The history of welfare provision in post-Independent India has been replete with stories of failure and leakages. Almost every public welfare programme will throw up a side story on how only a fraction of the largesse has reached the intended beneficiaries. India is known for, what Jean Dreze calls, the ‘percentage system’ under which a fixed part of the money is siphoned off as bribe by a wide range of intermediaries across the system. Despite the general allegation having some credence, some welfare policies have transformed the lives of people living in the margins and have empowered them in many ways. One of them is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which guarantees 100 days of work for a person in every rural household. While there has been a call for abandoning this programme itself for perceived flaws in its implementation, evidence suggests that the programme has been successful and transformed the lives of many, particularly those who were historically marginalized.
Kalaiyarasan A & Srujana Yadav
PATCHING DEVELOPMENT: INFORMATION POLITICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA by Rajesh Veeraraghavan Oxford University Press, 2022, 248 pp., £ 19.99
January 2023, volume 47, No 1