Grassroots lessons: Implementation of pension schemes for single women and the elderly in Jharkhand, India
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There is ongoing debate in India on whether Government spending on social security schemes should be cut. Advocates for spending cuts claim that they do not reach their intended people. However there is not much. There is lack of scholarship examining grassroots- level - implementation of pension schemes. This paper presents the data collected from field - based research in the Indian state of Jharkhand regarding the implementation of the National Social Assistance Program (NSAP). In contrast to the claims of low spending advocates we found high awareness of Central Government entitlements , among pensioners, that the scheme is reaching its intended people, - and that payments are supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized members of Indian society. This study draws upon the 81 interviews conducted with pensioners in January 2013 in Jharkhand, which is a poor state in eastern India where corruption is widespread. While we found that the pension schemes were being effectively implemented, we also found that there are considerable shortcomings, such as high transaction costs, confusing procedures, and unpredictability in payments. We also analysed the effectiveness of advocacy by groups such as Pension Parishad who support public action to extend the coverage of NSAP to poor widows and elderly people. This paper draws upon the voices of the people of Jharkhand to consider the importance of pension schemes and how they can be better implemented. The WGD program has sponsored a discussion series for the past several years, giving students and professionals an opportunity to share their research and discuss issues of Women and Gender in International Development.