The success rate of Aadhaar authentication for direct benefit transfer (DBT) of fertiliser subsidy has improved from 41 per cent to 99 per cent between 2016 and 2018, the findings of a recently concluded study suggest. The transaction time has also reduced from an average 10 minutes to 4 minutes during the period, it says. However, issues related to biometric failure, connectivity and server downtime continue with 78.2 per cent of the authentication failure being fingerprint mismatch even today.
The survey covered 11,218 farmers and 1182 retailers across 54 districts and 18 states of the country.
The study found that the fertiliser retailers are yet to shift completely to authentication-based subsidy disbursal. While 80.3 per cent of transactions were Aadhaar-authenticated (of which 99 per cent were successful), manual transactions continued for the rest of 12.8 per cent. Delay in receiving dispatch ID and challenges in updating PoS software was found to be one of the major reasons for adjusted (manual) transactions.
One of recommendations of the study was to improve the quality of Point of Sale (PoS) machines as analogics devices deployed in several outlets are of poor quality resulting in short battery life, frequent shut downs and compatibility limited to 2G SIM card. It also found that retailers flout the rules to increase profitability during lean season by transferring stock to retailers where demand is high. Since non-recognition of fingerprint is a problem, the study recommended the supply of gloves to farmers along with the fertiliser bags. "Farmers use bare hands to broadcast fertiliser in their fields. This deteriorates their fingerprint impressions and also impact skin adversely," it observed.
Another interesting observation was that despite authentication process turning digital, farmers and retailers preferred cash transactions to digital transactions. While 57 per cent of the respondents accepted they might go digital in future, 93.5 per cent of the current transactions were in cash.
Commissioned by government think tank NITI Aayog to Lucknow-based Microsave Consulting (MSC), the study was meant to identify issues and challenges pertaining to the implementation of DBT at the national level and suggest solutions. The current engagement was the fourth round of the study-the first one was in September, 2016 in two districts in Andhra Pradesh, where the pilot project was launched. The second one was in January 2017 in six districts across five states, where the pilot project was expanded. The third round lasted between July and September 2017 in 14 pilot districts across 11 states.
Under DBT, fertiliser companies are paid subsidy only after retailers have sold fertilisers to farmers or buyers through successful Aadhaar authentication via PoS machines.