Rajasthan is moving towards 100 per cent financial inclusion with a broad support for new digital modes of delivery of benefits specially from women, a top American think-tank said today. The report ‘Household Perception and Impact of Bhamashah and Digital Governance Reforms in Rajasthan’ by the Center for Global Development and Microsave is based on a first-of-its- kind of survey of the Aadhaar system in the state.
“There is broad support for new digital modes of delivery of benefits. Over 40 per cent think it is better than old system in Public Distribution System (PDS) and pensions. Less than 10 per cent think it is worse,” Anit N Mukherjee from the Center for Global Development told PTI. There is a broad support for new digital modes of delivery of benefits in Rajasthan, a State which is approaching 100 percent financial inclusion, the think-tank said.
“Women are more positive about the change than men, possibly because they were more affected by corruption than men,” he said. The survey found that changes in National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiary lists have created confusion and frustration. “This has to do with the lack of transparency regarding how the new list are made and less with problems of biometric authentication. I think these are being confused in the public discourse,” Mukherjee noted.
Nearly 96 per cent of beneficiaries are authenticated in five attempts or less, the report said. “However, PDS shop owners do not always follow the protocol and we were not able to discern how many of the authentication failures actually resulted in denial of rations,” he said. Mukherjee said all households have at least one bank account and mobile phone. In fact, the proportion of rural households with two or more accounts is higher than in urban areas, he said. Noting that women are going to banks to withdraw money in larger numbers, either by themselves or with a male member, the report found that proportion of women going to withdraw money alone depends on how close the bank branches are. Banking correspondents are nearly nonexistent, unlike in south India, Mukherjee said.
The report found that 25 per cent of PAHAL/UJJWALA beneficiaries have stopped using firewood/coal. And women’s time use for productive activities has increased, he added. “As for Bhamashah itself, enrolment has been relatively smooth, but people face inconveniences when there are data errors – grievance redressal is inefficient,” Mukherjee said. Conceptualised in 2008, Bhamashah is the first household -level identity system in India. Bhamashah head of household has to be a woman. “Sixty-six per cent of these women opened new bank accounts to register for Bhamashah. Almost all these accounts are linked to Aadhaar and mobile phones,” he added. Referring to the report, Mukherjee said digital literacy among women is low. “The proportion of Bhamashah head of household who cannot read or write SMS or operate the cellphone is 80 per cent,” he said.
Also, the overwhelming majority of mobile phones are owned by men, he noted. “This is important because it is now the major interface of the beneficiary with the new digital governance architecture,” he said. Out of the total 633 surveyed households, 81.5 per cent of the households (579) had received their Bhamashah family card. Seventy three per cent of the households rated the Bhamashah enrolment process ‘easy or very easy’ with only five percent rating it as ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.