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India Prime Minister Enacts Bold Policy to Cut Down on “Black Money”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announced a bold measure on Wednesday to reduce the role of unaccounted for cash or “black money” in the country’s economy by “de-monetizing” higher-denomination currency notes. The new policy bans the use of 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee currency notes. While this measure may have the positive (though potentially temporary) effect of forcing illicit activity out of the regulated economy, the process could be disorderly, with the poorest members of society bearing the brunt of the disruption.

Aadhaar-Based Cash Transfers: Promising Reform, but More Data Needed

India’s shift towards direct benefit transfers (DBTs) is on the fast track. According to official statements, in the 2015-16 fiscal year the central government deposited nearly $5 billion of subsidy and welfare payments directly into the bank accounts of 300 million beneficiaries. It has also set an ambitious target to transfer all payments to the Aadhaar-based biometric DBT platform by the end of 2017. This will surely be the greatest subsidy reform in the world, but we need more data to accurately evaluate its impact.

New Initiative in India Is Mobilizing Communities to Improve Children’s Learning, but Will It Work?

Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers in South Asia and East Africa walk many miles crossing rivers, mountains, deserts and farmlands to do something amazing: reach remote rural communities to assess whether children can read or do simple maths. Collectively known as Citizen-led Assessments (CLA), every year they show that most children are going to school but less than half of them can read or write at grade level. However, in spite of these universally damning reports, policy change to improve children’s learning has been painfully slow. So the NGO Pratham that started this movement is turning its army of volunteer data collectors into change agents to mobilize entire communities and raise awareness about the learning crisis across India.