Despite economic growth, persistent levels of absolute poverty remain
across the world. Social protection is an important response to this,
guaranteeing a basic level of income support. The state of Chhattisgarh,
India, provides an interesting model, as government commitment and
people’s action combine to buttress food security in communities with
historically high levels of disadvantage.
New research on wellbeing and poverty in Chhattisgarh provides an
innovative perspective on these issues. Qualitative and quantitative
evidence show more secure livelihoods have a broader effect on people’s
confidence and experience of quality in life. Strong traditions of
collective identity and community mobilisation constitute important
resources for the achievement of rights in practice. Persistent gender
inequalities remain, however, in both objective achievements and
people’s subjective assessments of what they can do or be.
This briefing paper makes the following recommendations:
Improved Food Security: The achievement of a successful social
protection programme in Chhattisgarh shows how entrenched difficulties
can be overcome through a combination of government commitment and
people’s mobilisation. As entitlements are extended nation-wide under
the ‘Right to Food’ Act (2013), this provides an important example for
other states. Arguments for universal access to subsidised food-grain
are supported by our findings that it is mainly poorer people who lack
ration-cards; distribution of Above Poverty Level cards does not follow
economic status; and local social and political relationships continue
to play an undue role in deciding who gets government benefits.
Popular Mobilisation: Food security appears an individual entitlement
but it is collectively established and maintained. Framing food security
as a right makes clear the active part people have played and continue
to play in securing their entitlements in practice. Our research
communities have a long ambivalent relationship with the state. Their
low levels of political confidence, despite experience of successful
collective action, indicate the importance of local community
organisations in educating people about their rights and working with
them to ensure these are achieved in practice.
Psycho-social Wellbeing: Qualitative and quantitative evidence
reinforce the importance of food security and social protection, showing
that more secure livelihoods have a broader impact on people’s
confidence and experience of quality in life. While wellbeing may be
assessed at an individual level, there is no doubt that collective
entitlements, such as those in the Forest Rights Act, are critical to
ensure longer term wellbeing.
Gender: There continue to be significant gender inequalities both in
formal sector achievement (e.g. education and rates of work under
MGNREGS) and in what people feel themselves able to be and do,
especially in the social and political spheres. This suggests that
gender issues should take higher priority in community mobilisation. The
negative impact of violence in the home on men’s inner wellbeing
suggests a possible focus for combatting gender based violence.
White, S. Social Protection and Wellbeing: Food Security in Adivasi communities, Chhattisgarh, India. Wellbeing and Poverty Pathways Briefing No. 3. University of Bath, Bath, UK (2014) 12 pp.
Social Protection and Wellbeing: Food Security in Adivasi communities, Chhattisgarh, India. Wellbeing and Poverty Pathways Briefing No. 3