India dabbles in various types of social safety net programmes: conditional cash transfers, unconditional cash transfers, school feeding programmes, unconditional in-kind transfers, public works, and fee waivers. Yet, it accounts for the largest number of poor people in the world.
India has designed social-safety nets since it began the planning process in 1951. Here is a look at some of the key successful social safety networks under implementation in India.
• The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), launched by then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, initially covered 200 districts on February 2, 2006, and went on to cover all the districts from April 1, 2008. The World Bank termed it a ‘stellar example of rural development’. It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
• India’s Mid-Day Meal (MDM) programme, which is the biggest of its kind in the world, has been one of the significant contributors to increasing enrolment in public schools across the country. After the southern state of Tamil Nadu introduced a successful MDM programme in schools as early as 1962-63, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education was launched across India in 1995. The MDM programme aims to increase primary school attendance and to improve the nutritional status of school children. Generally, the programme serves children aged between six and 11 years.
• The Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention launched in 2005, under the National Rural Health Mission (NHM). It aims to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among poor pregnant women.
• Of all the safety net operations, the most far reaching is the Public Distribution System (PDS). The PDS provides basic items, such as rice, wheat, sugar and non-food items, such as kerosene,