Hunger, COVID-19 and the Indian Administrative state

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on face-to-face interactions and the movement of persons (the ‘lockdowns’) produced a widespread crisis of hunger, felt most acutely by migrant workers and those who were outside the reach of India’s highly organised but rigid Public Distribution System (PDS). This study focuses on what Indian state governments did to respond to the needs of these people, who were at the ‘margins of government welfare’. This task is particularly a challenge for the risk-averse, (nominally) rule-bound Indian state that is disinclined to allow for discretion in spending of government funds, making purchases and allocation of largesse. It is all the more reluctant to delegate power to exercise discretion and make qualitative judgement to lower levels of government.