By Kinjal Sampat and Harsh Mander

This chapter examines the provisioning of pensions for old persons in India, focusing mainly on people disadvantaged by gender, caste, religion and class. Pensions, here, refers to regular cash transfers made to individuals in recognition of advancement of their age. The chapter relies on information obtained from public data sources, secondary studies as well as primary field insights from a study1 conducted by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) in 2016 in Rajasthan and Gujarat, dealing with various aspects of provisioning of old age pensions (henceforth referred to as CES study on pensions). The chapter briefly traverses the history of pensions globally and in India, unpacking the moral-politico and economic underpinnings across predominant pension systems.


Harsh Mander is a writer and social activist, and founder and Director of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), New Delhi. He was the former Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court, in the Right to Food case. Email:

Kinjal Sampat is a sociologist based out of New Delhi, India. Formerly, she managed the research programme at Centre for Equity Studies. Email:

By Osama Manzar, Rajat Kumar, Eshita Mukherjee and Raina Aggarwal

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have many different definitions, The World Bank defines it as ‘The set of activities which facilitate by electronic means the processing, transmission and display of information’ (Rodriguez &Wilson, 2000). Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) defines ICTs as ‘….refer[ring] to technologies people use to share, distribute, gather information and to communicate, through computers and computer networks’ (ESCAP, 2001). In this chapter we shall follow the one standardized by the United Nations, ‘ICTs are basically information-handling tools—a varied set of goods, applications and services that are used to produce, store, process, distribute and exchange information’ (United Nations ICT Taskforce, 2003). They include the ‘old’ ICTs—radio, television and telephone, and the ‘new’ ICTs—computers, satellite and wireless technology and the Internet. These ICT tools are invaluable to the modern information society. Their impact on the quality of life with regard to access to information and avenues to better oneself especially in developing countries is unprecedented.


Eshita Mukherjee holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Economics from Madras School of Economics, Chennai. Her interests include climate change, poverty & inequality in India, and energy.

Osama Manzar is an inspiring speaker, angel investor, mentor and believer. He founded Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) that has digitally enabled over 5 million people across remote and rural India through digital resource centres and the last mile access.

Raina Aggarwal is a research scholar with the Digital Empowerment Foundation. She has a PhD from Delhi University. Her focus area is youth development and the development of community learning centres.

Rajat Kumar is a research scholar with the Digital Empowerment Foundation. He has six years of experience in teaching and research, and his interest lies in psychology, environmental science, design philosophy and data science.

By Sandeep Chachra, Amanpreet Kaur and Dr P. Raghu

Agriculture and production of food has been the fundamental premise of growth of all known civilizations. In fact, agriculture presents itself as a home for the majority of human labour, even to this day. As per the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2010, about 2.6 billion people around the world were dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods either as actively engaged workers or as dependants, while about half of the world’s population lived in rural areas and of these, about three-quarters were estimated to be living in agricultural households (FAOSTAT, 2013 as cited in Alston & Pardey, 2014, p.1). The classical economic transition school, in a visual reminiscent of colonial Europe of the 18th and 19thcenturies that saw an agrarian transition, envisions our diverse world following a universal pattern of ‘evolution’ or transition from agrarian societies to industrial or post-industrial complexes with overwhelming majorities of human labour outside of agriculture. It insists that such a transition is both a universal path to build on and a solution to address under-development and poverty in the global south.


Amandeep Kaur is currently pursuing her PhD from Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has an MPhil from the same Centre at JNU.

Sandeep Chachra is Managing Editor, Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, Co-Chair of World Urban Campaign, UN-HABITAT and Executive Director, ActionAid India.

By Gitanjali Prasad and Mrinal Satish

Contemporary understandings of what legal justice in India constitutes derive from constitutional provisions, legal jurisprudence as well as international covenants. Broadly, legal justice as a public good would imply both equal access to fair grievance redress mechanisms as well as access to fair process for those in conflict with the law. This essay, however, is in the context of the latter, which includes fair access to bail, and related substantive and procedural laws for persons charged under bailable offences in particular, but also for those charged under some specific Special and Local laws and all crimes more broadly. We are considering the following elements to be necessary entitlements for the accused—the presumption of innocence, rights upon arrest and bail, right to counsel, and fair trial guarantees including protection from undue delays—all of which are essential to living a life of dignity, and being able to access other essential public goods.


Gitanjali Prasad is a researcher working on issues of social justice, while pursuing a Bachelor of Law degree at Delhi University. Her academic training is in Psychology and Dalit and Tribal Social Work.


Mrinal Satish is an Associate Professor of Law at the National Law University, Delhi, where he is also the Executive Director of the Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance. He specializes in criminal law.

By Subrat Das, Amar Chanchal and Jawed Alam Khan

India’s federal fiscal architecture has witnessed a number of substantive changes over the last couple of years. Replacing the Planning Commission with NITI Aayog has changed the institutional set-up of policymaking at the national level; the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) have led to significant changes in the domain of resource-sharing between the union (or centre) and the states; and the decision by the union government to drop the distinction between Plan and Non-plan1 expenditures in its budgets (starting from the financial year 2017– 18) is going to change the way public spending is designed, reported and carried out in the country. One of the important questions that arises in the context of such changes pertains to the impact of the same on the responsiveness of India’s fiscal policy to social inclusion.


Amar Chanchal is Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, New Delhi. He is currently working on issues related to Budget Transparency, Centre-State Fiscal relations in India, and Urban Poverty. E-mail:

Jawed Alam Khan works with CBGA. His work focuses on fiscal decentralisation, social sector programmes and responsiveness of budgets to disadvantaged groups like minorities, Dalits and Adivasis. He has 13 years of experience in research and has authored several research reports and papers in his areas of interest. He has an MPhil in Economics and is pursuing a PhD from JNU, New Delhi.

Subrat Das is Executive Director at the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, New Delhi. He has worked for more than a decade on budget issues at the national and sub-national level in India in various social sectors. E-mail:

By Harsh Mander, Deepti Srivastava, Preeti Mathew and Satya Pillai

Street children challenge the social representation that childhood is always sheltered and protected. In fact, children in street situations are extremely vulnerable and endure severely deprived living conditions, a profound lack of protection and the basic support for nutrition, health and education. While India, the second most populous and one of the fastest growing economies, is home to the world’s largest population of street children, we still do not have any definitive and accurate official figures of the number of children for whom city streets are home. They escape the attention and counting in all official censuses and surveys, including the decadal censuses, official national sample surveys, as well as surveys of out-of-school children; as these are designed and conducted around counting people who live in ‘census houses’ and their imagination very imperfectly includes people who are homeless, even less children who are alone on the streets. In fact they survive by keeping out of sight of all state authorities as they do not even have any proof of identification. Going by the findings of a recent survey (Save the Children report on Life on the Street, 2016, p. 34) that street children constitute 0.5 to 1.4 per cent of the population, we can only broadly assume that there are likely to be anywhere between 1.5 to 5.3 million children on the streets in India today.


Deepti Srivastava has a background in education. Her doctorate is on street and homeless children negotiating ‘difference’ in school. She has been working with Rainbow Homes since 2016 in the capacity of Education and Futures Coordinator.

Harsh Mander is a writer and social activist, and founder and Director of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), New Delhi. He was the former Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court, in the Right to Food case. Email:

Preeti Mathew is a social worker by profession. After graduating from Baroda School of Social Work, she worked with the Azim Premji Foundation on learning assessment with rural government primary schools. She has been working with street children since 2010 at the Centre for Equity Studies and presently she is with Rainbow Foundation India where she focuses on documentation on the Rainbow Model and capacity building of the staff.

Satya Pillai positioned her focus on issues of children in difficult circumstances in 2007 after having studied and practised Psychology for a decade, and has been associated with the cause since then. With the belief that comprehensive knowledge is essential for better outcomes, she has been working with her team towards enhancing the understanding about the street children. She heads the Knowledge and Policy Unit in the Rainbow Foundation India.

By Rhea John, Anita Ghai, Radhika Alkazi, Radhika Jha and Harsh Mander

Amartya Sen observes that ‘people with physical or mental disability are not only among the most deprived human beings in the world, they are also, frequently enough, the most neglected’. This chapter explores both deprivation and neglect for disabled women in rural areas, investigating how intersectionality operates to deny them equitable access to a range of public goods, ranging from education, healthcare, decent work and social security to protection and dignity. Women and girls are the largest single group of persons who face discrimination, violence and denials. And residents of the countryside tend on an average to face much harder and more deprived lives than their urban counterparts. The study on which the chapter is based consists of in-depth interviews with 225 women in Jharkhand, Odisha and Karnataka, led by disabled women researchers from the local community. The findings suggest that the social model understanding of being disabled by circumstances rather than impairments is only strengthened when considering the interlocking exclusions based on gender, rural location and poverty.


Anita Ghai is Professor at the School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University. Both as academician and advocate, she works on a programme of Disability Studies.

Harsh Mander is a writer and social activist, and founder and Director of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), New Delhi. He was the former Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court, in the Right to Food case. Email:

Radhika Alkazi is an artist, a social activist and also the founder of AARTH-ASTHA, one of the few cross-disability organizations working with children and persons with disabilities.

Radhika Jha is a research executive at Common Cause, Delhi. She has done her MA in Social Work (criminology and criminal justice) from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and LLB from Faculty of Law, Delhi University.

Rhea John is a student at the Institute of Development Studies and formerly a researcher with the Centre for Equity Studies.

By Rajanya Bose and NC Saxena

The ‘urban poor’ is a fraught term that often hides the extreme heterogeneity of the poor in an urban space. An economic definition of poverty and the poverty line is inadequate to understand the multiple forms of deprivation that a person or a family might experience in the harsh exclusive cities in India. It is also almost impossible to define the population or the community of the ‘urban poor’ in the context of Delhi, neither is that the scope or the purpose of this chapter. It is even more difficult to ascertain the exact nature of the population that would come under this category given that the people themselves do not identify with this classification as a political identity. It is rather an academic segregation imposed by those trying to understand their reality. The scope and aim of the chapter is thus to provide glimpses into the vulnerabilities faced by the population, in their living and working in Delhi, to bring out various forms of penalty and denial of citizenship rights by the state.


NC Saxena retired as Secretary, Planning Commission and is a former IAS officer and ex-member of the National Advisory Council. A Rockerfeller Foundation fellow, he obtained his PhD from University of Oxford. He was also Secretary, Rural, Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

Rajanya Bose is a researcher and programme manager at Centre for Equity Studies. She has done her MA in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and researches on issues of tribal land rights, communal violence and urban poverty. Email:

By Bezwada Wilson and Bhasha Singh

We would like to begin this chapter with some difficult questions, perhaps at the risk of making you, the reader, uncomfortable. Why are the Indian government and even the media and civil society quiet about the death of more than a thousand of its citizens (Thomas, 2016)? People are being killed in sewer and septic tanks every day and yet, so far there has been no relevant discussion by policy makers, in state assemblies or the Parliament. By the time you are reading this essay, this number would have increased multifold. What could be the reason for this apathy and indifference? Is this because all who die in sewers and septic tanks are Dalits? Why is it that even amidst the rhetoric of development and progress in 2017, 1.3 million (FirstPost, 2016) Dalits in India, and mostly women, are forced to manually clean human excreta? Why does the country allocate a budget of INR 16,248crore1 for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan while it has only INR 5 crore to spare for rehabilitation of manual scavengers, as per the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2017–18? Why is India unable to invest in finding a technology to clean sewer septic tanks without endangering human life? These are serious questions that the Indian democracy must answer.


Bezwada Wilson is a social activist and the national convenor as well as founder member of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA). He was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016 for ‘asserting the inalienable right to a life of human dignity’.

Bhasha Singh is an assistant editor with Outlook (Hindi). She is also an activist, member of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), and a writer. Her book, Unseen: The Truth about India’s Manual Scavengers was published by Penguin in 2014.