NEW Delhi: Even while the Centre showcases achievements of direct benefit transfer (DBT), NITI Aayog in a report to the government has underlined the hiccups seen in multiple surveys of the pilot project carried out in a few of the Union territories.
While noting that 27 per cent 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 has stated that 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 find out efficacy of DBT in PDS in Chandigarh, Puducherry, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH). “Assuming single purpose visits to banks/ATMs, DBT is more expensive to access and redeem than PDS entitlements,” the report stated. It stated that it took 48 minutes to get PDS entitlements under conventional scheme, but 58 minutes to access DBT from a bank and another 22 minutes to shop the foodgrains in Chandigarh for a person, which in Puducherry 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 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 out 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, while assuming the family size at four.
The think-tank panel also noted that out of 66 per cent beneficiaries in the sample for survey at the start, five per cent stopped receiving transfers as substantiated by the passbook proof. However, the NITI Aayog report stated that the beneficiaries reported using DBT to buy food and increase dietary diversity, while adding that the responses of the people may have been affected by social desirability bias.
The think-tank panel also stated that the beneficiaries during the surveys rated the quality of rice and wheat that they purchase in the market higher than that available at the PDS. It added that despite additional costs 65 per cent beneficiaries across the three union territories now prefer DBT to PDS. “The beneficiaries listed buying ration of their choice (66 per cent), better quality ration (57 per cent), buy ration whenever I want (50 per cent) for preferring the DBT. The NITI Aayog report, which has been submitted to the Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies stated that 38 per cent of beneficiaries have grievances with the system though next to none reported it on the toll free number.
The Centre has been awaiting the outcome of the pilot DBT rollout in three UTs for its further extension in other parts of the country.