bad for aadhaar, good for cash transfers?

What is the future of one of India’s most high profile government programmes after Monday’s Supreme Court interim ruling on Aadhaar? And is there a collateral damage on election-facing UPA’s ambitious welfare schemes? The answers are starkly different. Aadhaar, unless the Supreme Court changes its ruling in the final judgement, has received a body blow. […]

the promises and perils of using databases for welfare delivery

Imagine a database that contains the following data about your family. Household level information like address, caste, asset ownership, the kind of house you live in, when you came to the city/village where you now stay, ration card number, etc. And individual level information about including names, ages, educational background, occupation, incomes, bank accounts, existing […]

enter, contingent liability

The government’s plan to make the Aadhaar number the centrepiece of the cash-transfer system is now facing opposition from a new quarter: banks. Several banks, led by State Bank of India, have expressed reservation against jettisoning their current systems in favour of the platform created by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues […]

india’s payments dilemma. continued.

The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) could recommend that the Reserve Bank of India should grant limited purpose bank licences to telecom firms and other industries in order to promote financial inclusion. A working group led by Morgan Stanley India chairman PJ Nayak, tasked by the Commission to propose changes to the country’s payment […]

in which upa races towards its india shining moment

D-day is 18 days away. On January 1, the Congress-led UPA government will start migrating the delivery of welfare services to a new architecture: straight into an individual’s bank account, verified by a unique identification (UID) number called Aadhaar. It’s a soft launch. The first of the three stages will unravel in 43 districts where […]

The End of the Silly Common Banking Correspondent Model?

since may this year, i have been tracking a plan from the department of financial services to split india into 20 clusters, and to appoint a common banking correspondent company for all public sector banks operating in each cluster. it is a textbook case of policy adventurism. the department, a part of the finance ministry, […]

In which the Banking Correspondent Auctions finally go below the psychological zero percent margin mark…

for a while now, i have been reporting on the never-ending happiness that is the finance ministry’s “one cluster, one BC” model — essentially, to split india into 20 clusters and then to have one common banking correspondent company for all public sector banks operating in each cluster. this company would then be the only […]

Another update on the banking correspondent auctions

A newly-formed association of banking correspondent (BC) companies has criticised the finance ministry’s ongoing plan to split India into 20 clusters, and to appoint a common BC company for all public sector banks operating in each cluster. In a white paper released on Thursday night, the Business Correspondent Network Managers (BCNM) Forum, a grouping of […]

On the banking correspondent auctions…

for some time now, ET has been reporting on a worrying move by the philosopher kings in the department of financial services (the offshoot of the finance ministry tasked with managing the banking sector) to overhaul the banking correspondent (BC) model. well, the auctions to appoint common BCs for all public sector banks in a […]

of banks, state firmans, bids and outcomes. part two: jharkhand

about a month ago, i wrote about a controversial plan by the finance ministry to split the country into 20 clusters, and to appoint a common banking correspondent company for all public sector banks in each. to understand the attendant implications, please click here. yesterday, the second tender in this series was awarded. it went […]

Ctrl:Alt:Del

Today’s Economic Times carries this story about an unexpectedly large change that is sweeping across the Bank-BC model. The Department of Financial Services, the part of the Finance Ministry which looks after the banking sector, has decided to split the country into 20 clusters and get all public sector banks in that region to work […]

a friend turned foe?

Anyone watching the telecast of the 2012-13 budget would have concluded that the Finance Ministry was solidly backing Nandan Nilekani’s Unique Identification Authority of India. The budget speech mentioned Nilekani by name. It mentioned the UID programme ten-odd times. And spoke about how Aadhaar would be used to overhaul existing subsidy regimes in India — […]

fazed out. india’s fertiliser ministry and phase two in fert cash transfers

and now, another update on how india’s journey towards fertiliser cash transfers is unfolding. see it here. some thoughts on this, though. this january, ET had reported that companies, wholesalers and retailers alike were nervous about the fertiliser ministry’s plans to reroute subsidy from companies to retailers. You can read about that, with context and […]

haryana’s tryst with e-payments

Haryana is one of the first states in India to move towards e-payments of welfare programmes. Early last year, it began stopped disbursing its social sector pensions through sarpanches, and began using banks and banking correspondents instead. However, after six or so months, the state government called off the project and went back to the […]

Some questions about the Banking Correspondent model

These are the heydays for the banking-correspondent (BC) model. Banks want to use them to extend banking into villages. The government wants to use them to deliver welfare payments. In this followup to the financial inclusion story late last month, i argue that this confidence being reposed in the BC model is a tad premature.

On India’s Gambit to Get Everyone a Bank Account

First, the good news. Over the past few years, India has been moving rather aggressively towards bringing all Indians under the banking fold. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that 480 million Indians, about 96 million households, did not have access to banking as recently as 4/5 years ago. Well, since then, after some pushing […]

UID or NPR? NPR or UID?

The government’s indecision on which of its two arms should capture the biometrics of all 1.2 billion Indians is causing collateral damage. Frustrated by the issue not being resolved quickly and difficulties in the business, Wipro, one of the largest enrolment agencies empanelled with the Unique Identification Authority of India, is considering quitting the business. It’s […]

or why 2012 could be a massively disruptive year for farmers and the fertiliser industry

Vijay Thakur (name changed) is a worried man. This fertiliser wholesaler in Karnal, Haryana, buys subsidised fertiliser from companies and sells it to retailers in this agricultural district about 120 km north of Delhi. It is a steady, if not hugely profitable, business. Thakur fears that might change this year. from the latest instalment on […]

of india, her increasingly fragile agricultural soils and an indifferent fertiliser ministry

in the middle of this year, i wrote about india’s weakening agricultural soils. According to “Degraded and Waste Lands of India” , a report by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Academy for Agricultural Sciences, about 141 million hectares of our total geographical area of about 328.2 million hectares is under […]

What I talk about when I talk about Jharkhand

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 […]

Why the Banking Correspondent companies are unhappy with the UIDAI

Today’s ET carries this story about the ongoing tussle between the UIDAI, the body tasked with developing the architecture for delivering cash transfers, and the banking correspondent companies, which will have to do a part of the actual delivery. Broadly, the UIDAI thinks villagers should be able to access their bank account through any BC […]

india’s inchoate journey towards cash transfers

and, at long last, a good combative story. A World Bank study released earlier this year enumerated the rot in Indian welfare programmes. About 91% of subsidised grain meant for the poor in Bihar never reached them. Only 32-51 % of the pensions for the elderly, destitute, widows and the disabled reached them. These are holes […]

Cash Trance

In his speech this year, the Indian finance minister announced that India would deliver the fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers from next year onwards. Shortly after the budget, the government’s National Informatics Centre insisted that it be allowed to develop the necessary software. A small update from the trenches here. This software, sources in the […]

Cash Transfers + Fertiliser Subsidy + Impatience = ???

And this is the second story in the fertiliser package that the Economic Times published. The ministry of fertilisers is planning to migrate to cash transfers in three phases. In the first phase, to be completed by December, it will extend its fertiliser management software beyond the 30,000 fertiliser warehouses to 230,000 licenced retailers. In […]