No one’s children



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Children eating mid-day meal / Picture from Indian Express

The most important priority for any government in India today should be the health and nutrition of its children. This is a matter of emergency. In many ways, it is more important than even education. Why then has an otherwise sensitive finance minister slashed the budget in the health and nutrition sectors so badly?

The budgetary allocations on health and nutrition programmes for children, who are the most vulnerable, have dipped to Rs 11,093 crore from Rs 21,668 crore last year. In December 2014 itself, the finance minister reduced the health budget by 18 per cent, thereby lowering the base for future allocations. This year, he increased allocations by 2 per cent, but on the revised estimates. This adds up to a 16 per cent cut on last year’s outlays.

The Integrated Child Development Services, the world’s biggest social programme, in existence since 1975, which caters to the needs of women and young children, providing midday meals, take-home rations, counselling…continue reading


Farmers caught in a vicious debt cycle

Marriages on hold, children being returned from schools over unpaid fees; the rural economy is bearing the brunt of unseasonal rains, a crisis in the sugar cane sector and a fall in prices of farm produce
Picture from Business Standard



In the mid-afternoon, when most are returning home to rest, is sweating buckets on his farm in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur district, searching for vegetables left undamaged after untimely rain a couple of nights ago.
Singh, 62, sporting a partly-torn kurta-pyjama, is distressed at the loss of his wheat crop. “This is what is left for us to eat,” says Singh, pointing to rotting and unripe crops of wheat and mustard in his field. The damage caused by unseasonal rain has further hit the rural economy, already under the burden of falling prices. With prices of paddy, milk, etc, dropping in the past year, the incomes of farmers have dropped. Many attribute this to the “unfriendly policies” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)…continue reading


Weak link

As Madhya Pradesh’s ambitious plan to transport Narmada water to the Malwa plateau takes shape, it demonstrates the futility of river-interlinking projects

MARCH 15 2015 Aparna Pallavi


Just 50 kilometres away, residents of Aatwan village located in the Nimar plains of the Narmada river, are facing severe water crisis. The village is located in the command area of the Sislia reservoir but does not receive a drop from it. “Every day, the reservoir fills up and then, the water disappears,” says Deoram Narvare of Aatwan, staring ruefully into the nearly empty reservoir.

This reversal in water situation of the two places is the result of the Madhya Pradesh government’s ambitious Narmada-Malwa river-link project, the first river-linking project of the country. Under the project, the government plans to transport Narmada water to the arid Malwa region. This will be done by linking five rivers of the Malwa region—the Kshipra, Gambhir, Parvati, Kali Sindh and Khan—to various dams on the Narmada through canals and pipelines.

The government claims that together, these links would provide drinking water…continue reading

Nehruvian budget in the corporate age

The Budget overlooks the fact that human capabilities are as important as physical capital for economic growth and the quality of life. It goes back to the days when growth and development sounded synonymous, physical capital was thought to be the key, and human capital took a back seat



/ Picture from




Among early voices of dissent was none other than economist and future Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, who came to India in 1955 and submitted an enlightening “memorandum to the Government of India” where he warned against “policies that increase physical investment at the expense of investment in human capital”. Some Indian economists were on the same wavelength, notably B.V. Krishnamurthi, who wrote a sharp note of dissent on education policy in the same year, where he castigated the government for applying “the calculus of the private grocery merchant to a matter like education”. Another dissident, from a very different point of view, was Dr. Ambedkar, who saw mass education as essential for the liberation of the oppressed. The critics, however, were sidelined and India is still paying a heavy price for it today.

Later on, further advances in development economics vindicated these critical thinkers. Needless to say, physical capital is important for growth. But so are human capital, economic institutions, and also other things — for instance social norms — that we do not understand very well. Further, growth is not the same as development, in the broad sense of an improvement in the quality of life and expansion of human freedoms. Growth can be an important tool of development, but the extent to which growth…continue reading

Huge hole in the rice bowl

Over 3 lakh tonnes of food grain, enough to feed 15 lakh families, is pilfered from ration shops annually

Picture from The Hindu
Picture from The Hindu



The quantum of PDS rice pilfered from Tamil Nadu is so high that it is what 15.68 lakh families are entitled to draw free of cost every month. A whopping 3.76 lakh tonnes of rice from the public distribution system goes missing annually. In financial terms, this means a loss of about Rs. 610 crore to the exchequer. Families that can draw a maximum of 20 kg of rice a month account for 1.86 crore ration cards in the State. The maximum rice entitlement per card has been used to calculate the number of ration cardholders, who can otherwise be supplied with the pilfered PDS rice. The data is found in the Economic Survey for 2014-15, tabled in Parliament last week…continue reading

An exercise in contraction


Sitaram Yechury Illustration: R. Rajesh
Sitaram Yechury Illustration: R. Rajesh /Picture from The Hindu


The Finance Minister presented the first full budget of the Modi government with an air of “illusions of grandeur”. Preparing for the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of our independence in 2022, he listed “targets” that will be achieved by then. This list is a mere reiteration of what is contained in our Constitution’s Directive Principles of State Policy that should have been attained by 1960! Clearly, he has presumed the Modi government’s return in the 2019 general election. The Modi anti-incumbency wave in Delhi election has, thus, become a victim of the BJP’s “selective amnesia”.

Shorn of all its rhetoric, what does the budget mean for the people? Instead of expanding public expenditures to stimulate growth, employment and people’s livelihood, the budget sees a contraction. In 2014-15, total government expenditure will be 7 per cent lower than the last budgeted figure, i.e., Rs.1.14 crore less. For 2015-...continue reading