Understanding the demand side of social protection programmes: the case of public distribution of food in India

Pradhan, Mamata (2018) Understanding the demand side of social protection programmes: the case of public distribution of food in India. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia .

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Abstract

India’s poor performance in reducing hunger and malnutrition, despite sustained economic growth, is considered “a national shame” (as stated by former Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, 2012). Faced with this, successive governments have implemented large-scale food security and anti-poverty programmes. The Public Distribution System (PDS), the world’s largest food subsidy programme, has been the cornerstone of such initiatives. The National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013, further broadens the scope of PDS by raising the level of subsidies, expanding coverage, and emphasising demand, especially in the choice of the food basket. Yet, PDS is plagued with charges of corruption, overpricing and delivery of low-quality grains. Additionally, significant power asymmetries are visible in the poor delivery of services, time-consuming bureaucratic procedures and ineffective grievance redressal systems.

Though several possible reasons account for these problems, one factor that is generally overlooked is lack of compatibility between rights-holders’ need and what PDS is delivering. My thesis seeks to fill this research gap by investigating how PDS performs in meeting community’s needs and preferences (including their interests, opportunities and constraints). My objectives are three-fold: assessing the role of heterogeneity in determining access, level of satisfaction, and possible remedies in cases of entitlement snatching. Entitlement snatching refers to the acts of the PDS functionaries to not let the rights holders get the right price, quantity or quality as mandated by law.

Drawing on Sen’s entitlement approach (1981), Ribot and Peluso’s (2003) theory of access, and interdisciplinary approaches from economics, sociology and psychology, I argue that heterogeneity drives what is needed, preferred or demanded from the PDS. Through mixed methods analysis, I explore in depth the role of social heterogeneity, in terms of class, caste, gender and political affiliation, in accessing the PDS. My research is also engaged in a comparative analysis across three Indian states of Bihar, Odisha and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, representing diversity in socio-economic conditions, cultural norms, governance systems, and political structures. The thesis demonstrates how power relations embedded in local politics, caste and class heterogeneity, and political economy mediate access through state transfers. I emphasize the centrality of demand in understanding the effectiveness of the system.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Zoe White
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2019 12:57
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2019 12:57
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/70206
DOI:

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