Informal Economy

Identifying, alleviating, and preventing distress of workers through economic stimulus and welfare measures 

 Nearly 78% of the workforce in India is a part of the informal economy (87% rural & 56% urban). This includes landless farm workers, many of whom migrate from their native villages to work in other farms, daily urban wage labourers, street vendors, barbers, domestic help, construction workers etc. They earn only when they are employed in active work. There is no guarantee of availability of work and since they are not a part of organised/formal workforce, they don’t have access to benefits such as life, disability or health insurance or any contribution towards retirement pension. Informal workers are often financially and socially excluded. Covid19 crisis disrupted not only the livelihoods of informal workers, but also subjected them to health risks arising from abrupt dislocation and lack of access to basic health services and nutrition. India has made significant progress in creating infrastructure for distribution of staple food, through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and has also developed the digital infrastructure with JAM trinity (Jan Dhan Accounts, Aadhar and Mobile Phones) for direct subsidy transfer, and to get the informal workforce into the formal banking fold. This is the first time that JAM was used to provide economic aid in a crisis. The Government is now conducting skill mapping exercises to create a data base for people in the informal sector.  

Projects here would map the extent to which this infrastructure was leveraged to reach informal workers timely and adequately. And how to make this system more efficient on deliverables for the future. The penetration, the numbers on ground, accessibility, digital literacy, usage and how many people are still out of this fold, the hurdles and roadblocks. Adequacy and efficiency  of  PDS in reaching the most vulnerable  population; efficiencies and lacunae in implementation of related relief measures announced by state and central governments. Strategies for reemployment of informal workers in the gig economy as a potential solution to boost job security,  employment  benefits,  skills  and  wages;  innovations  required  and  the  need  for government intervention.   


Projects under this topic are:

Project 1: Centralized Procurement of Forest Produce in Jharkhand 

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief : The Government of Jharkhand is planning to set up a system for procurement of selected forest products at the stipulated Minimum Support Price. The task of this project will be to support the design and development of this system using data provided by the relevant departments. It is expected that the procurement will enable direct infusion of cash into the rural economy and relive distress for the most vulnerable sections of the population. The process will involve compiling data on volume, seasonality, and location of collection and trade of different forest products, understanding current institutional and operational framework available for deployment (including physical infrastructure), drawing lessons from experiences from other states like Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, simulating alternative designs for the procurement system to optimize over operational costs as well as number and distribution of beneficiaries, and designing the payment system using the Jan Dhan – Aadhaar – Mobile architecture.

Project 2: Community Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief : The proximity of human settlements to forest areas gives rise to the human-wildlife conflict where animals pose a threat to the safety and livelihood of those living around them. As a result of this threat, humans may turn to the mistreatment of animals that endanger their livelihood or safety. The project intends to conduct thorough research on the forest areas, farmlands, and protected areas based on percentages, distribution, accessibility, and other attributes and assess the potential market of such regions for community-based conservation and eco-tourism practices. The team members will be working to develop a sustainable business model based on the concept of ecotourism through ecolodges and resorts established on community-owned land. The solution to the problem will be presented as a whitepaper to interested Government ministries and NGOs. Specifically, the proposal would develop a prototype model based on an endemic location with specific geographical and social factors relevant to that location.

Project 3: Implementation and Performance of State-Run Policies for Weaving Communities in Telangana

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre

Project Brief : Handlooms industry is facing tough competition from power loom and mills, resultantly, weavers are facing livelihood crises. Owing to the high distress level of weavers, the Government of Telangana has launched various schemes to bring relief to the community such as: PAVALA VADDI SCHEME, NETHANNAKU CHEYUTHA, CHENETHA MITHRA. Apart from these there is the Handloom Weavers comprehensive welfare scheme that provides social safety nets and the National Handloom Development Programme to provide training to upskill and diversify. Despite the efforts to provide inputs, market support and protect the welfare of weavers, the state-run schemes are yet to create an impact in bringing the weaving community out of distress and revive the handloom industry. We aim to examine and evaluate the implementation and performance of state-run policies for weaving communities in Telangana. The objective is to evaluate effectiveness, reach and relevance of the scheme and examine outcome and impact of the same. The study will assess the blind spots and analyse the issues in the existing schemes to be able to deliver sustainable outcomes.

Project 4: Attracting Industrial Investment

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief: Several Indian states are uniquely positioned, in terms of natural resources, human capital and geography, to set-up large scale manufacturing hubs for specific industries. However, these opportunities have either not been identified yet or not realized to their fullest potential. Through this project, we wish to identify unique drivers for growth in investments and to provide a roadmap/plan of action to state governments. The primary goal is to identify unique investment opportunities to kick-start manufacturing in India across industries and states. The project further intends to identify and analyse the various parameters (infrastructure, natural resources, financing etc) which are primary drivers to establishing manufacturing in that region. To achieve the same, the team members will be working closely with select states as well as officers in other relevant agencies. It is expected that the team will deliver frequent presentations on the problem definition, data analysis, and potential solutions.

Project 5: Actionable strategy for cluster development and value addition to boost herbal economy in the state of Himachal Pradesh

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief : The Government of Himachal Pradesh is planning an actionable strategy for cluster development and value addition after recognizing unique products of each district (at forest range level). The task of this project will be to increase value of the raw material available in the state. Moreover, state needs assistance in branding and marketing of production coming from these rural clusters including online platforms. The process will involve compiling data (1) geography of production, (2) estimate of volume and value, (3) identity of industrial buyers of raw materials by location and sector, and then, assess the (4) feasibility of setting up industry in Himachal Pradesh. The process will also streamline regulatory mechanisms to facilitate sustainable extraction, value addition, sale and purchase and industrial production of the herbal products to boost local economy and support thousands of families involved in this trade all over the state.

Project 6: Ground Issues in adoption of Cashless Payment methods by Street Vendors in India

Faculty: Sanjay Kallapur and Bhagwan Choudhary

Project 7: Pulse – Second Generation e-Governance

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief: Pulse is a an advanced data analytics application using real-time digital data on citizen interactions with government programmes and systems. Building on the existing NIC-based information, the process integrates continuous data streams into a common framework for analytics and will be designed to detect anomalies that signify potential challenges at an aggregate spatial level (such as the panchayat or block). The project intends to present opportunities where application of predictive analytics on data streams from delivery of multiple benefits can enable the second generation of e-governance initiatives. For the same, the team will build predictive analytics for ground level actionable intelligence on potential exclusion and establish advance warning mechanisms. This application is particularly suited to several initiatives undertaken by Government to alleviate rural distress and to ensure synergies in public investments for maximum welfare.

Project 8 : High-Frequency High-Resolution Indicators for Monitoring Economic Recovery

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief : The project intends to establish a mechanism to monitor progress in the short term through a series of high-frequency and high-spatial resolution indicators to inform decision-making and responding to new and emerging opportunities. The expected outcome of this project is to build a repository of information and evidence-based insights that will directly help decisions for enabling and increasing economic activity. First, a system will be designed to host high frequency economic performance indicators for the state. As the economy recovers from the pandemic-induced lockdown, we will identify and monitor selected parameters that indicate change in the level of economic activity on the ground at a high spatial resolution. Having multiple indicators of economic recovery that are near-real-time, spatially-explicit, and comparable over time will enable a dynamic policy response for enabling and increasing economic activity in the industrial and other sectors of the economy.

Project 9 : Tourism in Himachal Pradesh

Faculty: Ashwini Chhatre  

Project Brief: The COVID -19 crisis presents an unprecedented challenge to international and domestic tourism. Travel destinations around the world and the tourism industries have come to a sudden halt due to the pandemic. In the short term, the impacts on the tourism sector have varied depending on the national responses of countries but across the globe, the sector has been affected by lockdowns, travel restrictions and border closures. In India, all three responses have been severe, with a national lockdown since March 2020, domestic and international travel restricted, and all borders closed. Therefore, the domestic and international tourism has come to a standstill in all states in India, which includes Himachal Pradesh. However, the state can position itself ahead of the curve by preparing for the new normal. The project will mainly focus on medium to long-term imperatives for the government of Himachal Pradesh. However, in the short term, there must be strategies designed around ensuring hygiene and safety and some fiscal stimulus packages to ensure economic impact is reduced. In the medium term, the study will look at the existing models of tourism in the state and suggest ways to re-look and re- strategize the tourism policy with a long-term sustainability perspective.