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Learned economists and policy-makers are meeting at Vigyan Bhawan today to discuss the unfolding "revolution of social welfare policy" led by the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) trinity. In case you have not heard of it, the said revolution was announced in the New York Times on July 22, 2015 by Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian and his colleague Siddharth George. It involves a straight jump "from a bank-less society to a cashless one", on the back of the JAM trinity. Using this infrastructure, the authors propose "rolling all subsidies into a single lump-sum cash transfer to households" - nothing less. The same vision is outlined in the Finance Ministry's latest Economic Survey which modestly concludes that "Nirvana today seems within reach". Touching as this faith may seem, a single-minded focus on high-tech cash transfers as a foundation for social policy in India is fraught with dangers.
In the backdrop of workers taking to the streets on Labour Day to protest against their status, here is why the government's rural jobs guarantee programme presents an alarming picture today.