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Deprivation and Alleviation


Anubhav Sengupta

THE LONG ROAD TO SOCIAL SECURITY: ASSESSING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF NATIONAL SOCIAL SECURITY INITIATIVES FOR THE WORKING POOR IN INDIA
Edited by Jan Breman & K.P. Kannan 
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. XXIII 542, Rs. 995.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 1 January 2015

Data on the growing deprivation of sections of people has started resurfacing with investigations into implementation of Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes (NREGS) across the country since 2008. Concomitantly, there has been publication of a series of reports by in the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS). This volume under review takes up security schemes to provide a holistic view on working and non-working poor’s living condition.  Certain theoretical conclusions with which the book progresses—which is the result of a collaborative ‘knowledge project’ —makes it an interesting read. It takes as its point of departure the duality between formal and informal sector rather than simple availability of jobs as the important determinant in deciding on living condition of working poor. This, in effect emphasizes the aspect of NCEUS’s report that besides rights, the protective securities from ‘deficiency’ and ‘adversity’ are also critical for the working poor. Second, while noting the disconnect between economics of inclusion and politics of inclusion, a very important assumption with which the introduction of the book situates all other essays is the absence of capital as a stakeholder in the informal economy in India. The third point is regarding methodology. The book, in investigating six States in India does not really try to come up with a cohesive, general account on social security. Rather the volume aims to highlight diversity in terms of successes and failures of such social security schemes. And this is done by adopting a mixed methodology of quantitative and qualitative research and as well as macro and micro level analysis. This aspect of the book may actually appear very refreshing for many readers with ‘dry’ data interjected with interesting narratives from case studies.  The first section of the book, titled Overview Papers, has two papers by K.P. Kannan and Varinder Jain. These papers provide an analysis of performance of NREGS and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) on a national level. In the first paper on NREGS, the authors attempt to construct a national profile of NREGS in the last five years by contrasting and comparing macro-level data from government sources with the micro-level State-wise analysis of NREGS. Their findings include more political and administrative commitment in terms of providing work, skill-building, payment of wages, and work-days on the one hand; and on the other converging NREGS activity with rural capital formation, pushing NREGS’ positive externalities to strengthen ...


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