Cash Transfers for social equality- my experience in India

KONWAR, DIPJYOTI (2014). 'Cash Transfers for social equality- my experience in India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Indian society is predominantly unorganized and unequal in nature where in every sphere inequality is visible. It have not been equal; be it culturally (caste wise), socially (work wise), economically (class wise) and so on despite ancient Indian culture actually preached 'equality for all' and advocated special respect to women. In Ancient Indian civilization, the Vedas speak highly of equality and brotherhood- 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' which means 'The entire world is a family'. The Vedic age was more liberal in providing equal status to the people.  To write about the dynamics of caste based inequality which is mostly dominant in rural areas in India; it would be an epic. Unfortunately, caste based discrimination still remains a fact.

 More recently, the 'unorganized sector' is the word being used to describe over 90% of the Indian workforce. The sector is the prominent example of prevalence of economic inequalities in the society. It describes a type of worker who does all types of work: paid, unpaid, temporary, permanent; in any sector: manufacturing, services, agriculture; in any type of workplace: factories, in his/her own home, on the streets, in the fields; and with a variety of work relationships: contract, employees, self employed, own account. As their profile explain themselves, the work wise inequality of the majority of the population is quite clear.

Often issues are found to be interrelated and the inequalities are very complex in nature. For example, caste inequality links to class and economic inequality, parallel to that there might exist gender inequality and so on. As we are part of largest democratic constitutional nation in the world, there are miles to go to reach a status of 100% education level and a situation when all citizens would be well aware of the governance system and will be an active participant of the same. And only at that stage, the society will be equal to all and human rights would be fulfilled. Poverty is a big issue and is root cause of inequalities. According to Ela Bhatt (2013), 'Poverty is Violence'. This violence is by consensus of society that let other human beings go without roti (food) and kapda (clothing) and makan (shelter). Poverty is not God given. It is a moral collapse of our society. It is day-to-day violence, no less destructive than war. In fact, removing poverty is essentially building peace. Based on her experience with cash transfers research, the author believes that cash transfers could be a tool to use against poverty which consequently leads to economic equalities, class equalities, gender equalities and so on. Cash Transfers is not only to ensure food security, income security but also it promotes education, literacy level, empowerment among women, and security at the old age etc. The Laws has very important role to play but even more than that the citizens have much larger responsibilities to follow and ensure those laws.

In the policy level, various Acts had been advocated to address issues related to inequalities. In this paper, potential of cash transfers as an instrument for change to address various social inequalities is being discussed. Author's experience with cash transfers research and schemes in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh in India are being discussed. Author is also doing her doctoral research in the state of Assam to understand impact of Cash transfers in form of scholarship on adolescent girls. This could be a tool for social equality and it has a lot of potential in developing and underdeveloped areas. People at the receiving end feel empowered and open up with new opportunities with little support in form of cash incentives. 

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