ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Health Checkup

The findings of a recent survey of public health centres in five north Indian states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan) are presented, in light of earlier surveys in the same areas from 2002 onwards. Contrary to a common narrative whereby public health services in India have “collapsed,” there is a general pattern of improving quality and utilisation over time. The pace of improvement, however, is far from adequate. The recent conversion of many health centres into health and wellness centres, in particular, has been largely cosmetic so far. In states like Bihar and Jharkhand, the standards of healthcare in public facilities remain abysmal. Hope lies in the experiences of states that have shown how decent standards of healthcare can be achieved in the public sector, notably Himachal Pradesh. Even in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, there have been valuable initiatives in recent years.

Maternity Entitlements

Maternity benefits of at least `6,000 per child are a legal right of all Indian women under the National Food Security Act, 2013. In practice, a large majority are still deprived of maternity benefits. A recent survey, conducted in six states of North India, reveals that pregnant women’s basic needs for nutritious food, proper rest, and healthcare are rarely satisfied. Among the women who had recently delivered a child, about half had eaten less than the usual during pregnancy and nearly 40% complained of a lack of rest at that time. The average weight gain during pregnancy was just 7 kg. There is, thus, an urgent need for better recognition of the special needs of pregnancy, provision of maternity benefits in accordance with the law, and better support for pregnant women, including quality healthcare.

Pauses and Reversals of Infant Mortality Decline in 2017 and 2018

This note examines recent trends in infant mortality in India, based on summary reports from the Sample Registration System. We find evidence of slowdown, pauses, and reversals in infant mortality decline in large parts of India in 2017 and 2018. In urban areas, the infant mortality rate stagnated at 23 deaths per 1,000 births between 2016 and 2018. Worse, overall infant mortality increased in the poorer states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. One possible interpretation of these findings is that the demonetisation experiment in late 2016 and the subsequent economic slowdown had an adverse effect on child health.

Casting the Net

A broad-brush assessment of the public distribution system is presented in six of India’s poorest states—Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal—soon after the National Food Security Act, 2013 came into force. Important gains have been made, including broader coverage, lower targeting errors, accelerated PDS reforms, and a greater political commitment to food security. In four of the six reference states, the PDS seems to be doing reasonably well, but Bihar and Jharkhand still have a long way to go. Even in the leading states, much remains to be done to achieve the purpose of the NFSA: ending food insecurity.

Aadhaar and Food Security in Jharkhand

Aadhaar-based biometric authentication is now compulsory for most users of the public distribution system in Jharkhand. Based on a recent household survey, this paper examines various issues related to this measure, including exclusion problems, transaction costs, and its impact on corruption. The findings raise serious questions about the appropriateness of this technology for rural Jharkhand.

Browsing through 51 Years of EPW | On Research and Action

The value of scientific research can, in many circumstances, be enhanced if it is combined with real-world involvement and action. This approach should be seen as an essential complement of, not a substitute for, research of a more ‘detached’ kind

Terror in Latehar

In the past few years, villages of Manika Block in Latehar District have been terrorised by Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a police-sponsored outfit allegedly aimed at countering Maoist influence.

The Real Insights of Game Theory

Game theory is a source of powerful insights into the nature of situations where people's decisions are interdependent. Among these insights, however, is the fact that in such situations it is often difficult to decide what to do on the basis of strategic reasoning alone. The limitations of strategic reasoning enhance the value of other modes of thought. They also reinforce the case for thinking beyond self-interest in social life.

Clarification on PDS Leakages

This note outlines the methodological reasons for the (small) differences in estimates of leakages from the public distribution system in 2011-12, as reported in Himanshu and Abhijit Sen (EPW, 16 and 23 November 2013) and Drèze and Khera (EPW, 14 February 2015).

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