If the findings of a Niti Aayog-commissioned study is any indication, the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for fertilisers is gaining traction among stakeholders.
A national study carried out by MicroSave Consulting found out that 75 per cent of farmer respondents and 59 per cent of retailers surveyed preferred the DBT-F system over the previous manual system of fertiliser distribution as it has improved supply while easing record-keeping and paperwork.
The study focussed on examining the field implementation of DBT-F closely, evaluating system efficiency, identifying challenges, and providing actionable solutions.
The study also found out that the average time taken for a transaction through Point of Sale (PoS) devices improved from four to five minutes in the third round of the evaluation to three to four minutes in the current fourth round. Increased server capacity due to deployment of new servers was found to be the reason for improvement in the transaction time.
The agency had conducted four rounds of evaluation on the request of the NITI Aayog and the Department of Fertilisers (DoF) in the past. The first three rounds happened during the pilot rollout of DBT-F between 2016 and 2018. The current round was taken out after the national rollout of the programme.
The respondents included 1,182 retailers and 11,281 farmers across 18 states and 54 districts in the country. The agency also undertook intensive qualitative interviews with other stakeholders including district government officials (District Agriculture Officers and Block Agriculture Officers), fertiliser company representatives (Lead Fertiliser Suppliers and others), state coordinators, and district consultants for a holistic view to arrive at conclusions.
"Farmers prefer the new system because it has improved the availability of fertiliser and reduced instances of overcharging. The DBT-F platform now allows the government to think about the next set of reforms to promote balanced use of fertiliser and helps it to make the fertiliser distribution process more efficient," Mitul Thapliyal, Partner and Leader-Government and Social Impact, MicroSave says.
The survey found that the instances of manual sales without Aadhar card and "adjusted" transactions fell from 21 per cent in the third round of evaluation to 13 per cent in the current round. Adjusted transactions are those that retailers often undertake without verifying the farmers' credentials only to update their records later. The retailers adjusted transactions when a farmer's Aadhar was not available at the time of fertiliser purchase or in cases where the Aadhar authentication failed. Moreover, retailers often did not ask farmers for their Aadhar number to purchase fertiliser and simply sold it by manually adjusting the transactions later. The primary reason for this was to minimise transaction time during peak sale periods. Among Aadhar-authenticated transactions, 86.6 per cent were successful on the first attempt. Overall, successful Aadhar authentication in three attempts increased to 99 per cent in the current round from 97 per cent in the third round of evaluation.
The survey report points out that of the total retailers surveyed, 90 per cent had received at least two training sessions.
MicroSave Consulting is a boutique consulting firm that specialises in the areas of financial, social, and economic inclusion.