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Conference on Unconditional cash Transfers: finding from two case studiies

Organized by: SEWA and UNICEF Date: May 30th- 31st 2013, New Delhi, India

May 2013

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Summary :

The public debate on cash transfers in India has been polarized without sufficient empirical evidence from the ground. In order to provide credible evidence and to bring in the experiences of beneficiaries themselves, SEWA entered into a partnership with UNICEF to pilot an unconditional cash transfer, or basic income grant experiment in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh.

The resultant initiative is an innovative pilot testing of a policy instrument that has the potential to overcome current design and implementation weaknesses of India’s vast social protection programmes and effectively address vulnerabilities faced by low-income Indians.

For between a year and 17 months, over 6,000 individuals received small unconditional monthly cash transfers, or grants. Their situation before, during and after receiving the grants was evaluated by use of three rounds of statistical surveys and a large set of case studies, comparing the changes in the period with what happened to a control group that did not receive grants. In total, the surveys covered over 15,000 individuals.

This is the first time unconditional and universal cash transfers have been subject to such a detailed assessment in India. The results should assist those trying to reach a balanced judgment on whether or not, and if so how, cash grants could be incorporated into Indian social protection and economic policy.