An analysis of India’s social protection system for low-income populations: Mariko Okamoto
Since independence from British rule, India’s national five-year plans have emphasized poverty reduction as a major goal. At the same time, central and state governments have shown their commitment by making a variety of programmes available to poor and vulnerable people. Example include the National Social Assistance Programme, which provides social security benefits for the poor, and also the Food for Work programme, which brings temporary relief to the unemployed by providing food in exchange for labour. However, many of these programmes are targeted only at narrowly defined groups or politically designated segments of the population, such as scheduled castes and tribes. Moreover, given the government’s limited administrative capacity for managing poverty relief, it is not uncommon for the local delivery of services to be sidelined since operations are often ultimately channelled through village committees called panchayats, which are often controlled by local elites. Consequently, as Dreze et al.(1998) pointed out, social protection programmes for the poor often fail to reach the most needy section of the population.