11:26 August 16, 2010
Recently I read an article in The Economist, which talks about a poverty alleviation program in Brazil called “Bolsa familia” which stands for family grant or family stipend. Here, mothers are paid a small sum in return for certain conditions like children going to school and taking proper medical checks. This has been a widely successful program and also a big vote catcher like what the NREGA has done for the return of the Congress-led coalition in India.
Given the ‘success’ of NREGA, I am sure, in the next election, party after party will start giving more and more sops for NREGA. It is something similar to Tamil Nadu elections where parties promise colour TVs, free rice, etc to entice the voters. Interestingly, color TVs actually get delivered also, maybe size is a tad smaller.
Interestingly, statistics and analysis show that the Bolsa familia program has been more successful in rural Brazil than in urban Brazil. Part of it can be explained by larger population in rural Brazil and hence more people could have benefitted.
There are lessons for India. Our major cities like Mumbai and Delhi have expanded rapidly, with slums growing even faster. It is time the government launches a poverty alleviation program in the urban cities.
Child labor in our city is a big issue. Countless children make money by selling wares, or working as house-hold help or also by begging, which as per media reports, is a business by itself. It is imperative that we put these children to school because young demographics is both an opportunity and a problem. If these children are not taken care of, then likely that crime rates will rise in future. This is the opposite logic made famous in Freakonomics that falling crime was linked to falling birth rates because of access to abortion in poor families in USA.
In Brazil, the beneficiaries were issued a kind of Citizen Card, which is akin to a debit card. The usual ‘leakages’ in the system were to a large extent plugged by this method. We have a similar opportunity by using UID to ensure benefits reach the real end user.
Some beginning has been made with the government planning an urban employment scheme similar to NREGA, which was targeted at rural India. Let’s hope it leads to an improvement in the quality of life in the cities and doesn’t end up as one more reason for increased migration here.