The deadline for the national launch of direct benefit transfers for fertiliser subsidies has been set as January 1, 2018, by the Prime Minister’s Office. This despite a request from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers until April 1 to see for any technical problems and the scarcity of point-of-sale (PoS) machines, reported the Indian Express. The Cabinet Secretariat rolled out this date last month to join the subsidy payout with the centre’s plan to align the financial year with the calendar year, sources told the paper. According to them, this launch may provide five months for the government to handle any glitches before large purchases in June. By June 30 this year, the PoS services were to be set up across India and by October 1 the DBT was planned to take off. But the government cited unavailability of the PoS machines on June 30 and extended the timeline to July 31. A pilot project was being tested at 14 districts where these machines faced many glitches. This moved the national launch to April 1, 2018, to give enough time for the centre to improve the system.
According to the Ministry, the scale is too large with 14 crore farmers purchasing fertilisers five times a day. This would require a better integration of the Integrated Fertilizer Monitoring System (iFMS) with the PoS devices to handle a whopping 70 crore transactions every year. Under DBT, the subsidy would be provided after the actual sales of the fertilisers where the farmers’ name and Aadhaar based biometric details would be transferred to a central system.
Presently, the subsidy is paid at railhead points or registered godowns to fertiliser companies. The DBT system for fertilisers would be similar to the post-sale disbursal model of LPG cylinders, according to the Indian Express. Getting the buyers’ information at the time of sales of fertilisers would remove ingenuine farmers. The details of the persons buying and the quantity would make rolling out subsidies easier and would help in organising fertilisers required by these authentic farmers.