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Jean Drèze

Development economist

Development economist

CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies/Flickr

The Pursuit of Cash Transfer Nirvana Ignores Inconvenient Evidence

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.
06/11/2015 12:23 PM IST