CGD in the News

The Wrongs of Rights (Business Standard)

July 12, 2013

Business Standard publishes op-ed by Devesh Kapur on India's "progressive schemes."

From the article:

The most seductive aspect of "rights" is that they are indeed right in many of the goals they aspire to. So the differences are less about ends per se than means. Consider the legislation on the right to food. Surely a society that tolerates widespread hunger and malnutrition has much to answer for? But does passing such a law address this troubling issue? While questions have been raised about its fiscal costs, there are other equally disconcerting questions.

There is now abundant evidence - from the government's own data - that the critical challenge is malnutrition, rather than hunger, and that cereal consumption has been falling in the food consumption basket. The food security Bill does little to address the former and insists that India's poor consume more of what they want to move out of. The paternalistic approach at the micro level is paralleled at the macro level, by insisting once again on a one-size-fits-all strategy that violates federalism. Some states, such as Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, have had a well-functioning public distribution system - they might want to do something else with these resources, but towards the same end. The likelihood that a state like Uttar Pradesh will be able to deliver this programme is less than finding an iceberg in the Thar desert. But Big Brother (or Sister) knows better.

Read it here.