The Board of Directors of the World Bank today approved a $125 million loan to the government of West Bengal to support the state’s efforts to help poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to focus on building the capacity of state governments to provide inclusive and equitable social protection in times of crisis. The state of West Bengal in eastern India runs more than 400 programs that provide social assistance, care services and jobs. Most of these services are offered through an umbrella platform called Jai Bangla. The West Bengal State Capacity Building Operation for Inclusive Social Protection will support these state-level interventions, with particular focus on vulnerable groups such as women, tribal and caste households. listed and the elderly, as well as households in coastal disaster-prone areas of the state. Regions.
A recent survey found that while food and in-kind transfers reach most poor and vulnerable households in West Bengal, cash transfer coverage is low. Access to social pensions for the elderly, widows and people with disabilities, in particular, is also 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 registry consolidated social.
“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 its vulnerable citizens.
West Bengal faces challenges related to manual data entry, inconsistent beneficiary data across departments, and lack of data storage and exchange protocols. The operation will help digitize the state’s unified distribution system, the Jai Bangla platform, to help consolidate disparate social assistance programs and accelerate the distribution of social pensions to vulnerable and poor households.
The project will also support the creation of a teleconsultation network for social care services, complemented by a cadre of caseworkers who can help households with advice on elderly care and links to services. and health facilities.
It will also create an institutional platform to improve the coordination and effectiveness of government interventions to address the low participation of women in the labor force.
“Lack of coordination between departments leads to duplication of effort in service delivery. The project will contribute to the overall improvement of the system, helping to significantly improve the ability of the state government to more quickly identify beneficiaries, track expenditures, and plan and monitor benefit delivery for vulnerable people,” said Shrayana Bhattacharya, Qaiser M. Khan and Ambrish Shahi, World Bank team leaders for the project.