Reimagining India’s welfare toolkit -Yamini Aiyar
Universalise PDS, make it demand-driven; give more funds to states; and ramp up MGNREGS
I pen this column with a depressing sense of deja vu. Back in late March as India went into lockdown, I wrote in these pages of the urgent need for the State to change the rules of the game, avoid red tape, improve Centre-state coordination and adapt agile administrative processes as it sought to provide relief measures in response to the economic crisis unleashed by the lockdown. Of course, the expectation was that the Centre would be far more generous with its purse strings than it has been thus far. But five months on, a report in this newspaper, underlining that only a quarter of the 800,000 million tonnes of free grain allocated to migrant workers has been distributed, serves as a sad reminder that the State has demonstrated neither fiscal generosity nor a willingness to change the rules of the game. The economic crisis, too, is only deepening. It is, therefore, worth revisiting the arguments, made five months ago, and once again press for the urgency of response.
First, universalise the public distribution system (PDS). Expanding the much-maligned PDS, which remains a lifeline for many, was the first thing the Centre did post the lockdown. This has now been extended to November. But the government stopped short of universalising PDS i.e, making grains available on demand, including to those who did not have ration cards.
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Hindustan Times, 24 August, 2020, https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/reimagining-india-s-welfare-toolkit/story-ZVyV2wgaUxWFp57aCrXpwN.html