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Ashok Kotwal
On demonetisation
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
On the evening of 8 November, the Prime Minister announced on national television that Rs. ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The GDP conundrum
Posted on: 16 Nov 2016
Ever since India’s Central Statistical Organisation came out with the new GDP series with ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The idea of a universal basic income in the Indian context
Posted on: 26 Sep 2016
The idea of an unconditional basic income given to all citizens by the State, has caught o ... read on »
Debate: The Aadhaar Bill
Posted on: 02 May 2016
In a debate on the Aadhaar Bill, commentators from academia and civil society will ... read on »

Tag: Aadhaar

Aadhaar: It’s not black and white
Outline India
Posted on: 31 May 2017
Topics:   Infrastructure


Amidst the emerging privacy concerns surrounding the success of Aadhaar and its integration in our day-to-day lives, Outline India conducted a survey in Delhi to understand people's reception of Aadhaar card, its perceived impact on their lives, and their thoughts on making the scheme mandatory to access government services and schemes.
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Disintermediating the State: Would a universal basic income reduce poverty more than targeted programmes?
Justin Sandefur
Posted on: 31 Mar 2017

Commenting on the discussion of the universal basic income in India’s Economic Survey 2016-17, Justin Sandefur contends that a modest version of UBI could potentially save money and shift expenditure in a progressive, pro-poor direction.

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A five-minute loan to unlock micro-entrepreneurship in India
Vibhor Goyal , Niloufer Memon , Varad Pande
Posted on: 11 Jan 2017
Topics:   Finance


Micro-entrepreneurs are grossly underserved by traditional lenders, as they typically do not have collateral or credit histories to make them creditworthy. In this article, Pande, Memon and Goyal of Dalberg Global Development Advisors, describe how digital infrastructure created by ‘India Stack’ can help provide paperless, presence-less, and cashless credit to micro-entrepreneurs, in a way that is sustainable for lenders.
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Aadhaar, demonetisation, and the poor
Silvia Masiero
Posted on: 09 Jan 2017

There is a view that an Aadhaar-centred apparatus of digital inclusion can shield the poor from the problematic effects of demonetisation. In this article, Silvia Masiero argues that constraints of technology ownership, access to informational networks, and infrastructural readiness prove the argument wrong. Other means are needed to reduce the severe humanitarian consequences of sudden cashlessness.
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Unique Health Identification and Aadhaar: A case for mandatory linkage
Mudit Kapoor
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
Topics:   Health


As part of the Digital India initiative, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) issues a Unique Health Identification (UHID) number to each patient, which documents their entire journey in the hospital. AIIMS has called for a mandatory linkage between UHID and Aadhaar. In this article, Mudit Kapoor, Associate Professor at ISI Delhi Centre, explains how this step can have significant positive implications for delivery and democratisation of healthcare.
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The first two years of Modi government
Pranab Bardhan
Posted on: 11 May 2016
Topics:   Political Economy


In this article, Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Graduate School at the Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley, provides his perspective on the performance of the Modi government in its first two years in office.
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Aadhaar Bill: UID without excessively compromising privacy?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 06 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


Can something like UID be created without compromising privacy beyond acceptable limits? If so, how should the Aadhaar Bill have been written? What are its specific and avoidable weaknesses?

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Aadhaar: Move towards a surveillance State?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 05 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


Most advanced economies have had some version of UID for a long time, example, the Social Security number in the US, the Social Insurance Number in Canada, etc. This is recorded not only in interactions with the State (example, tax filing) but also in many kinds of non-governmental transactions (example, college admissions or property purchase). Yet, it is arguable that these nations have not become police States, occasional abuse notwithstanding. If privacy concerns in India are justified, is it a reflection of the trust deficit in government specific to India (or poorer countries more generally)? Or do schemes like UID inevitably lead to a surveillance State anywhere in the world?

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Better targeting and reduced corruption?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 04 May 2016

Supporters of Aadhaar express the hope that will reduce inclusion errors and corruption by eliminating ghost beneficiaries, say in schemes like MNREGA. Are there substantial benefits to be reaped on this account?

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Risk of increasing exclusion?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 03 May 2016

The Supreme Court verdict that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory to receive benefits reflects the concern that it may increase exclusion errors, either by leaving people out of the net or through technological malfunction. Is this a serious concern?

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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Aadhaar: Incremental information-gathering powers for government?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 02 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


The government already has the means to collect a lot of information on citizens (example, phone conversations and logs, credit card transactions, income tax records, bank account details, etc.). Conversely, there are many activities which happen under the radar (example, cash transactions, informal sector employment, etc.). What kind of information-gathering powers will Aadhaar confer on the State over and above what it already has?

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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Debate: The Aadhaar Bill
Parikshit Ghosh , Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 02 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


In a debate on the Aadhaar Bill, commentators from academia and civil society will weigh in on issues around potential benefits and privacy concerns.

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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MNREGA: Technology vs. technocracy
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 17 Mar 2016

In this article, Reetika Khera, Associate Professor of Economics at IIT Delhi, argues that for MNREGA to flourish in the future, technologies that empower workers should be encouraged, and the tendency to over-centralise the implementation of the programme should be reversed.

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Beyond leaky pipes: Fixing enrolment systems of welfare schemes
Shrayana Bhattacharya , Soumya Kapoor Mehta , Rinku Murgai
Posted on: 09 Dec 2015

Policy initiatives of JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile numbers) trinity and direct benefit transfer focus on unclogging the supply of benefits under welfare schemes by reducing payment leakages. This column shows that bottlenecks to the entry of deserving beneficiaries into such schemes and misallocation of resources to the ineligible are even more significant, and deserve similarly high-profiled attention.
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JAM and the pursuit of nirvana
Jean Drèze
Posted on: 13 Nov 2015

The Finance Ministry is proposing to roll all subsidies into a single, lump-sum cash transfer to households, on the back of the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile numbers) trinity. In this article, Jean Drèze, Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, argues that a single-minded focus on high-tech cash transfers as a foundation for social policy in India is fraught with dangers.
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The financial inclusion agenda and Aadhaar
MS Sriram
Posted on: 18 Mar 2015

The central government is pushing financial inclusion in a big way. In this article, MS Sriram discusses the role of identity in financial inclusion, and the importance of Aadhaar in this context. He argues that while Aadhaar has facilitated opening of bank accounts by providing a verifiable identity to the poor, it has distracted the financial inclusion agenda by claiming to be a ‘fix-all’ solution.
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Big and small ideas in development economics: Theory, evidence and practice
Kaushik Basu , Karthik Muralidharan
Posted on: 03 Feb 2015

Karthik Muralidharan, Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego speaks with Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, World Bank and former Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India, on the World Bank’s global development agenda; inequality and the design of anti-poverty policies; contribution of recent academic research to development policy; research evidence, political economy and policymaking; State capacity for implementation; and law and economics.
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Building state capacity for better programme implementation: Lessons from the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme
Karthik Muralidharan , Paul Niehaus , Sandip Sukhtankar
Posted on: 03 Dec 2014

Biometric payment systems are posited to reduce leakages in public welfare programmes but there is limited evidence on their effectiveness. This column presents evidence on the impact of the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme on MNREGS and Social Security Pension beneficiaries, based on a large-scale randomised controlled trial. It finds substantial economic benefits, and concludes that using biometric payment infrastructure to deliver welfare payments can be a game changer for governance in India.
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How well does DBT work on the ground?
Sweta Trayambak
Posted on: 04 Aug 2014

PM Modi has emphasised fast-tracking roll-out of the Adhaar-based Direct Benefits Transfer programme. In this note, Sweta Trayambak – who has worked with the district administration of Ramgarh in Jharkhand on the roll-out of DBT - highlights the key strengths of the programme, and problems faced in implementation on the ground.
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Direct Benefits Transfer: An idea whose time has come
Varad Pande
Posted on: 14 Mar 2014

About a year ago, the Government of India launched a Direct Benefits Transfer programme that involves transferring government benefits and subsidies directly to residents through a biometric identification system. In this Note from the Field, Varad Pande, a government official who has been closely associated with the roll-out of the programme, reviews its promise and potential.
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UID project: Does evidence matter?
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 05 Feb 2014

The Indian government has been pushing to make UID compulsory, and is now moving towards charging for use of authentication services. This article asserts that the three key selling points of UID – corruption control, inclusion and portability – have been achieved in several states in major welfare programmes, by creatively using simpler technology that is free of the hassles attached to UID.
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Food Bill: Neither populist nor unaffordable
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 19 Jun 2013

Criticism of the National Food Security Bill has led to the government dropping the idea of issuing an Ordinance and instead, saying it would try to get the Bill passed in a special session of Parliament. This article addresses some of the key questions raised by critics of the Bill.
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Cash Transfers – through the postal system or the banks?
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 20 Dec 2012

The central government has announced the conversion of 29 poverty schemes to Direct Cash Transfers. Should this be implemented through banks or the postal system? This article assesses the pros and cons, and recommends experimenting with different systems.
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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: is it working?
Participants: Jean Drèze , Ashwini Kulkarni , Neelakshi Mann , Varad Pande , Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 29 Nov 2012

MNREGA is one of the government´s largest flagship schemes, and is the largest job creation programme of its kind in the world. Supporters believe that it is necessary to help rural workers smooth income in times of distress and increase labour market access for marginalised groups, whereas critics argue that it is taking labour from the troubled agricultural sector and doing more harm than good. What does the evidence really tell us - is MNREGA working or would resources be better spent elsewhere?
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Corruption and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
Sandip Sukhtankar
Posted on: 16 Jul 2012
Topics:   Corruption


Corruption continues to strangle India’s public finances. This column presents evidence of embezzlement in India’s flagship rural employment programme and suggests new ways policymakers can test what works in the struggle against corruption.
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