Social Justice

Reports & BriefsPublished ArticlesBooks & ChaptersWorking Papers
Unequal Life Chances: Demographic Transition in India and Equity
Harsh Mander, Astha Singla, Anirban Bhattacharya and Vivek Mishra

This volume looks closely at India’s demographic transition, specifically from the perspective of social, economic and gender equity. It argues that if a ‘youthful bulge’ is to result in high economic growth, sufficient employment opportunities accompanied by nutrition, health, education, training and morale for young people are necessary. However, the state continues to make very low public investments in these, and the market is unable to compensate for these failures. The majority of young people are therefore being excluded from economic opportunity, and condemned instead to distress migration and low-end exploitative employment. The state can reverse these trends only with high public investment – by extending universal quality nutrition, health-care, education and social protection to all its people, and ensuring significantly higher investments in agriculture, especially to protect the incomes of farm workers and small and marginal rain-fed farmers, fish-workers, forest-workers and artisans.

The Chennai Foodbank
Miriam Thangaraj

This report briefly discusses the Chennai Food Bank, started in 1993 by the Rajasthan Youth Association. Beginning with a “interest in service”, and informed with a religious ‘anna daan’ instinct; since its inception, this project has grown into the Chennai Foodbank, both in terms of the number of sponsors as well as the range of beneficiaries. By 2007, they had helped to provide over 1 crore meals to the under-privileged. This document elaborates on the model and reach of this project, and presents some recommendations for future expansion.

Inadequate Pensions Leave India’s Elderly No Choice But To Work
Kinjal Sampat and Nandini Dey
IndiaSpend, 2017

The logic behind old age pension is to enable those beyond a certain age to maintain a reasonable standard of living without having to engage in paid labour. In India, this is empirically true for people who receive assured monthly pensions following their retirement from work, but, in the non-formal sector, people do not retire from work at any stipulated age. The participation of the elderly in the workforce is all pervasive, particularly in the unorganised sector that employs the majority of Indians, without formal conditions of employment. In the absence of adequate income and social security, the elderly lack real choice in determining the extent, duration and nature of their engagement with paid work.

As India Ages, Indians Seeks Universal Pension From The Government
Kinjal Sampat and Nandini Dey
IndiaSpend, 2017

India’s 860 million-strong working population (15-64 years), the world’s largest, is beginning to age. Over the next 33 years, by 2050, 324 million Indians, or 20% of the population, will be above 60 years of age. If pension continues to cover only 35% of senior citizens as it does today, 200 million, or 61.7% of India’s elderly population, will be without any income security by 2050.

There’s Nothing Universal or Basic About Universal Basic Income in India
Kinjal Sampat and Vivek Mishra
The Wire, 2017

Universal Basic Income is only an idea in the making, but within its first year of conceptualisation, it seems like the first two terms of the acronym have already been reduced to notional ideas. The time will be ripe for discussing UBI when the state is able to assure both universality and adequacy and match it with adequate public infrastructure and safeguards from volatile market fluctuations.

Job Security in India Falls Even as GDP Continues to Rise
Vivek Mishra and Anirban Bhattacharya
The Wire, 2017

The informal sector generates around 50% of India’s GDP. It employs more than 90% of country’s workforce. The total figure for formal and informal employment in the unorganised sector is 82.7%. Of the current workforce of around 475 million, around 400 million, considerably larger than the population of the US, are employed with little job security or any formal protection of the labour law regime.

When Hunger is No Longer a Priority, But Business Is
Harsh Mander
National Herald, 2017

India, the world’s fastest growing economy, ranks fifth from the bottom in Asia in the Global Hunger Index and the country’s dismal performance attracted no reaction from the Union government. The volubility of the government on business and the silence on hunger is in itself eloquent commentary on the priorities of government, a reflection of who it feels primarily responsible to.

Unequal Destinies
Harsh Mander
Seminar, 2014

Among India’s most dispossessed children are those born into tribal homes. In the year 2000, a distressing 47% children overall were under-weight in India, almost one in two children. But the story was far more troubling for India’s subaltern social groups: the corresponding figures for the proportion of underweight children among Scheduled Castes (SCs) was 54, and for Scheduled Tribes (STs) an even higher 56%. This article argues that the only hope for ensuring tribal child nutrition and survival, is to hold the state accountable for implementing a far more effective and pervasive programme of direct food transfers and health care in tribal regions.

Abandoning the Right to Food
Ankita Aggarwal and Harsh Mander
Economic and Political Weekly, 2013

The proposed legislation on the National Food Security Act has been steadily watered down since it was first mooted in 2009. The Parliamentary Standing Committee that examined the 2011 Bill has disappointingly continued with “targeting”. If the government passes the bill incorporating the committee’s suggestions, a historic opportunity to combat hunger and malnutrition would be lost.

Lessons on Food and Hunger: Pedagogy of Empathy for Democracy
Harsh Mander
Economic and Political Weekly, 2013

This paper is based on critical policy analysis and reflection on curricular documents, including syllabi and textbooks, and also the Midday Meal programme. Using written and oral narratives, mostly from studies on hunger, the MDM programme and its implementation, it attempts to examine the lived experiences of children in and outside school. It explores the theme of food and hunger as it plays out in young children’s lives, in the community and in the school. Using academic, activist and administrative perspectives, this article tries to provide inputs for a new pedagogy.

From Langar, with Love
Harsh Mander
The Hindu, 2013

The idea of a food charity is not just that the hungry should be fed, but that they must also be fed with dignity. However, in contemporary times, these traditions of food charity are eroding, and with these also the idea of the equal dignity of the person in need.

Some Paths to Forgiveness
Harsh Mander
The Hindu, 2011

Is there a way to build trust, confidence and eventually empathy between previously embroiled people? Through human history, estranged people’s have collectively sought or rediscovered ways of living together with peace, faith and goodwill. In the wake of the violence of Partition, and innumerable communal pogroms which followed, this is a path which Hindu and Muslim communities in India must still traverse.

Hunger Unseen
Harsh Mander
Times of India, 2003

Hunger lurks unseen in every village and city of our country. Yet it surfaces into public consciousness only transiently, in moments when there are troubling media reports of starvation deaths. What goes unrecognised is that death by starvation is only the most dramatic manifestation of a much more invisible malaise a” of pervasive, stubborn, chronic hunger a” and that there are millions of forgotten people in India who live routinely at the very edge of survival, with hunger as a way of everyday life.

Exclusion from Digital Infrastructure and Access
Osama Manzar, Rajat Kumar, Eshita Mukherjee and Raina Aggarwal

This chapter of the India Exclusion Report explores the digital medium as a public good, and analyses mediators of digital inclusion from an intersectional perspective. The exclusionary processes surrounding digital tools and services have long been thought of in isolation, however a more comprehensive approach is crucial. This chapter also maps exclusionary processes and the role of the state, as well as consequences and implications for social welfare.

The Long March to Eliminate Manual Scavenging
Bezwada Wilson and Bhasha Singh

This chapter of the India Exclusion Report highlights the ground reality and everyday experiences of people who are dependent on manual scavenging for their livelihood. It focuses on the extent and nature of the problem of manual scavenging and describes the struggles that have taken place against it in an attempt to ensure an ultimate goal of elimination.

School Education and Exclusion
Bhatty et. al.

The idea of school education as a public good derives from the fact that: (a) its provisioning entails positive externalities and (b) the marginal costs of extending its provisioning to others are relatively low. This chapter of the India Exclusion Report (2013-14) examines key policy documents, existing research as well as primary field studies to analyse the manner in which equity and inclusion have been conceptually approached, formally articulated and practically translated in the accompanying instruments of implementation.

The Elephant in the Dark: Finding Ways to End India’s Hunger and Malnutrition
Harsh Mander and Ashwin Parulkar

The discourse around the pathways for ensuring sufficient and assured food and nutrition for all children, women and men in India has been rich, vigorous and diverse. However this paper argues that a much greater problem than the occasional antagonism between scholars is that many participants in the food and nutrition discourse in India tend to operate in separate silos with little interaction and learning from one another, positing their diverse positions as oppositional rather than complementary truths. Exploring five such streams, or competing discourse—food security, food sovereignty, the discourse of the ‘nutrition community’, inequality discourse, and public provisioning and the right to food—we will argue in this paper that the major fallacy is to view these alternate explanations as mutually exclusive, or as competing, absolute truths (as its proponents often tend – overtly or tacitly – to present them). Instead, each are complementary but in themselves incomplete truths.

Rebuilding Hope and Justice: Handbook for Aid Workers in Natural Disasters
Harsh Mander

In a natural disaster, in the space of a few merciless hours—or sometimes even barely minutes—tens of thousands of people are suddenly rendered utterly defenceless before the fearsome rage of nature. This Handbook seeks to focus on some of the conventionally most neglected elements of reconstruction and rehabilitation, and propose a broad framework for long-term disaster response, with emphasis on social justice, and the rights and dignity of survivors.