Digital Cash Transfers for Stranded Migrants: Lessons from Bihar's COVID-19 Assistance Program   [open pdf - 790KB]

From the Document: "On March 24, with little advance notice, India's federal government announced a strict countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019]. Within two days, it also announced a relief package providing cash transfers to women, elderly and farmers, as well as food grains through the Public Distribution System (PDS). In spite of these measures, millions of migrants - mostly urban informal sector workers - made a desperate attempt to return to their villages, often walking several hundred kilometers over many days to get there. The chaotic scenes witnessed during the first week of India's lockdown underscored the precariousness of their livelihoods and highlighted the shortcomings in India's extensive social safety net that caters to nearly 80 percent of its 1.3 billion people. For nearly a decade, India has invested in building a digital infrastructure to transfer social benefits to its citizens directly to their bank accounts. Known as the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) platform, it currently includes 380 schemes run by 52 ministries of the federal government. State governments can use the DBT platform for their own cash transfer schemes as well. India also has a clear strategy in place to enable digital delivery of public services, subsidies and transfers. [...] The COVID-19 lockdown provided a test of whether these investments in digital infrastructure would pay off and help the government deliver relief quickly and efficiently."

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