Verghese Kurien Policy Lab

Research Projects

The Vazhndhu Kattuvom Project (VKP)

Abstract: This is an innovative initiative by the Government of Tamil Nadu, supported by the World Bank. It aims to promote rural transformation by fostering sustainable enterprise development, access to finance, and employment opportunities in selected districts of Tamil Nadu. It operates in 120 blocks and 3994 villages across 31 selected districts in Tamil Nadu. The impact evaluation assignment awarded to VKPL specifically seeks to estimate the enterprise-level welfare effects.

Abstract: The adoption of specific UPI services like 123Pay, which is suitable for rural users lacking smartphones and internet access, remains sluggish. This research proposal, in partnership with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), aims to design a field experiment to scale up 123Pay's adoption in Indian villages. We intend to identify and train central individuals in rural communities to promote the service, relying on concepts from the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). By utilizing trusted local institutional agents like Financial Literacy Community Resource Person (FLCRP) and Banking Correspondents (BCs) to target and train network seeds identified by gossip network, random seeds, and educators to disseminate information in the villages, we will explore different pathways for technology adoption. The study's findings will provide insights into the relationship between government policy, social networks, and the adoption of financial technological interventions, thus contributing to the broader understanding of fostering DPI in developing nations.

Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India, has approved a three-year project-JASHN (Joint Action for Sustainable Health and Nutrition), commencing from December 2020 in Jharkhand. The JASHN project is community driven and owned which keeps the community at the very center of its interventions. The uniqueness of the project lies in the fact that through the method of peer counselling (peer to peer), the health, nutrition and WASH knowledge would be disseminated at the community levels. It has been agreed that the VKPL at IRMA will provide end-to-end technical support to JSLPS in the implementation of JASHN using randomized control trial (RCT) methods. The collaboration will result in implementation innovations, identification of pathways and strategies using which the design of such interventions can be rendered more effective, its scale-up elsewhere, and cost-effectiveness analysis.

The Watershed Development Department (WDD), Government of Karnataka, has commissioned a five-year longitudinal study with 2x2 experimental design in 21 Districts of Karnataka. VKPL will work with World Bank to list 40,000 agricultural households and undertake three rounds of survey for 4,000 households. The micro-data over five-year time-period will be used to evaluate the welfare effects of the REWARD Program. The research will investigate the impact of biophysical and conservation interventions on public and private land as well as farmer-level livelihood interventions including LRI training, complementary interventions in the form of value chain development via farmer producer collectives (FPCs), and livelihood protection investments via SHGs on farm and household-level welfare outcomes. 

The lab has partnered with CIIE.CO and IIM Ahmedabad to design and experiment with financial products to detect micro-linkages between attributes of such products and services and household welfare of rural households. Recently, the lab is working with Samunnati to rollout a closed-loop credit product in 50 FPOs in Telangana and A.P. The theory of change posits triggering of impacts at the level of farm, household, and FPO governance. The results from the experiment will be available by December 2022.

World Bank and the Lab has recently implemented a large survey of more than 3700 micro-enterprises in 727 villages across three states (MH, MP, and JH). We have listed more than 9000 enterprises and 40 percent of the listed (census) enterprises have been surveyed on different aspects of their business decisions and operations, COVID-19 management, entrepreneurial and strategic orientation, and self-efficacy. The empirical results of the study will be published in the form of World Bank Policy Papers and is expected to be available in public domain by August 2022.

VKPL has been engaged with NRLM since 2016 and carried out the first quasi-experimental evaluation of NRLM at the level of households and communities. The findings from the study provided the first set of causal evidence on short and medium run impacts of NRLM on female labor force participation (FLFP), livelihoods diversification, and household income. More recently, the lab is working with the World Bank to mount a follow-up (panel) survey of the same set of individuals, households, villages, SHGs and VOs that were surveyed in 2016. The study is based on 727 village and 4300 household surveys completed in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra. The findings will be available for all the state partners of NMMU at Ministry of Rural Development.

Panchayati Raj Institutions, as the key unit of decentralized and participatory rural local self- government, have a central role in identifying local issues, planning, and implementing programs to achieve developmental outcomes. In this context, the role of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj in equipping all PRIs, to become effective vehicles of social change and rural development and support efficient and inclusive delivery of public services to the population, is critical, particularly as the country grapples with the public-health and socio-economic crisis exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic. VKPL is collaborating with UNICEF to promote the participation of women in the design of Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). The collaboration entails implementation, process monitoring, and generating quasi-experimental evidence on the effectiveness of organizing Mahila Sabhas (women assemblies). Further, the work entails documentation and introduction of effective methods which can be used to scale up the programme to more states in a sustainable manner. VKPL will work with the following objectives:

(i) Assessing the efficacy of the model in developing shock responsive, child sensitive and gender centric GPDPs;

(ii) VKPL will support UNICEF in the development of a Theory of Change for this model, and mapping progress made,

(iii) Conducting mixed methods research to establish the contribution and attribution of the programmatic intervention in achieving the various intended outcomes. 


VKPL and UNICEF collaborated to explore several aspects of pandemic management by Gram Panchayats during the first lockdown. The information management initiatives were mapped when vaccines and other treatments were under-development. The research used the PAHO framework of institutional response to shocks which is based on four dimensions and is linked with information management during the crisis: (a) communication, (b) coordination, (c) dissemination planning, and (d) resource mobilization. The study presented robust evidence on the impact of governance response of Gram Panchayats (that is, local governments) on food and nutrition consumption of households and their vulnerability to food poverty during the COVID-19 lockdown.