Synopses & Reviews
This book reports on three overlapping pilot schemes in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, including a special project in tribal villages, in which over 6,000 people were provided with a modest basic income paid monthly over 18 months. The project was funded by UNICEF and UNDP and implemented by SEWA (The Indian Self-Employed Womens Association). Written by Guy Standing, who designed the pilot schemes and Renana Jhabvala, the head of SEWA, who implemented them, the book examines the transformative effects of these pilot schemes at the individual, family and local economy levels.
India is mired in bureaucratic rigidities and hierarchical structures of exploitation and oppression, leading to a well-known problem the overly complex system of public welfare services. It is widely recognised that this system requires innovative intervention, via transparent policies that are able to avoid political capture.
The pilots are discussed in the context of the new Food Security Act, the governments job guarantee plan, MGNREGA, and ongoing debate over the efficacy of the Public Distribution System and its ration shops disbursing rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene. The authors look at a number of alternative options for addressing rural poverty, including subsidies, targeting, selectivity and conditionality, contrasting them with the basic income model. They argue that the provision of basic incomes not only provides economic security but has many knock-on effects, allowing families to escape the debt trap, enrich food consumption and unlock constraints to schooling and healthcare. Above all it may enable individuals, including women, the disabled, the elderly and those in excluded castes or tribes, to engage more effectively in wider society.
Would it be possible to provide people with a basic income as a right? The idea has a long history. This book draws on two pilot schemes conducted in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, in which thousands of men, women and children were provided with an unconditional monthly cash payment.
In a context in which the Indian government at national and state levels spends a vast amount on subsidies and selective schemes that are chronically expensive, inefficient, inequitable and subject to extensive corruption, there is scope for switching at least some of the spending to a modest basic income. This book explores what would be likely to happen if this were done.
The book draws on a series of evaluation surveys conducted over the course of the eighteen months in which the main pilot was in operation, supplemented with detailed case studies of individuals and families. It looks at the impact on health and nutrition, on schooling, on economic activity, women's agency and the welfare of those with disabilities.
Above all, the book considers whether or not a basic income could be transformative, in not only improving individual and family welfare but in promoting economic growth and development, as well as having an emancipatory effect for people long mired in conditions of poverty and economic insecurity.
About the Author
Sarath Davala is Senior Researcher for SEWA, the Self-Employed Women's Association of India, and has a doctorate in sociology from the University of Delhi.
Renana Jhabvala is President of SEWA Bharat and National Co-ordinator of SEWA, a trade union of women with about two million members, and is a mathematician with degrees from Harvard and Yale.
Soumya Kapoor Mehta is an economist working with the World Bank in Delhi; she has written extensively on social policy issues and worked with UN bodies and the Government of India.
Guy Standing is Professor of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK. He is co-president of BIEN, the Basic Income Earth Network, and the author of The Precariat (2011) and A Precariat Charter (2014).
Table of Contents
1. The Transformative Challenge
2. Basic Income Defined
3. A Little More, How Much It Is
4. Escaping the Debt Trap
5. Creeping Towards Social Citizenship
6. From Subsidised Malnutrition to Healthy Development
7. Agency and Cultural Citizenship
8. Rolling Out Basic Income