Though there have been many criticisms of the Aadhar-based cash transfers, right from the you-havenít-got-the-numbers to theyíll-waste-the-money-on-booze, and many more including the disastrous Kotkasim pilot in Alwar, there can be little doubt the scheme represents a quantum leap in government thinking. And implementation. To be sure, the idea of cash transfers has been around for a long time, but it was never clear how it was to be implemented. This is where bringing in Nandan Nilekani proved to be a game-changer since, not only did he come up with an architecture to make it happen, he managed to dampen most fears about data theft with a unique project design. This was then followed up with innovative thinking on how to make UIDAI a demand-pull project (getting RBI to accept it for KYC was one such step, as was getting DoT to accept it as legitimate subscriber verification) and managing to cut through a lot of bureaucracy by getting different line ministries to allow proof-of-concept pilot projects.
In a similar manner, getting well-known agriculture economist Ashok Gulati to head the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) seems to have paid rich dividends. Gulatiís initial hikes in minimum support prices (MSPs) have attracted a lot of criticism, including from this newspaper, for their inflationary impact (Gulati insists, though, inflation is the lowest in precisely those products that have MSPs), but he has other tricks up his sleeve. And even on the question of hiking MSPs, Gulati may have a point if production