Is Jan Dhan money actually reaching people?

A rapid assessment survey highlights last-mile glitches in the distribution of government cash transfers during the lockdown.

Soon after the nationwide lockdown was enforced due to COVID-19, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that all account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) (also known as Jan Dhan account, or JD account) would receive cash transfers of INR 500 every month, for three months. It was reported that in April, more than 20 crore accounts had received the transfer. This month, the disbursal for the second instalment started on May 4th and will be staggered over five days to avoid overcrowding at banks.

However, there have also been reports of problems in accessing the money, especially in remote areas. To get more clarity about the situation on the ground regarding cash transfers to JD accounts and withdrawal by account holders, the Rapid Community Response to COVID-19 (RCRC) coalition conducted a rapid assessment survey.

Initially piloted by Ibtada in Alwar, Rajasthan, the survey was expanded to 50 districts across eight states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan), with a total of 10,992 women JD account holders. The social composition of the respondents was as follows:

Source: Rapid Community Response to COVID-19

Here are the highlights from the survey:

Most Jan Dhan accounts have received the cash transfer

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents had an active JD account, five percent did not, and the remaining were unaware of the status of their JD accounts. Notably, even in some remote parts of the country, such as in the tribal districts of Odisha, 90 percent of the JD accounts were operational. Of the eight states surveyed, Maharashtra had the least proportion of active accounts, at about 50 percent.

Of those who had active JD accounts, 66 percent said they had received the cash transfer of INR 500 in their accounts.

Source: Rapid Community Response to COVID-19

The proportion of respondents who received the transfer was highest in Odisha and Gujarat, and lowest in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Most people were informed of the credit to their accounts via mobile phones

Forty-one percent of the respondents said that they knew they had received the cash transfer in their account through an SMS on their phones. Other prominent ways that the respondents got this information was through e-Mitras, visits to e-service centres, and visits to banks.

Source: Rapid Community Response to COVID-19

Responses to this question saw significant disparities among the eight states. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, more than 50 percent of the respondents received this information from banking correspondents, whereas in Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, the proportion of people getting this information by visiting their banks was higher than the overall average.