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Unformatted text preview: SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW June 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 239 Targeting to the ‘Poor’: Clogged Pipes and Bureaucratic Blinkers Renana Jhabvala, Guy Standing Drawing on a household and village-level community survey of social income, this paper offers a critique of the widespread use of targeting in Indian social policy primarily through the use of the below poverty line card system, to include or exclude groups from access to subsidised goods and sometimes to public works. It argues that targeting is inefficient and inequitable. In India, this situation is largely an outcome of the bureaucratic raj, which has created a vast system of clogged pipes. While successive governments have dismantled state controls and interventions for the private sector, delivery of services, especially to the poor, is still firmly controlled by the same bureaucratic system, with its attendant problems. Given the limitations of targeting, the principle of universalism is worth considering as an alternative. Renana Jhabvala ( [email protected] ) is with SEWA Bharat and Guy Standing ( [email protected] ) is at the University of Bath. A lthough India has a very impressive economic growth record over the past two decades, it does not have the same achievements in implementing social policies that could reduce poverty, income insecurity and income inequality. The reality is that the number of people classified as poor has barely declined, in spite of the fact that the number is calculated by using a very meagre poverty line, which the Planning Commission itself has described as “much too low” (2007: 128). From about 32 crore people in 1993-94, the number may have fallen to 30.1 crore by 2004-05, according to the Eleventh Plan. Drawing on a household and village-level community survey of social income conducted in 2008 (Standing et al 2010), this article offers a critique of the widespread use of targeting in Indian social policy, primarily through the use of the below poverty line ( BPL ) card system. Many schemes, at state and cen- tral levels make use of such targeting, combined with a complex set of selectivity criteria, by which groups are identified as the deserving poor or excluded from entitlement to targeted benefits of one kind or another, mostly in the form of subsidised goods but also in terms of access to public works. In international debates on social protection, targeting is one of four key notions currently in vogue. Targeting usually means directing benefits to those deemed as in need and regarded as “deserving” of help. By selectivity , commentators usually mean directing benefits to a specified group, such as those belonging to a particular caste, whose members are expected to be in greatest need of assistance. The National Old Age Pension Scheme ( NOAPS ) is just one example of this....
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- Summer '10
- Poverty, BPL Card