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Exclusion from PM-KISAN: Data Entry Error Leads to Failure of Cash Transfer

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Abstract

Ramesh is a resident of Chandkhurai block in Raipur district, Chhattisgarh. He is one of many farmers in his village identified as eligible[1] under the PM-KISAN scheme. Despite being registered under the scheme since February 2019, he is yet to receive a single instalment into his bank account.[2] Therefore, as part of our ongoing research on DBT exclusion,[3] our project team interviewed Ramesh at his residence in March 2021. During the visit, the team used the PM-KISAN online portal to check the status of his instalments. While the portal allows citizens to check their registration and payment status, many farmers unfamiliar with navigating digitised interfaces are unable to do so. Ramesh, assisted by the team from Haqdarshak, was able to access his details online. He told us that although aware of the provision, he had never attempted to check his status. The portal, in March 2021 (the month of the interview), showed that Ramesh’s multiple tranches had been rejected, and the reason for rejection was stated as “Rejected by Bank, Account number does not exist in Bank”. With this new piece of information, the project team asked Ramesh if he could show his bank passbook to ascertain the exact nature of the error. A quick inspection of the bank passbook by our team revealed that the last four digits of his Customer ID had been mistaken for the last four digits of his bank account number, possibly during the data entry stage at the time of enrolment. His online record on the scheme portal, therefore, showed the last digits of his Customer ID under the ‘bank account number’ field. This data entry error is what led to the rejection of the payment file, with the bank returning the error message to the Public Financial Management System (PFMS)[4] that the account number does not exist.  

It was only after the reason for the failed payment was explained to Ramesh by our team, that he approached the local gram sevak (agriculture) to resolve the data-entry error and resubmit his bank account details in April 2021. This underscores the importance of communicating simple information that can be easily used by beneficiaries in an otherwise opaque process of grievance redressal. While the error now seems to have been rectified at the backend (the PFMS records indicate that the correction was accepted on 17th May 2021), the instalments are yet to be released by the government. It must be noted that although the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has stated that no beneficiary will lose the benefit of any instalment due to such procedural delays, in practice, farmers rarely get paid the arrears they have missed due to such errors. In Ramesh’s case, the minor data-entry error, that went uncorrected for more than two years, has deprived Ramesh of a total of 8 instalments of Rs. 2,000 each, resulting in a total foregone benefit of Rs. 16,000.

While this case of exclusion is primarily due to delays in backend processing and error correction, our interactions with Ramesh also made it clear that the initial enrolment process had not been straightforward either. Despite possessing an Aadhaar card, a ration card, and a (mobile and Aadhaar number seeded) bank account, his enrolment into PM-KISAN was challenging. He was required to visit the patwari[5]and the local Common Service Centre (CSC) at least five times to get his application processed. Both enrolment sites delayed the submission of his application, and he had to forego his daily wages in the process. He told us he spent a total of Rs. 500 in the entire application process.

As per scheme rules, states/UTs are advised to send SMS notifications to beneficiaries for communicating the application status and sanction/transfer of benefit. However, in this case, Ramesh did not receive any status update regarding his registration or even a confirmation message after application submission. The communication of the application status as well as of the cash transfer could have saved him multiple visits and requests to get his entitlement processed. A simple scan of the beneficiary record on the PM Kisan website revealed the issue causing the delay in payment of entitlements. However, for a farmer to access this information, they would have had to visit the nearby internet cafe, CSC centre, or the patwari. Moreover, as stated earlier, the beneficiary was only made cognizant of the issue with his registration when the Haqdarshak helped him check his beneficiary status. This indicates how lack of information remains a barrier even for schemes as seemingly transparent as PM Kisan. Without accessible channels of information about registration and payment status’, even the most comprehensive income support schemes fail to constitute good social protection.

Lastly, cases such as these point towards a recurring theme across the digital payments landscape. The transition from paper-based systems to digital systems for payment and information transmission has not guaranteed an error-free delivery pipeline. Human errors (such as keying in wrong beneficiary details into a computer during the enrolment phase) can still creep into the system and cause exclusion. Acknowledging this can take us a step further in understanding that digitising welfare delivery chains cannot act as a panacea for all types of implementation problems in the last-mile.

This case study further points to the need for assistance-based mechanisms in the last-mile, especially in the face of new complications arising from adopting technology in welfare delivery systems.

The authors would like to thank the Chhattisgarh team at Haqdarshak for facilitating the survey and curating detailed information about citizens excluded from social protection cash transfers.


[1] According to his benefit status on PM Kisan web portal, he was successfully registered into the scheme after going through a set of initial verification checks on the Public Financial Management System.

[2] As of 24 May 2021. This status is subject to change as the beneficiary has been attempting to resolve the data-entry error, which may result in successful payment processing.

[3]https://dvararesearch.com/social-protection-initiative/exclusion-from-social-protection-cash-transfers-citizen-challenges-and-administerial-perspectives/

[4] As per the DBT Standard Operating Procedure, the banks are required to verify the beneficiary’s bank account details that have been uploaded onto the PFMS and respond back to it, either confirming or rejecting the veracity of the information.

[5] A patwari is the lowest state functionary in the Revenue Collection System and is tasked with maintaining land records and tax collection.

Cite this item

APA

Gupta, A., Nambiar, A., & Narayan, A. (2021). Exclusion from PM-KISAN: Data Entry Error Leads to Failure of Cash Transfer . Retrieved from Dvara Research Blog.

MLA

Gupta, Aarushi, Anjali Nambiar and Aishwarya Narayan. “Exclusion from PM-KISAN: Data Entry Error Leads to Failure of Cash Transfer .” 2021. Dvara Research Blog.

Chicago

Gupta, Aarushi, Anjali Nambiar, and Aishwarya Narayan. 2021. “Exclusion from PM-KISAN: Data Entry Error Leads to Failure of Cash Transfer .” Dvara Research Blog.

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