The Bank said a recent survey found that while food and in-kind transfers reached most poor and vulnerable households in Bengal, cash transfer coverage was low. Access to social pensions for the elderly, widows and the disabled, in particular, was low due to cumbersome application processes and a lack of automated systems for verifying applications and eligibility.
“Over the next four years, the operation will help strengthen the state’s capacity to expand coverage and access to social assistance and provide cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable through a consolidated social register,” the World Bank said in a statement posted on its website.
The Bengal government, in a statement, said CM Mamata Banerjee’s foresight and efforts to identify the problems of weaker sections and resolve them had paid huge dividends. The “Duare Sarkar” program has been able to ensure improved and faster identification of beneficiaries, according to the statement, and added that home-based service delivery and monitoring of benefit delivery will be boosted under the program. program supported by the World Bank.
World Bank assistance will also help digitize the state’s unified distribution system, the Jai Bangla platform, to help consolidate disparate social assistance programs and speed up the distribution of social pensions.
It will support the creation of a teleconsultation network for social services, complemented by a cadre of workers who can guide households. It will also address the issue of the low participation of women in the state workforce.
“Lack of coordination between departments leads to duplication of efforts in service delivery. The project will contribute to the overall improvement of the system, helping to significantly improve the capacity of the state government to identify beneficiaries faster , track expenditures, and plan and monitor benefit delivery for the vulnerable,” said Shrayana Bhattacharya, Qaiser M Khan and Ambrish Shahi, World Bank team leaders for the project.
“With its rapidly growing urban population and pockets of urban poor, West Bengal has recognized the need to move from a fragmented and scheme-based social protection system to the provision of an integrated basket of benefits and services protection to its most vulnerable citizens,” said Junaid Ahmad, Country Director of the World Bank in India. “The project will support and build the capacity of the state in this area to ensure that it can provide social protection services – in cash and in kind – to all of its vulnerable citizens.”