A study conducted by SEWA Delhi on whether poor people in the Capital want to change from Public Distribution System to cash transfers has revealed that a majority of about 60 per cent was agreeable to the idea. But the 40 per cent who opposed it, did so very strongly.
The study also found a link between the economic well-being of the respondents and their responses “with the poorest groups strongly opposing cash transfers and the better-off groups supporting it.”
It said “among the poorest group only 46 per cent wanted cash transfers and 41 per cent strongly opposed it. Whereas, within the better-off group 83 per cent wanted cash transfers and only 17 per cent opposed it.”
SEWA Delhi said: “The people who supported the cash transfers did so mainly because they were dissatisfied with the services provided by the ration shops and felt that could spend that money on better and more food, wasting less of their own time and energy.”
As for the main reasons for opposition to the cash transfers, it said there were two important factors. First because women felt that cash would be used for other needs and not spent on food, and second because inflation would soon reduce the value of the cash they received and they would be able to buy less food.
The study was undertaken in August 2009 in three areas – Raghubir Nagar in West Delhi and Rajiv Nagar and Sundar Nagri in East Delhi – as these have a concentration of SEWA members.
A total of 150 ration card holder respondents were selected on a random basis of which 60 had BPL card, 60 APL card and 30 belonged to Antyodaya category. While 62 per cent of respondents were Hindus, more than 37 per cent were from the Muslim community. Though all respondents were women, but the questionnaire included information on every member of the family.
On the basis of the study, SEWA Delhi has proposed that the Delhi Government run the cash benefit system as a pilot project in a few selected areas of Delhi to experiment whether a shift over from a commodities-based benefit system to a cash-based one would increase the well being of poor or not.
“This would not only enable the Government itself to test what would be required to make such a system work, but would also be able to physically demonstrate to the card-holders how such a cash based system would work,” it said.