Thursday, November 23, 2006

Annals of bad policy

A policy that's not thought through can cause all kinds of unintended -- and BAD -- consequences for the people the policy is supposed to help. A good case of good (even this is doubtful) intentions that wreak havoc. Here's P. Sainath's description of the policy:

Giving quality cows to thousands of poor farmers was a high-profile element in the relief `packages' of both Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The first would bring 40,000 new cows to the district in three years. The second, 18,000 in the same period. ...

What were the consequences?

"They landed up at my house and made me take this cow," protests Kamlabai Gudhe in Lonsawala, Wardha. This Dalit farmer's husband committed suicide five months ago. "I said we don't want this. We have never kept cattle and don't know how to. Give one of us a job, any work. Instead, my son is full time in service of this cow. Were he not tied down by it, he would earn Rs.50 a day as a labourer. This brute eats more than all us in this house put together. And we don't get more than four litres of milk in a day from it."

"The buffalo I got through the government cost me Rs.120-Rs.150 a day," says Mr. Gowarkar's neighbour. "It never stopped eating." He and several others have sold their animals. Next door, Anjanabai Dolaskar still has hers. "I feed it the wheat meant for my son — who was the `beneficiary.'" As for suicide-hit households, says a top official in Amravati, "none of them even applied to government for an animal."

Read the whole piece.


  1. Anonymous said...

    It is amazing the number of policies that have good intentions, but have bad results. I am trying to get a record of all those - because I firmly believe thats because our politicians are uneducated and unaware - something should and can be be done about it.

    This one is definitely going into my list. Thanks.

  2. gaddeswarup said...

    Milton Friedman's ideas in
    sound much better.

  3. Abi said...

    Surya: It will be interesting to see your collection of our policymakers' follies. I'll be watching your space.

    Swarup: How did you read my mind? I was in the middle of writing the next post when you made this comment with the link to Robert Frank's article. Thanks for the link!

  4. gaddeswarup said...

    Thanks to you, I started visiting Mark Thoma's site and found the link there. I like the site. Another benefit of blogging I guess.