Arcadia, Utopia…

It’s a polarised debate. Always has been. Those who make a living expanding the possibilities of technology feel it can solve many economic ills, even those of the India that lives on 20 a day under the trembling glow of a lantern. And those who engage with that very India say technology solutions are fine, but they belie an understanding of rural lives and livelihoods.

The divide is back in focus, over a Rs 1,50,000 crore question: should the government continue to give grain, fuel and fertiliser to the poor at below-market prices, or should it transfer cash to their bank accounts? Wanting a better return on the Rs 1,50,000 crore the government gives as subsidy every year, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee , in his budget speech last month, signalled a move to the cash-transfer system.

my colleague shelley singh and i look at the issues that the government must address to make cash transfers a success.