Direct income support (DIS) is can be solution to the structural challenges facing farmers. Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu, Odisha’s KALIA scheme and Centre’s PM-KISAN are important examples of DIS schemes.
Odisha’s KALIA scheme offers some important lessons for DIS schemes everywhere. Odisha used a three-step framework, called “Unification-Verification-Exclusion”, to identify beneficiaries.
- Unification- The first step involved unifying state databases with “green forms” which were essentially applications from farmers who wanted to opt in. Together, this led to the creation of a list of 1.2 crore applicants.
- The second step involved verification of information through databases like the Socio-Economic Caste Census, National Food Security Act and other databases; de-duplication through Aadhaar; and bank account verification through bank databases.
- The third step involved excluding ineligible applicants like government employees, tax payers, large farmers, and those that voluntarily opted out.
The use of technology and non-farm databases also meant that KALIA could include sharecroppers, tenant and landless farmers as beneficiaries, which is a significant step towards inclusive agricultural policy-making. Also, government explicitly provides for a telephone-based grievance redressal system that aids beneficiaries, and allows the state government to track the performance of the scheme.
Have these efforts borne fruit?
- Preliminary results from a World Bank evaluation suggest that KALIA beneficiaries are less likely to take out crop loans.
- KALIA has now laid the foundation for a state-wide farmer database with 100 per cent Aadhaar, mobile number and financial address seeding.
- The Telangana government undertook a state-wide land records updation drive (LRUP) prior to rolling out the RBS.
- The RBS is a relatively simple scheme to administer because it is unconditional and relies on pre-existing land records infrastructure.
- Beneficiaries are not required to pro-actively register themselves for availing the benefit nor do they have to show any proof. This significantly reduced the costs and resources required for the administration of the RBS. More importantly, it increased the overall satisfaction among the beneficiaries as it reduced their touch-points with the administration. This has led to relatively higher satisfaction levels with the RBS, as compared to the PM-Kisan scheme, which has a series of exclusions.
To conclude, while DIS Schemes considerably simplify the process of accessing welfare benefits, the success of the scheme will depend on the simplicity of design, the identification process and grievance redressal mechanism.