Miranda House

The optimistic reality of social welfare schemes revealed at Vishleshan

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Vishleshan, the official discussion forum of Arthashastra, the Economics Society of Miranda House college hosted Dr. Reetika Khera, an eminent developmental economist and social activist, for their first seminar of the session, titled “Doles, Freebies, Handouts: A Right(s) Approach to Populism”, on 26th August.

Dr. Reetika Khera, associated with institutions like Delhi School of Economics, IIT-Delhi, Centre for Economic Development and the Planning Unit at the Indian Statistical Institute, was actively involved with the implementation of the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA) scheme and champions the cause of social welfare schemes.

The Seminar was preceded by a short reading group, where students discussed Dr. Khera’s work and talked about relevant issues, like the situation of public welfare schemes in India-the benefits they provide to people on a daily basis versus the expenditure on them. At 1.30 p.m, Dr. Khera took the stage after being welcomed warmly by Ananya Goyal and Arushi Gupta, Co-Heads of Vishleshan.

During the course of the seminar, which lasted for around an hour, Dr. Khera successfully broke down the concept of social welfare schemes and put forth her stance of supporting their expansion and upkeep. She mentioned how there had been recent talks about India’s social welfare policies being too “populist” when in actuality, we are a “world champion in social underspending”. Dr. Khera broke down the stigma against social welfare schemes by tackling the often-repeated issues like how expenditure on them adds to the fiscal deficit and how India cannot afford to fund these schemes anymore. She took on another major issue against schemes like The Public Distribution System, which are thought to be riddled with corruption and hence inherently ineffective.

In reality, statistics show that there have been considerable improvements in the PDS, with states like Bihar seeing a turnaround in their effectiveness. Dr. Khera also criticised the use of obsolete data from 1997-2001 which have been cited by columnists of leading newspapers to speak out against NREGA and other such social welfare measures. She ended her lively session by stating, “It just takes political will and basic technological intervention to run welfare schemes”, which was followed by an interaction session where attendees commented on and brought forth other relevant observations.

“In our quest for stimulating discussion on matters of importance in Economics, I believe that we are on a good start with the lecture by Dr. Khera. Her passion for her work, particularly for raising standards of living across the board by constitution of Rights for Necessities was inspiring for the entire lot of young economists in the audience,” said Ananya Goyal, the Co-Head of Vishleshan.

For more updates on Vishleshan events, visit their Facebook Page here.

Image Credits: Niketa Singh, Arthashastra (The Economics Society of Miranda House)

Shubham Kaushik

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Shubham swears by three Fs in life: Fall Out Boy, Feminism and Food, and hopes to combine them into an amazing book someday. Staunchly against heteronormativity and a believer in the power of hugs, she considers herself a pop-culture 'activist' and a crusader against the stigma attached to fanfiction. A student of Economics at Miranda House, she likes indulging in discussions about the fragility of money and the absurdity of life. Find her reblogging memes on Tumblr or drop her a word at [email protected] if you want to discuss bands, books or have a nice pun to share.

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