India’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic included several measures, including a nationwide lockdown, a sustained information campaign, and PMGKY—a major social protection package. This paper reports on the implementation of PMGKY based on a household survey. At its outset, PMGKY built on previous pro-people digital investments, including several established programs and direct benefit transfer to financial accounts. PMGKY successfully delivered benefits, including food rations, to millions of households.

Meanwhile, people did not always realize that they had received payments into their accounts despite the information campaign. At the same time, many found it challenging to reach cash-out points because of the disruptions related to the pandemic. These factors constrained the immediate realization of benefits. Performance was broadly uniform across different groups of recipients, with few significant systematic differences in the receipt of benefits reported by gender, urban/rural location, and category of ration card. The study also highlights the critical need to increase the spread of smartphones across the population.

The Center for Global Development first published this paper on 22nd July, 2021.

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