During as deep and as unprecedented a crisis as the coronavirus pandemic, the best way to help the largest number of people is to put money in their pockets. In most cases, cash allows people to purchase what they want: whether it is food grain, oil, medicine, a recharge on the mobile phone or a railway ticket home. Cash in hand also gives vulnerable people a little more confidence to deal with the many uncertainties of life during a crisis. Yes, in a country as large as India, there will be instances where cash won’t help, but for hundreds of millions of people, money is the single-most important helpful thing today.
And thanks to Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM), India today can process direct cash transfers to hundreds of millions quickly and efficiently.
So, it is disappointing that direct cash transfers do not form a significant part of the Narendra Modi government’s economic package announced last week. Towards the end of March, it re-assigned around Rs 62,000 crore for transfers to women Jan Dhan account holders, farmers and construction workers, but did not widen cash transfers after that. It is unclear if the PM CARES Fund will be used for the purpose either.