Has the Indian government actually created an efficient programme to deliver welfare aid to those most in need? Or is it engaged in a programme that will be totally ineffective as the welfare system it is supposed to replace?
At the centre of these questions is a new programme to distribute billions of dollars directly to its poor, aiming to cut out the middlemen who have plagued the previous welfare distribution system.
Under the old method, cash was given to agents for dispersal — but the scheme was rampant with corruption where unscrupulous agents withheld a portion of payments or, simply invented case files to pocket the money themselves. Clearly it didn’t work, didn’t ease the burden faced by millions across India, and enriched those who had the link and cronies to become agents.
Under the new scheme, recipients will get the money delivered directly into their bank accounts. Biometric data will be required with the fingerprints or retina scans making the welfare system supposedly more secure. The problem with the new scheme is that those most in need live in villages where electricity is a luxury and banks are not readily available.
Sadly, some 19 million Indians require welfare and the new system is being rolled out in 20 of 640 districts first. Whatever the distribution scheme used, welfare itself is not the answer. Providing better living standards, education and job opportunity — and electricity and clean water — is the way forward.