The new system of disbursing fertiliser subsidy to companies only after actual sales to farmers registered on point-of-sale (PoS) machines with retailers seems to working well, going by the findings of a nationwide study commissioned by NITI Aayog.
80.3% of fertiliser sale transactions during the last kharif season (July-September 2018) were attempted through Aadhaar-based biometric authentication of farmers. In 99.4 % of these cases, authentication was successful, according to the study covering 11,281 farmers and 1,182 retailers across 18 states. “Only in the balance 20%, where farmers did not provide their Aadhaar details or the PoS machines were non-functional, did retailers resort to manual transactions or adjustment. The latter would entail making sales to multiple farmers using a single Aadhaar authentication,” said Mitul Thapliyal, Partner at MicroSave Consulting, which conducted the study.
Under the system of post-sale subsidy disbursal — as opposed to companies being paid on their fertiliser material reaching an approved district railhead point or godown — every transaction, along with the farmer’s details, is to be captured on a PoS machine linked to a central server.
“We had done studies earlier under pilot projects limited to two districts in September 2016, six in January 2017 and 14 in July-September 2017. This time’s study was for a full-scale national rollout,” noted Thapliyal.
Another indicator of success was a reduction in transaction time. The average time — from the farmer furnishing his/her Aadhaar number to getting a printed receipt against the transaction — was 3-4 minutes in the latest national study, as against 9-10 minutes for the first pilot of September 2016.
“It is mainly a result of the fertiliser department’s server capacity going up and enabling more number of transactions. If a retailer is open for 10 hours daily and the average transaction time is 5 minutes, his outlet can service only 120 farmers. But when the transaction time is only 3 minutes, he is now able to sell to 200 farmers,” pointed out Thapliyal.
In the peak kharif sale season, though, the retailer may have to handle 400-500 farmers daily. “In those cases, more manual transactions and adjustments are bound to take place. The retailers can invest in additional POS machines, but these cost Rs 20,000-25,000 each and you also have to employ extra persons,” added Thapliyal.
There are an estimated 2.2 lakh fertiliser retailers in India.