Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reforming India's Public Distribution System

In his essay named “The Political Economy of the State”, Devesh Kapur states that there are three key reasons why India’s innumerous poverty reduction programs have failed1:
  • Administrative costs: A large share of the resources set aside for poverty reduction programs is lost in either the administrative costs or are siphoned off.
  • Corruption: The public functionaries have a lot of discretionary power – they can decide who are eligible for the program and they also have control over the actual disbursement of subsidies. As a result, they can easily engage in corrupt behavior.
  • Lack of accountability

Let’s take example of the public distribution scheme (PDS) in India – it checks all above boxes. In the current system, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) provides grains which are distributed below market price to the poor, through fair price shops a.k.a. ration shops. This system is highly inefficient.
  • It has high administrative costs: In 2012, the Indian union government spent 750 billion rupees on the PDS; however 21% of the country remained malnourished. In the two decades prior to 2012, the food production in India increased by 50%; however; there was little decrease in malnourishment levels.2
  • It is highly corrupt: In fact, it is perceived to be the most corrupt public delivery system in India. The beneficiaries receive benefits worth only 12% of the money allocated3.
  • There is no accountability

The structure of PDS needs to be overhauled to make the system more efficient:
  • Instead of indirect subsidies, implement direct cash transfer: In the current system, the government provides an indirect subsidy by providing food items below the market price through FCI. Subsidies are also given to the ration shop operators. Many such shop operators sell the FCI-provided food items in the black market and sell sub-standard grains in their shops. The government should transfer the money directly into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. This will eliminate any possibility of corruption by the shop operators.
  • Close the ration shops: Instead of distributing grains through ration shops, the government should let poor buy food from the open market e.g. through retail shops. The amount of direct cash transfer should be linked to the market prices of grains and food items. Closing of ration shops will eliminate leakages in the system.
  • Aadhar cards and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana should be pushed aggressively. An Aadhar card will ensure that poor people have an identification document which they can use to open a bank account. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana relaxes the bank account norms such as minimum balance, so that poor people are brought on board the banking system.

The National Food Security Bill, 2011 mentions some of these mechanisms; however unfortunately, the bill wasn’t passed in the parliament4. However, the government has already implemented direct cash transfer to replace few subsidies – most notable being the LPG subsidy6. Therefore, one can be hopeful that it will come to PDS as well.

1.       Devesh Kapur, “The Political Economy of the State” (Oxford, 2010)
2.       “As Grain Piles Up, India’s Poor Still Go Hungry”, The New York Times, 7 June 2012, link, accessed 1 November 2015
3.       “No proof required: PDS or NREGA, corruption must go on”, The Indian Express, 1 November 2014, link, accessed 1 November 2015
4.       “The National Food Security Bill, 2011”, PRS Legislative Research, link, accessed 1 November 2015
5.       “Direct Cash Transfer will be very beneficial to the people, says Chidambaram”, NDTV, 27 November 2012, link, accessed 1 November 2015
6.       “Cash subsidy on LPG world's largest direct benefit transfer scheme”, The Economic Times, 25 December 2014, link, accessed 1 November 2015

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Madari - Coke Studio

Madari is one of the tracks from the Coke Studio episode produced by Clinton Cerejo. The song has been sung by Vishal (from Vishal-Shekhar duo) and Sonu Kakkar. Most of you would remember the song ‘Babuji jara dheere chalo’, which was a superhit around a decade back. Well, Sonu Kakkar sung that! But trust me, the Sonu Kakkar you will see in this song is totally different from that one.

If one were to ask me what is so great about this song, I would just say that this song will make you dance, laugh and cry in a span of 8 minutes. How many songs you know will have a similar effect on you? This song is powerful, magical and mind you, you will get addicted!

I would suggest that you watch the video too to appreciate this song and the artistes fully.

The song starts off with haunting keyboard notes and gradually acoustic guitar and mandolin start to make their presence felt. At 0:26, the mandolin comes in full flow. The Mandolin piece, played effortlessly by Mr. Chandrakant Lakshapati is a very important part of this song, you will realise why I am saying this as you listen to the rest of the song. The song picks pace at 0:58 with some great work on acoustic guitar by Clinton Cerejo himself. I love the way how the song starts, the sequence till now perfectly builds the platform on which Vishal and Sonu Kakkar do absolute wonders!

Vishal’s husky voice is perfectly suited to this song. He compliments the lyrics with the depth that naturally comes with his voice. Notice that the vocals at the start are at a pretty low note and Vishal does full justice to them. Mind you, this is the same singer who sings high notes with supreme ease! What a versatile singer!
The section from 1:08 to 3:10, which Vishal sings, is full of energy. It makes you dance with joy. The mandolin meanwhile keeps weaving its magic! Between 2:46 and2:57, you will see Mr. Chadrakant just sitting and playing the mandolin as if it’s very easy and anybody can do it! Look at the sheer effortlessness with which he is playing it, beautiful isn’t it?

And now comes the most beautiful part of this song. Sonu Kakkar, who till now, has just been standing there gets into action and how! How many times have you seen a singer take the limelight away from Vishal? Well, here, Sonu does exactly that.

The first ten seconds of her singing (from 3:03 to 3:11) are more than enough to tell you that this singer is something else! Your ears are now glued to the song wondering what she will do next. Trust me, her singing only gets better. Now just sit back, close your eyes and concentrate on the music. Let Sonu Kakkar’s vocals engulf you and make you experience what true happiness is. At 4:21, notice the smile of appreciation on Vishal’s face. He like us is wondering how on the earth can she sound so beautiful?! The words which Sonu is singing are by none other than Bulleh Shah, the famous and revered Sufi poet from 17th century. Do not miss the bass guitar in background when Sonu is singing. Also, at 4:30, you will see the peculiar way in which the percussion instrument is being played. This is what Coke Studio is known for – innovation!
Vishal joins Sonu at 4:54 – try to understand the note at which Vishal is singing here. It is unbelievably high! Only Vishal can sing in that high note and his voice doesn’t break at all. Mandolin kicks in again at 5:28 to belt out a beautiful tune.

The next part of the song sung by Vishal starts at 5:46. This part makes me very emotional and makes my eyes well up every time I listen to it. The lyrics talk about the greatness of God and how he alone is behind everything that happens in this world. I am reminded of how powerful and at the same time how loving God is. I am also reminded of my lack of gratitude towards him. I have many times thought that I am independent, I can do anything I want and God doesn’t deserve any credit for my life. But no, I realise that though I am just a tiny drop in the scheme of God’s things, he loves me and will always there for me. I am moved to tears because I realise that I should be more thankful to God for the blessings he has showered on me!

Do not miss the small harkats by Vishal in this part; also notice how his hand movements follow his singing. Beautiful! It shows how involved he is with the song.

This song shows what can be done when you have an excellent team. Every person who is in this music video has done his best and the result is a very sincere and beautiful song which enthrals us. Thank you Clinton Cerejo and team, we are indebted. 

P.S.: I wrote this post for (link:
Music Reprise is a music website started by my brother Gaurav and his friend Vishal. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Seth Godin, as usual, makes mighty lot of sense in this post -

Your past work is the most reliable indicator to your future performance. Not everybody is good at gauging your inner potential.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yet Another Scam and No Justice in Sight

Adarsh Housing scam is disturbing at many levels. Not because of its scale, the money involved is indeed very small compared to biggies like CWG! What is disturbing is the collusion between politicians and defense personnel. Over last few years, credibility of armed forces has been on decline. Fake encounter killings in J&K (civilians were killed and shown as terrorists for bravery medals), land grabs by senior army officers and now 'Adarsh' scam, in which former high-ranked defense officers occupied flats which were meant for Kargil widows. Widows of soldiers like Saurabh Kalia, whose body was inhumanly mutilated by Pakistan Army.

This presents a frightening picture of this country's future. No public institution is now free from corruption. The celebrated 'common man' is left with absolutely no support. Congress government continues to turn blind eye to such scams and BJP is still busy in misguiding people by using religion. Other smaller parties are content with caste politics.

One can't help but be very cynical about future of 'Bharat' (or 'The Other Hindustan' as PM-in-waiting' calls it) and its poor disowned inhabitants.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Still confused between Blogger and Wordpress! :|

I started blogging on blogger back in 2005. Then I saw some blogs on wordpress and simply fell in love with their templates. So, I shifted to wordpress, but was disillusioned in no time. I found posting (especially uploading images in a post) pretty confusing and returned to blogger. Again, after some months, I shifted to wordpress and now, at this moment, I feel like coming back AGAIN to blogger!

The reasons this time are,
1. Archiving
In blogger, archive is shown in a tree format, where you can click on each month and view the posts immediately. In Wordpress, when you click on the month, you are taken to a new page which lists all the corresponding posts. And those are in 'summary' format, you have to click on 'View Full Post' to read complete post. This is too much clicking for a reader. In blogger, it takes much less clicks and you are not navigated to a new page unless you wish to read the post.

2. Blogroll
Blogger's blogroll displays the latest post on that blog while Wordpress has a basic simple blogroll.

3. Commenting on other's blogs
When commenting, it's easier to do it through blogger id, because it's linked to the gmail id and most of the times, I am already logged-on on Google. So, no need to login again. Also, using blogger id gives you an option to receive follow-up comments on your e-mail.

4. Templates
Blogger seems to have added some new templates and I quite like my current one!

The only minus point with blogger is, if you need to import posts from another blog of yours, you need a .xml file while in wordpress, you just need to enter the url and login details, wordpress takes care of the rest.

So, I have decided to maintain both blogs. Every new post will come up on both blogger and wordpress while archives before 2007 are available only on wordpress (


This post was originally posted on my wordpress blog on Oct. 17, 2009.

Diwali – one of the biggest festivals in India. Diwali means light, happiness, new clothes, crackers, great food. I am typing this sitting in my hostel in Bangalore, while my family is 800 Kms away. Almost everybody from my mother’s side of family is there, celebrating Diwali together. There is something about festivals, doesn’t matter if you are away from family for rest of the year. Festivals have less to do with God or religion, they are really about whole family meeting at one place and catching up on each other’s lives.

For me, this is not first Diwali away from home. In four years of engineering, Diwali always came in submission days, the busiest days in any engineering student’s schedule. I had my share of fun here in Bangalore. Yesterday, I had gone to my uncle’s place whom I hadn’t seen in last ten years! I couldn’t find the house by myself, so he was coming to pick me up. We didn’t need any help to identify each other. It works like magic, something inside you tells that this person is from your own family. Contrary to what I had feared, there was no awkwardness at all. My uncle’s mother, was as affectionate as I have always remembered her. Ages ago, I had gone to their house in Harihar. I was 10 years old then!

There were two parallel conversations. I was talking to my uncle (my mother’s cousin) in English and to his mother in Marathi. You see, my family is a marriage of Maharashtra and Karnataka. My father is a Maharashtrian while my mother is a Kannadiga, though she was born and brought up in Maharashtra. So, only Marathi was spoken in my home. I used to hear Kannada only when mom’s side of relatives visited. Though I can understand Kannada a bit, I can’t speak it. And my uncle can’t speak Marathi!

That brings me to a promise I have made to myself umpteen number of times but never took enough efforts to fulfill it – to learn Kannada. Literally speaking, it is my mother-tongue. And now when I am in the capital of Karnataka, the centre of Kannada culture, its high time I work towards it.

When coming back to hostel, the atmosphere in the city was beautiful. Lamps in front of each and every house, colourful lighting everywhere, and the smell of crackers..aah! Diwali was finally here. More surprises were waiting for me in the hostel. Some enthusiastic friends of mine had done Lakshmi-Puja. And then, it was time for crackers! What a joy! Diwali just doesn’t feel like Diwali without crackers. Thanks to my dear friends, Jayaram especially for arranging everything.

Not a bad Diwali, right?!