Watch Jharkhand. It is the testing ground for two pilot projects that challenge the historical templates for delivery of welfare services and banking services. Jharkhand is trying to use technology to retool the delivery of these services so that every citizen in the state can access them – easily, efficiently and corruption-free . What it is doing has a bearing on the rest of India. In the next year or so, Jharkhand will start throwing up answers on whether it is a good idea to convert India’s welfare programmes – that deliver benefits of about 3,00,000 crore on paper, but sizeably less in real – into cash transfers.
Over the same period, the state will also throw up answers on whether its new model of rural banking can address the last-mile problem better than existing models. The state has found an ally in the Unique Identification Authority of India, the government body headed by Nandan Nilekani that is creating the backbone and the architecture to deliver welfare benefits. The UIDAI number two, Ram Sewak Sharma, is from the Jharkhand IAS cadre. The two stories that follow explain what Jharkhand and UIDAI are doing, and why the rest of India should be interested.
a couple of weeks ago, i went to jharkhand to take a look at the state’s plan to use aadhaar to pay nrega wages. this is the first large scale test for the aadhaar proposition of biometric verification and electronic benefits transfers.
a high stakes pilot, essentially. and so, a report from jharkhand on the rollout, an explanation on what makes them critical, the challenges before the pilots, and the parameters which could be used to decide success/failure of the rollout.
along the way, i also discovered that the state govt is planning to use its common service centres as extension counters for banks — it is a part of this drive to overhaul nrega’s payment structure in the state. it is an interesting idea which seems to be significantly better than the banking correspondent model everyone seems to be so excited about.
see both stories, here.