Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Notwithstanding Odisha Government’s all out emphasis on the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to implement 5T in governance, and when DBT has proved as the pillar of prime support for the poor and vulnerable during the pandemic time in the country, Odisha couldn’t make it into the top-10 states in the DBT index-2019 prepared by country’s central bank – the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

As per the DBT score released by RBI, Odisha with a score of over 65 in the DBT index finished 12th in the country. The index is led by Haryana. However, State’s score is higher than the national average of around 56.

Why DBT Is An Imperative During Pandemic Time?

The world, including India, had for the first time has woken up to the imperatives, and also the perils, of the lockdown. In such a total shutdown scenario, digital transactions have only kept the wheels of lifeline and economy going. In states like Odisha, where population of vulnerable and poor is high, the DBT was the only succour.

“In COVID-19 times, owing to social distancing norms, scaling up public work programmes became challenging, and consequently digital financial transfers have emerged as the most viable public intervention throughout the world. In India, several state governments have adopted large-scale, technology-enabled, real-time financial support through the DBT platform in order to provide immediate relief to vulnerable sections of the population like small farmers, migrant labour, women and senior citizens,” observed RBI report on why DBT is important during pandemic times.

Where Odisha Stands?  

The RBI taking into account the indices like Aadhar saturation, data reporting, savings-expenditure ratio and DBT per capita, has conceptualised the DBT index.

A glance at the details reveals that Odisha has around 11.5 bank branches per lakh population, and the aadhar saturation is below 95 per cent. While in bank branches, the State performance is at par with national average, in aadhar saturation, Odisha score is higher than national average.

Similarly coming on to teledensity and internet speed, RBI data shows while Odisha score high in internet speed, it fares below the national average in teledensity (penetration of mobile phones).

As per RBI, the internet speed in Odisha is more than 12 Mbps, highest in country is MP with over 16mbps, but with a teledensity of around 78 per cent, the State fared far lower than the national average of over 87 per cent.

The summary here is digital infrastructure (bank, aadhar and internet speed) in Odisha is not poor. But the purchasing power of people (low mobile penetration) is lower. Only BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states have poor mobile penetration than Odisha.

But when it comes to per capita direct benefit transfer (up to Oct this year), Odisha was found languishing at 12th, far below BIMARU states like Uttar Pradesh, MP and Bihar. The per capita DBT transfer in Odisha has been estimated at a paltry Rs 343. Goa topped the chart with a per capita DBT of Rs 4,705.

Direct Benefit Transfer

RBI says, “Goa leads with a per capita DBT of Rs 4,705. Through DBT platform, the State has provided immediate relief to vulnerable sections of the population like small farmers, migrant labour, women and senior citizens.”

“The DBT basket of Odisha is not as wide as like Goa, which means Odisha government has not incorporated DBT for all its welfare schemes. For which, Odisha has a far lower per capita DBT transfer than Goa,” explained Research Officer, RBI Bhubaneswar.

Digital Retail Transactions in Odisha

As per RBI report, Odisha saw a drop in immediate payment service, but UPI (Bhim) transaction volume in Odisha had posted a 50 per cent rise during the first quarter of 2020-21 vis-a-vis the same period of 2019-20.

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