Context

The focus of our research is to measure the scale of exclusion errors in the life-cycle of welfare transfers from the Central and State Governments to the citizen. For our analysis, we would like to focus on the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) architecture that has been put in place for the delivery of major social welfare schemes and attempt to map possible points of exclusion in this system.

Motivation

The design and implementation of any robust social security system must ensure minimization of exclusion errors as far as possible, where an exclusion error is typically defined as the omission of eligible individuals or households. However, exclusion can occur even for those beneficiaries who are enrolled in a government scheme or programme. Failure to reach people who need assistance is a humanitarian cost and compromises the achievement of programme objectives. These exclusion errors assume even more significance when social security benefits are transferred in the form of cash via digitized mechanisms, especially in rural areas.

  • Project Title: Assessment of Last-mile Delivery of Direct Benefit Transfers in India

  • Area of Research: Last-mile Delivery Challenges in Social Protection

  • Team: Social Protection Initiative

  • Duration: Starting February 2020

We have designed the following research framework for a holistic understanding of exclusion in the DBT process:

Part 1: Assessment of the DBT Back-end Process: Processes of beneficiary on-boarding and payment transmission involve a range of technical processes as laid down in the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ document released by DBT Mission. It mandates a set of protocols which have to be followed by banks, state departments, and NPCI along with the timelines involved therein. The first step towards understanding exclusion-related challenges at these stages would be to first understand these protocols and their operationalization by the nodal agencies involved. We hope to achieve this through structured interviews of stakeholders involved in the back-end processes of the DBT system.

Part 2: Assessment of Citizen Interface Architecture under DBT: This would include a comprehensive assessment of the access points available to citizens to access their DBT entitlements, starting from the enrolment process to the withdrawal of the amount transferred therein. It would, therefore, also include the entire ambit of last-mile delivery issues as experienced both by scheme beneficiaries and providers of last-mile delivery points.

Scope

The research study aims to undertake a comprehensive pan-India assessment of last-mile delivery challenges in welfare. However, since the level of DBT implementation varies across both states and schemes, the sampling approach employed will be tailor-made for the state the study is being conducted in. We will start by covering states which have made significant progress in adopting the DBT system as the welfare delivery mechanism. Within a given state, we will cover the most popular DBT schemes, based on funds disbursed and number of beneficiaries enrolled. Lastly, we will identify prominent delivery channels existing in a given state (for the schemes shortlisted) and target their providers (such as BCs, CSC operators) and their users (citizens) in our main survey.

About SPI

The Social Protection Initiative (SPI) of Dvara Research aims to conduct research that will inform the design and implementation of a universal social security system that protects households and individuals against the vulnerabilities faced across the life-cycle while keeping in mind India’s unique demographic and economic realities. For more details, click here