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Opinion

Delivery of welfare to the beneficiary – editorials

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Assam Prime Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has acted decisively by setting a one-month deadline to investigate possible fraud in the PM-Kisan scheme in his state. The Union agriculture ministry had alerted the state to irregularities in the cash transfer program for farmers, according to a report published in this newspaper. It appears prima facie that ineligible people signed up for the scheme, which provides ~ 6,000 a year to farmers with valid documentation. With coronavirus disease pushing more people into poverty and affecting the income capacity of millions, it is vital that welfare schemes reach the target beneficiary in the shortest possible time. For many, these schemes are their only source of income now.

A major problem with Indian wellness architecture has traditionally been the goal. For schemes that are not universal, reaching the intended beneficiary is challenging. While direct benefit transfer and the trinity of Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile Phone (JAM) accounts have helped reduce leakage and eliminate intermediaries, the pandemic will pose new challenges in identifying beneficiaries. Many have moved from urban settings to rural areas. As people travel through the states due to job losses, states must coordinate much more effectively using their own databases and inputs from the Center. The Assam case (Aadhaar was not mandatory for welfare plans in the Northeast) has shown that part of the problem is the delay in updating the records, which should occur before the plans are implemented. All of this increases the possibility of fraud. As citizens’ dependence on welfare increases, it is incumbent on governments to close gaps in the provision of social assistance.

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