NEW DELHI: Even as the Centre showcases achievements of direct benefit transfer (DBT), the NITI Aayog in a report to the government has underlined the hiccups seen in multiple surveys of the pilot project carried out in some of the Union territories.
While noting that 27 percent of the beneficiaries owned luxury assets such as car and AC, which should have disqualified them from the ambit of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the think-tank panel in its report said the DBT had been more expensive to access and redeem than PDS (Public Distribution System) entitlements.
The surveys had been carried out since December 2015 to ascertain the efficacy of the DBT in PDS in Chandigarh, Puducherry, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH). “Assuming single purpose visits to banks/ATMs, the DBT is more expensive to access and redeem than PDS entitlements,” the report stated. It said it took 48 minutes to get PDS entitlements under the conventional scheme, but 58 minutes to access DBT from a bank and another 22 minutes to shop for the foodgrains in Chandigarh for a person, which in Puducherry it stood at 37 minutes (PDS shop), 54 minutes (bank) and 20 minutes (shopping grains). The same for DNH was found to be 100 minutes to avail of entitlements at PDS, 79 minutes for bank and 33 minutes for shopping.
The DBT entitlement in Chandigarh per person is Rs 101.52, Puducherry Rs 125.85 and DNH Rs 122.68. However, the report found that the market equivalent of the PDS stood at Rs 146.40 for Chandigarh (Rs 25.60/kg for flour and Rs 34.80/kg for rice), Rs 172 for Puducherry (Rs 34/kg for rice) and Rs 151.30 for DNH (Rs 27.5/kg for flour and Rs 34.40/kg for rice. The NITI Aayog added that the excess expenditure per person for Chandigarh stood at Rs 22.20, Rs 31.20 for Puducherry and Rs 7.60 for DNH. Excess expenditure per household translated to Rs 88.80 for Chandigarh, Rs 124.80 for Puducherry and Rs 30.40 for DNH, assuming a family size of four.
The panel noted that out of 66 percent beneficiaries in the sample for survey at the start, five percent stopped receiving transfers as substantiated by the passbook proof.
However, the NITI Aayog report said the beneficiaries reported using DBT to buy food and increase dietary diversity, adding that the responses of the people may have been affected by social desirability bias.