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Direct cash transfers improved quality of life: Study

Improved food sufficiency and nutrition, less alcohol consumption and greater school attendance are some of the benefits of the direct cash transfer scheme which was implemented on pilot basis in Madhya Pradesh, a study said.

Implemented in 2011 and 2012, the pilot project was designed to test the feasibility and assess the impact of universal unconditional cash grants on households, individuals and communities.

The project was implemented by SEWA Bharat Trust in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

According to their joint study, about 6,000 individuals in nine villages (one tribal and eight non-tribal) in Madhya Pradesh received small unconditional cash grants for 12-18 months.

One of the major improvements noticed was improved food sufficiency. Cash recipients were significantly more likely to have enough income for their food needs than those in the control group of villages.

There was a significant reduction in the proportion of malnourished female children in the villages that received the cash grants, the study said.

The number of livestock owned by cash recipients increased significantly, contributing to improved nutrition as well as savings and insurance, the project study revealed.

On a different note, there was no increase in alcohol intake in the households that received the cash grants. In the tribal village, alcohol intake actually reduced.

Receipt of cash grants was associated with lower incidence of illness, more regular medical treatment and more regular intake of medicines, besides an increase in the school attendance of children in households that received cash grants.

The households under the project were three times more likely to start a new business or production activity than households not covered under it. There were reduced borrowings and increase in savings, the study said.