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Spaces of SecurityEthnographies of Securityscapes, Surveillance, and Control$
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Setha Low and Mark Maguire

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479863013

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479863013.001.0001

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Re-Spatializing Social Security in India

Re-Spatializing Social Security in India

(p.231) 10 Re-Spatializing Social Security in India
Spaces of Security

Ursula Rao

NYU Press

This chapter analyzes the changing logic and logistics of welfare security in the biometric governance era. Power is exercised spatially, and in modern nation-states it follows a model Gupta and Ferguson call “vertical encompassment”. Citizens are cared for by institutions that communicate hierarchically. Information about needs travels upwards, from district and state to national statistics, and eventually it informs decisions at central government offices, where funds are disbursed downwards through the hierarchical channels of the welfare state. The system requires permanently settled citizens. Therefore, it works badly for itinerant citizens who travel seasonally for work. Biometric governance promises to improve the system by rendering data mobile and thus permitting citizens to identify and collect welfare anywhere. Using the case study of India’s biometric National Health Insurance (RSBY), the chapter examines an emerging securityscape that creatively combines old and new ways of managing welfare distribution. While doing so, it confronts all participants with the difficulty of combining the protection of the integrity of state structures with the imperative to care for citizens and ensure survival. Regardless the technology, securitization of the state undermines the goal of inclusiveness challenging policy makers to either abandon their welfare aspirations or relax surveillance.

Keywords:   Social security, Governance, Biometric state, Health insurance, India

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