscal considerations and political will, ensuring minimum exclusion errors in identifying beneficiaries becomes the most effective strategy for increasing the resilience of existing SP systems and improving the coverage of SRSP systems. Flexible delivery mechanisms form yet another critical element of a resilient SP system. 

Adapting SP for accommodating the expanded pool of vulnerable population prompts the need for a National Social Registry backed by comprehensive and dynamic socio-economic data in order to cater to those outside the purview of routine SP (urban poor, migrants). Moreover, vulnerability and needs assessments23 can be leveraged to prioritise regions and households for better risk preparedness and response24. Expanding routine coverage in areas frequently affected by shocks along with appropriate monitoring and evaluation can serve as ideal pilot studies for iterative, evidence-based design tweaks. 

SRSP contingency framework must also be incorporated within the ambit of the formal policy, so that readily deployable Standard Operating Procedures are in place in times of need25. This includes an assessment of the fiscal space for shock response in terms of assessing alternative sources and channels of contingency financing26. A final ingredient of successful SRSP systems relates to a context driven approach. Decentralized decision-making enables policy response to be based on local context, which is extremely relevant for crisis management. Hence, states and their local governments need to be empowered, especially financially, and be involved in formulating SRSP as they know the ground realities and local vulnerabilities most thoroughly. 

The current context of COVID-19 has and will throw up many challenges, particularly by amplifying already existing inequalities. In these times, developing strong SRSP systems is paramount to mitigate such adverse impacts. 


1. The World Bank. (2019, February 20). Schemes to Systems: The Future of Social Protection in India. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/11/20/schemes-to-systems-future-social-protection-india

2. Dreze, J. & Khera, R. (2017). Recent Social Security Initiatives in India. World Development, 98, 555-572. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.05.035

3. Government of Bihar. (2020, May 8). Directions regarding monitoring of cash transfer Rs 1000 distribution under PDS ration card linking related issues. http://www.manupatrafast.in/covid_19/Bihar/Govt/Directions%20regarding%20monitoring%20of%20cash%20transfer%20Rs%201000%20distribution%20under%20PDS%20ration%20card%20linking%20related%20issues.pdf 

4. Bajpai, N. (2020, May 30). UP govt to disburse ration, food security allowance to school children.The New Indian Express. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/may/30/up-govt-to-disburse-ration-food-security-allowance-to-school-children-2150069.html

5. Orissa Post. (2020, March 21). Odisha govt to provide MDM to students through PDS. https://www.orissapost.com/odisha-govt-to-provide-mdm-to-students-through-pds/

6. The Hindu. (2020, June 4). Not discriminating between ration and non-ration cardholders, govt. tells HC.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/not-discriminating-between-ration-and-non-ration-cardholders-govt-tells-hc/article31743441.ece

7. Joseph, A. T. (2020, April 6). How Kerala is feeding its 3.48 crore residents, migrants amid the COVID-19 lockdown. The Caravan. https://caravanmagazine.in/economy/keralas-roadmap-to-feeding-its-348-crore-residents-migrants-amid-the-covid-19-lockdown

8. Government of India. (2020, March 20). DO Letter F. No. l-212020 Desk (MDM). http://mdm.nic.in/mdm_website/Files/OrderCirculars/2020/JS_DO-Letters/DO%20Letter_20-3-2020-COVID-19.pdf

9. Government of India. (2020, March 30). PRADHAN MANTRI GARIB KALVAN ANNA YOJANA – Additional allocation of foodgrains to all the beneficiaries covered under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) free of cost for a period of three months. https://dfpd.gov.in/writereaddata/Portal/Magazine/30032020.pdf

10. Government of India. (2020, May 15). Allocation of foodgrain to the migrants @ 5 kg per person per month for two months free of cost as part of Economic measures (Atma Nirbhar Bharat). https://dfpd.gov.in/writereaddata/Portal/Magazine/PolicydecisionMay2020.pdf

11. ANI. (2020, April 9). Gujarat to provide free ration to 60 lakh families amid COVID-19 lockdown. Business Standard. https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/gujarat-to-provide-free-ration-to-60-lakh-families-amid-covid-19-lockdown-120040900138_1.html 

12. Ministry of Finance. (2020, March 26). Finance Minister announces Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor to help them fight the battle against Corona Virus. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1608345

13. Telangana Today. (2020, March 22). Telangana Lockdown: 12 kg free rice per person, Rs 1,500 per family to be supplied for each white ration card. https://telanganatoday.com/telangana-lockdown-12-kg-free-rice-per-person-rs-1500-per-family-to-be-supplied-for-each-white-ration-card

14. Angad, A. (2020, May 15). Non-PDS card holders to foodgrains: Jharkhand fears problems in migrant aid. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/non-pds-card-holders-to-foodgrains-jharkhand-fears-problems-in-migrant-aid-6410354/

15. IndiaSpend. (2020, April 16). More than 100mn excluded from PDS as govt uses outdated Census 2011 data. https://www.indiaspend.com/more-than-100mn-excluded-from-pds-as-govt-uses-outdated-census-2011-data/

16. Muralidharan, K., Niehaus, P. & Sukhtankar, S. (2020). IDENTITY VERIFICATION STANDARDS IN WELFARE PROGRAMS: EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE FROM INDIA. NBER Working Paper 26744. https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w26744/w26744.pdf 

17. Bhalotia, S., Dhingra, S. & Kondirolli, F. (2020). City of Dreams no More: The Impact of Covid-19 on Urban Workers in India. Centre for Economic Performance, Paper No. 008. https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cepcovid-19-008.pdf

18. Narayan, S., Oldiges, C. & Saha, S. (2020, December 1). Does workfare work? MNREGA during Covid-19. Ideas for India. https://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/poverty-inequality/does-workfare-work-mnrega-during-covid-19.html

19. Bloomberg. (2020, September 12). India plans to extend rural jobs guarantee scheme to cities, to address urban unemployment. Financial Express. https://www.financialexpress.com/economy/india-plans-to-extend-rural-jobs-guarantee-scheme-to-cities-to-address-urban-unemployment/2072309/

20. Aggarwal, A. & Paikra, V. (2020, October 5). Why are MNREGA wages so low? Ideas for India. https://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/poverty-inequality/why-are-mnrega-wages-so-low.html

21. Department of Rural Development & National Informatics Centre. (2019, December). Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Streamlining MGNREGA Wage Payments. https://nrega.nic.in/Netnrega/Data/SoP_TimelypaymentMGNREGA.pdf

22. Ghosh, J. (2020). A critique of the Indian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, 47, 519–530. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40812-020-00170-x

23. O’Brien, C., Holmes R. and Scott, Z., with Barca, V. (2018) ‘Shock-Responsive Social Protection Systems Toolkit—Appraising the use of social protection in addressing largescale shocks’, Oxford Policy Management, Oxford, UK. 

24. Acharya, R. & Porwal, A. (2020). A vulnerability index for the management of and response to the COVID-19 epidemic in India: an ecological study. The Lancet Global Health, 8(9), 1142-1151. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30300-4 

25. UNICEF. (2019, December). Programme Guidance: Strengthening Shock Responsive Social Protection Systems. https://www.unicef.org/media/63846/file 

26. O’Brien, C., Holmes R. and Scott, Z., with Barca, V. (2018) ‘Shock-Responsive Social Protection Systems Toolkit—Appraising the use of social protection in addressing largescale shocks’, Oxford Policy Management, Oxford, UK. 

The views expressed in the post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the ISPP Policy Review or the Indian School of Public Policy. Images via open source.