Nagri/Ranchi: Aychi Nagduwar, is a 85-year-old widow with a 40-year-old son mentally challenged son. They are beneficiaries of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), residing at Singhpur village. However, for unknown reasons, no DBT money is being credited to her account.
Meanwhile, Somari Mundain’s son and daughter-in- law live in the city, while she takes care of her grandson residing with her at Kenke. But the couple is no longer in touch with Somari. Earlier, her grandson used to get the ration for her. But now, he is unable to work his way out in the bank, while she is too old to make multiple visits to the bank and wait in queues. So, far no DBT fund has been credited to her account and she is availing her widow pension to buy food grains.
Another old lady residing all by herself at Piska village, has been able to buy food grains only once, since the implementation of DBT. Her rough and worn out palms is making it difficult for the Point of Sale (PoS) machine to recognize her fingerprints. The only time she was able to avail the benefit was when her name was on the exemption list.
The reason for the inconvenience caused to the mentioned three along with many others is an experimentation introduced by the government of Jharkhand in October 2017. Under this experimentation the residents of Nagri block of Ranchi have their DBT and food subsidy schemes linked – the beneficiaries now have to collect money from the bank and buy rice from PDS centre at a rate of Rs 32 per kilo.
Towards the end of January 2018, student volunteers of Ration Bachao Manch, which has development economist like Jean Dreze, conducted a survey of 244 households in randomly selected 13 villages of Nagri. It revealed that the DBT system is causing huge inconvenience to the poor. On average, respondents admitted to having received only 2 out of 4 DBT installments in the preceding 4 months.
And in cases where the families are being able to avail DBT benefits, 28 percent of the beneficiaries admitted to spend 15 hours (two work days time) to collect their PDS rice. The survey indicates that each respondent has to spend about 12 hours on the average just to visit and queue at the bank, Pragya Kendra and ration shop in a bid to avail the benefits on offer by the government.
According to the survey, banks often refuse to handover smaller amount of cash to these people. As a consequence they are often asked to collect the money in cash from Pragya Kendra to reduce over-crowding of bank premises.
The survey concludes that 97 per cent of the respondents interviews have opposed the DBT system. Significantly, in 2015, a letter from the Food Ministry (Delhi), had discouraged states from adopting the DBT model for the PDS. Despite this, Jharkhand went ahead. And now, not just it gets implemented but dealers also reprimand those beneficiaries who avail the DBT cash and failed to purchase from PDS shops.
Five political parties including Congress, JMM, JVM and CPI-ML and several non-government organization (NGO)s will hold a march upto Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das’ residence on Monday to register their protest against the DBT for food subsidies.
Nagri Survey, January-February 2018
|Mean number of bank accounts per household
|Proportion (%) of respondents who said that
No-one told them which account would be used for DBT credits
Going to bank is the only way to know whether DTB money has come
They used the DBT money last time they purchased rice from the PDS
|Mean distance from home to the bank (km)
|Mean distance from home to Pragya Kendra (km)
|Mean number of monthly DBT instalments received in the last 4 months
|Mean number of monthly rice rations purchased from PDS in the last 4 months
|Mean number of person-hours spent on collecting PDS ration, last timea
|Percentage distribution of respondents by number of person-hours spent collecting PDS ration (last time)a
Less than 5 hours
5 to 10 hours
10 to 15 hours
More than 15 hrs
|Percentage distribution of respondents according to the collection point they used for DBT money, last time
Other (e.g. ATM)
Not applicable (did not collect DBT money)
|Proportion of respondents who prefer the old system to the DBT system