Data can promote social welfare, empower you

In News:

  • The Economic Survey 2018-19 pitched for setting up a central welfare database of citizens by merging different data maintained by separate Ministries and departments.
  • It suggested that this data can be tapped for enhancing ease of living for citizens, particularly the poor.
  • The Survey also recommends that digital technology and the JAM troika i.e. Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile be expanded to other welfare schemes.


News Summary

  • The government holds a rich repository of administrative, survey, institutional and transactions data about citizens, but these data were scattered across numerous government bodies.
  • The Survey suggested inclusion of :
    • administrative data such as birth and death records, pensions, tax records, marriage records;
    • survey data such as census data, national sample survey data;
    • transactions data such as e-national agriculture market data, UPI data,
    • institutional data and public hospital data on patients.
  • The linking” of datasets, will be primarily done through the seeding of an Aadhaar number across databases such as PAN database, bank accounts and mobile numbers.
  • However, the linking is “one-way.” For example, banks can use the tokenised Aadhaar number to combine duplicate records and weed out benami accounts, but this does not mean that the UIDAI or government can read the bank account information or other data related to the individual.
  • Merging these distinct datasets would generate multiple benefits with the applications being limitless.


Possible benefits of linking datasets:

  • Enhance ease of living for citizens
  • Enable truly evidence-based policy
  • Improve targeting in welfare schemes
  • Uncover unmet needs
  • Integrate fragmented markets
  • Bring greater accountability in public services
  • Generate greater citizen participation in governance


Using digital technology and JAM troika

  • Before Direct benefit transfer scheme, less than 27% of wage payments were generated within 15 days. However, after the Direct benefit transfer scheme(by 2018-19) more than 90% of wage payments were generated within 15 days.
  • Payment delays drive away farmers in genuine distress, while others not in distress take the benefits.
  • Before the implementation of Aadhar Linked Payments (ALP), the rural poor treated MGNREGS as an option to earn additional income during good times rather than a shock absorber during bad times. This actually defeated the purpose of the programme.
  • Post implementation of ALP, there is a reversal of trend, wherein an increase in demand for work under MGNREGS is observed in drought-affected areas.
  • Demand for work under MGNREGS may be used to develop a real-time indicator of distress at the granular district or panchayat level.
  • By correlating information on MGNREGS demand with other data, a dashboard tool can be used to signal local distress and enable policymakers to alleviate it in a timely manner.


Way ahead:

  • Other welfare schemes implement the lessons learnt from Aadhaar linkages in MGNREGS.
  • Scholarships, pensions, and subsidies for food, kerosene, and gas cylinders should be next in line to implement Aadhaar-based payments.

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