Why CASA went ahead with Unconditional Support in Kerala?

Director Dr. Sushant Agrawal talks about reasons to go ahead with unconditional support in Kerala and decision to give power to the people to choose their recovery course.

Ques: Much has been talked about cash transfer process and the need for such kind of program in a vulnerable region ravaged by floods. Why did CASA go for this program?

Ans. It is very important to understand the needs of the affected people. We went around the villages, and could see different needs of different families. If needs differ from family to family, it was important to come to a conclusion what kind of support could be given to family that was family exclusive. We realised that unconditional cash transfer will give them the opportunity to decide what they need to purchase, what they need to acquire on priority basis and also it will give them the sense of ownership.

Ques: What was CASA intending when it decided for ‘unconditional’ and not ‘conditional’ support?

Ans. When I say Conditional, you are already pre-deciding that this cash transfer is exclusively going for shelter repair, or for so-and-so expenditure. The beneficiary will have no decision to make. Unconditional is apt in this situation because the need of different families were different. We saw greater involvement of women in the decision making within the family and community. So unconditional gave more power as to how they should use this money more meaningfully for their respective family.

Ques: Moving on to one of the most talked about points of the program –Giving More power to the people. Do you think unconditional cash transfer program has transformed the perception of how we give aid to the people at the time of emergencies?

Ans. I think this is not exclusive of CASA. There is a global trend and a greater understanding that people are not objects. We are not helping a victim but a person who is affected by a disaster. For that I have personally experienced, that conditional or unconditional cash transfers are gaining more ground and they have been very useful at the time of emergencies. Next time, during Inter-Agency Groups (IAG) assessment, the agencies will have to hear the voice of the community who will demand for cash transfer, and I am very much sure that this will become a point for discussion.

Ques: The program is coming to a conclusion. What visible transformational impacts do you expect to see in the lives of the people?

Ans: We are coming to a conclusion of the program only from the point of resource. In the last few months, we have created enormous amount of confidence in the lives of the people and I am very sure that it will be a new beginning for them. So, the program is not coming to an end. Program is going to be now run by the people in the future by what they have learnt from this whole intervention. I am very optimistic in that way, I never think that a program ends. A phase of the program could conclude but a new phase of the program can start.