Development through capitalism?: a study of microinsurance in West Bengal, India

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Authors

Majumdar, Ananya

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University of Guelph

Abstract

One of the first in-depth field studies on microinsurance, this research focuses on the development intervention, which is the latest in the "micro-wave" of movements sweeping international development. Featuring unprecedented partnerships between insurance corporations and development organisations, microinsurance is aimed at extending micro-cost insurance and social safety to low-income populations traditionally marginalised by these services. In India, microinsurance is the result of liberalisation economic reforms in the country in the early 1990s. Here microinsurance is a nascent intervention, and this study examines the provision, availability and impacts of microinsurance in the disaster-prone rural Malda district of West Bengal--a state famous for its pro-poor and left-leaning government. Research for this thesis was conducted in the form of a multi-sited case study spanning a period of six months from May to October 2007. A mix of qualitative and quantitative methods such as household surveying, direct observation, open-ended semi-structured interviews, key-informant interviews, life histories and snowball sampling were employed for data collection. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) served as the primary theoretical lens of this thesis, allowing for the finding that the most vulnerable populations in Malda are falling through the cracks of microinsurance provision as it exists in West Bengal today.

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Keywords

West Bengal, India, Microinsurance, Micro-wave, Movements, International development

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