India is on the cusp of reforming its vast social-security programmes, a cornerstone of the present government’s political foundations and an expensive gamble on which the UPA stakes its future. This year (2010-11) the govt will spend Rs. 1.36 lakh crore on various schemes and subsidies, theoretically enough to eradicate poverty and hunger and provide a safety net from cradle to grave. The problem has always been chaotic implementation and massive corruption.
Current spending patterns indicate that without reforms more than $100 billion — enough to wipe out the budget deficit — could be wasted over the next five years. HT’s “Tracking Hunger” project (www.hindustantimes.com), has been reporting how the failures of some programmes is keeping Indians poor and hungry.
Various efforts to reform India’s sprawling social sector have begun. The push for unique identification, led by former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani (the name of this project was inspired by his title of his book, Imagining India), is at the heart of a complicated, challenging reform process that intends to use technology and talent on a scale never before seen anywhere on the world. Some states, including India's poorest, have independently either successfully reformed or are in the process of reforming many programmes. Many private efforts too have made an impact.
HT and Mint announce “Re-Imagining India”, an effort to track and analyse reforms as they unfold. You can read the first story in the series on Page 11: How one man’s vision has enrolled 60 million poor Indians in a cashless, paperless health-insurance scheme.
“Re-Imagining India” will run concurrently with “Tracking Hunger”. Both projects will reveal to you the challenges and possibilities in the endeavour to recreate India. If you are involved in any reform process, and would like others to know of it, please write to Samar Halarnkar, the editor leading both projects: firstname.lastname@example.org