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Implement Digital Direct Benefit Transfers: A DBT Readiness Index for the States of India

Both the central and state governments in India operate a vast array of cash and in-kind transfers to protect its poor. But these social protection schemes often suffer from substantial leakages and poor targeting, distort market functioning by subsidising prices and thereby impose significant fiscal stress without commensurate social benefits. India is seeking to port these subsidies into direct-to-beneficiary transfers, often called Direct Benefit Transfers or DBT. Implementing DBT should be a means to an end, not only to reduce leakages in the Indian subsidy system, but also to ensure that the targeted poor and vulnerable in society get timely transfers at low cost in time and money. In the Indian context DBT readiness is the ability of states/UTs to pursue government to citizen (G2C) and government to bank/business solutions through the use of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) viz. electronic transfer of cash or in-kind benefits from government to citizen or for effecting cashless in- kind transfers. Accurate targeting of beneficiaries due to Aadhar and biometric verification makes it feasible to avoid leakages due to ghost beneficiaries and to avoid leakages due to duplication errors . The DBT-Readiness of all Indian states and Union Territories (UTs) will be assessed both annually and quarterly by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) over the next three years starting from 2016 to 2018 based on annual surveys. The quarterly assessment will be based off a combination of primary and secondary data available or made available by state/UT governments. States/UTs will be ranked relatively using the annual surveys. The quarterly rankings will be based off absolute index, which will help track states/UTs their own growth over time. In addition to the overall DBT assessment of states and UTs, this survey undertakes DBT Readiness of 10 Central Schemes.

NCAER Project Team:
R Venkatesan, Bornali Bhandari, Pallavi Choudhuri, Sandhya Garg, Ajaya Kumar Sahu, Mridula Duggal, Jahnavi Prabhakar, Kanika Bhatnagar

Sponsored by:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation