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India – Poor prefer subsidized grains over cash dole, finds Jharkhand audit

Close to 97% of the 8,370 respondents surveyed in Jharkhand’s Nagri block said they prefer in-kind food subsidies due to the hardships faced while withdrawing cash and accessing ‘rations’

The survey found that on an average it took a family 13 hours to withdraw the cash deposited in their accounts and purchase grains from designated fair price shops. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

The survey found that on an average it took a family 13 hours to withdraw the cash deposited in their accounts and purchase grains from designated fair price shops. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: An audit by the Jharkhand government of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) of food subsidy has found that most households prefer subsidised grains over cash transfers.

Close to 97% of the 8,370 respondents surveyed in Jharkhand’s Nagri block said they prefer in-kind food subsidies due to the hardships faced while withdrawing cash and accessing “rations” (subsidised food), a social audit by the state’s rural development department showed.

The survey found that on an average it took a family 13 hours to withdraw the cash deposited in their accounts and purchase grains from designated fair price shops.

While just 17% of the 12,126 ration card holders in Nagri received monthly cash subsidies on time, 13% did not receive any money, the survey said.

The pilot was launched by the Union food ministry in Nagri block in October last year.

Under DBT, poor households receive a cash subsidy of Rs31 per kg of rice, which is to be used to purchase the grain from designated shops by paying Re1 per kg.

“The fact that the pilot did not work in a place next to the state capital shows the lack of preparedness… the poor is paying the cost for the gaps in banking infrastructure,” said Jean Dreze, visiting professor of Economics at Ranchi University, arguing for a withdrawal of the pilot cash transfer scheme.

Results of the social audit are significant as no state government has opted for DBT of food subsidy yet; and the centre has implemented the cash transfer scheme in Union territories of Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

Of late, Jharkhand, among the poorest states in India, has been in the news due to alleged starvation deaths. Reports compiled by the Right To Food campaign, Jharkhand, show that from September last year till June, the state witnessed 12 hunger-related deaths. In seven cases, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication failures contributed to starvation.

https://www.livemint.com/Politics/ofql90uh0PYfL5b5G3YjGP/P

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