How Samagra has improved quality of life for millions of people

Repeat submission of documents done away with by implementing Samagra .


The Mission was rolled out in the year 2012- 13 with the state undertaking a massive operation for SAMAGRA. In MP, all the schemes were studied that had similar objectives or had similar kind of benefit patterns. The endeavour was to list and then converge schemes spreadwithin or across departments with common objectives. Thus, four groups of secretaries were formed to list the relevant schemes spread over various departments of the government. The four groups recommended the merger of schemes and mechanism to rationalise them. The list of silos that needed to be broken and merged was humongous.There were as many as 63 schemes for Women alone being implemented by 15 Departments. Once the above exercise was undertaken, it was clear that the convergence and rationalization needed to break silos will be more effective through the creation of a common household database.

How in just four months common household data base was developed with software to enable all vertical different departments to work on same Common Household Database:

The different databases were not talking to each other.To converge these database was a mammoth task and the end result might not have been as desired. So there was a felt need to have a consolidated database of citizens with their general attributes so that all departments could use this consolidated database to link their beneficiaries with this database. After lot of discussion it was decided to have a consolidated household database and the data structure format design was approved by the committee for field testing. This data base was designed to avoid any type of duplication, increase a wider reach,perform beneficiary assessments and also to create transparency. These wereall contributing factors that convinced the government to create the database. This database cut across all the departments and it will be a unique and allinclusive database which can be used by all departments of the GoMP(Government of Madhya Pradesh).However, the primary survey that it did to collect the database as required allowed to customization. The logic behind using the base data was not to reinvent wheel, but to capture the biggest dataset available, survey and to fill gaps by incorporating additional parameters as a one-time exercise. The state has come out with a new multi-utility data base system wherein family details and UID is given more importance than individual UIDs. Within a Family UID, individual UIDs are also created so that there is a link between the two and tracking of all benefits provided by the state government to each family could be done.

Different approaches were deliberated, with one option being going to the field and undertaking a house to house survey, and forming a consolidated database of the village and that of a ward. The other way was to build upon the existing household data available in the census population register and also that in the socio economic caste census. The second option which allowed building upfrom the largest available household database was chosen.SAMAGRA was developed as a strategy and tool to ensure a real time, live population register.

Thus, in order to bring in efficiencies and effectiveness in governance and provide transparency in its operations, SAMAGRA was developed for:

  1. Creation and maintenance of a detailed online, integrated and live database of all families and members of the State and their detailed profile covering various attributes and other information that can be used to create an enabling environment for automation of the processes and confirming the eligibility and entitlement of the family/person for various government schemes.
  2. Database to be accessed in a secured and trusted manner by various authorised offices of each department/agency to update the information about the person/family that is related to their department and also verify the details for which the department is authorised to certify. This onetime verification will allow all other departments/offices to use verified information like BPL status, caste status, bank account, worker status, disability details, etc. for identifying the beneficiaries and sanctioning their benefits without initiating a fresh verification process again.
  3. Need of a common and integrated online software platform designed around the core of the SAMAGRA database for all departments/ agencies to facilitate the automation of various front-end and back-end processes, functions and work-flows involved in the proactive identification of the beneficiaries, capturing the applications, sanction of the benefits, generation of the bills/payment advise and tracking of actual payments. This platform shall also allow its users to maintain and check the history of the benefits extended to an individual/family by any department under any scheme. The history of benefits can be viewed by any office for taking an informed decision for confirming the eligibility and sanctioning any other benefits under the same or any other scheme.

The whole idea is to target beneficiaries and provide them services under a ‘One Stop Shop’ concept so that the vulnerable population of the state does not have to run from pillar to post and repeatedly provide the same and identical documents for different schemes. On the supply side, human resources have been employed for a onetime exercise to capture the data sets and later only to update and maintain them. This is to be part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to keep SAMAGRA database updated regularly. The Mission has provided one SAMAGRA Organiser (SO) who is well versed in IT & will help in coordinationat the district leveland one extension officer at the block level. The Mission has provided at every block one computer operator and one extension officer etc. while the headquarters was located at the state capital, Bhopal. Each district collector has been nominated as the mission leader for the district and the chief executive officer of District Panchayat has been nominated as the deputy mission leader. This arrangement enabled the SAMAGRA Portal to not only provide a live online database that captures all events like birth, death, marriage, family split, family migration, etc but also creates openness in governance in an era of complex multiple schemes and multiple agencies and also acts as a live population register. Handson training was provided to build in capability and constant handholding and monitoring was inbuilt into the system.

Once established the platform enabled users to have a real time capture of events of a household thereby enabling:

1. Facilitation of an integrated and common platform to allow migration from a demand-based service to an entitlement-based one.

2. A comprehensive listing and ratification of beneficiaries to prevent duplicity of social sector schemes and avoid single / multiple beneficiaries with multiple benefits from two different departments under similar schemes.

3. Rationalisation, Process re-engineering, Streamlining and Automation for effective implementation of various welfare schemes

4. Creation of a front end as well as back end system that will help the functionaries in taking quick and informed decisions, avoid repetitive verifications, and automation of the back-end processes to bring in significant improvements in their efficiency.

5. Identifying ghost beneficiaries and keeping the nondeserving beneficiaries out from these programmes.

6. The application architecture and database has been designed in such a manner that individual departments / agencies can always add / verify more attributes / information about the family / individual and own it. The concerned department will have rights to manage (add/ update/verify) columns / attributes that are specific to their departments / domains but all other departments / agencies can always view and use these columns for taking decisions.

7. Option of one-time verification of major attributes of any family and residents and then these verified attributes to be used by all other depts /agencies for sanctioning the benefits under various schemes.

8. Maintaining a history of benefits extended to an individual / family by any department under any scheme.

9. Platform to facilitate benefits to the eligible families/ residents even if they are not aware of the scheme.

10. The beneficiaries shall receive immediate benefits based on their eligibility as declared and defined by the government.

11. The beneficiaries shall receive the money in her/ his account immediately after the approvals and other sanctions being accorded by the competent authority. This would be in the form of direct transfer of benefits to her bank account or post office account and that they do not have to run from pillar to post. Mobile number of family/individuals are also seeded in to the database enabling sharing of information immediately with the beneficiary.

12. Globalisation of budgets across the State, irrespective of District / Block (sub- administrative unit) wise allocation of budgets will result in doing away with the issues of lack of allotment or improper distribution of allotment of funds.

13. The system provides complete transparency being maintained in the whole process since all the information regarding the beneficiaries shall be available on the web.

14. It provides a common and integrated portal for Social Audit.

15. It facilitated nationalized banks opening their banking accounts since the documents could be used for KYC (Know Your Customer) verification to directly help them open bank accounts.

16. It prevented the beneficiary from applying repeatedly for different schemes and getting their own verifications done for different schemes at different times. In other words, multiplicity of applications and multiplicity of documentation for approvals can be avoided.

17. It can also be used as the basis for identifying and authenticating a person’s entitlement to government services and benefits through a single system rather than all government departments individually and independently investing in creating infrastructure, systems and procedures for verifying entitlement of residents under various schemes of the Government. Thus, the system ensures that no one who is eligible is left behind.

18. Informed planning for the creation of new schemes, directed skilling and thus enhancing livelihood opportunities for various target groups.

19. Identification of deserving /eligible families / members that have not been provided of any schemes.

20. Information system generated reports for analysis and decision making.

This multi-utility database system has a special feature to allow it to capture the family as well as individual databases. Family UIDs (Unique identification) and Individual UIDs: under the system, there is creation and management of Family UIDs and Individual UIDs with a comprehensive database management system, through a software framework designed and developed by NIC(National Informatics Centre). NIC being a government agency, it can be shared with other state and national governments without any additional cost.

This meets the need and obligation on of the Government to create an integrated solution on a common platform for the delivery of social security services. In fact, the demand side necessity is so vehement that it out numbers the cost associated with creating a one-time institutional architecture to deliver services right at the door steps of the beneficiaries and vulnerable groups. It also explains why the GoMP moved away from a Demand Based Approach to an Entitlement Based Approach.

SAMAGR offers a comprehensive database. All departments/offices can use this verified information for BPL (Below Poverty Line) status, caste status, bank account, worker status, disability details etc. for identifying beneficiaries and sanctioning their benefits without initiating a fresh verification process again. It addresses all household, individual related schemes and interventions including efforts to enhance livelihood opportunities and also list the poverty of infrastructure. It enables a holistic approach with simultaneous interventions to eradicate poverty in the form of infrastructure, access, income, health and livelihood opportunities that are sustainable. No one is left behind as access is automatic and entitlement based. States that had Samagra approach could immediately transfer the relief to the entitled families during the lockdown.

SAMAGRA, a concept of using common data base for all household and individual schemes is finding acceptance across the globe not just as an identifier but also to implement, ensure reach and monitor the interventions and their impact. Similar experiments have also been done in South Africa and Brazil. Developed economies like France, UK and USA plus Nordic countries and developing economies like Malawi, Chile, Rwanda, Bangladesh have taken measures to break silos, but the need is to go full blast by resorting to a common household database approach to optimise resources and ensure no one is left behind in the process of policy making, implementation and monitoring to ensure equity, eradication of poverty and sustainability towards not just subsistence level of existence but of surplus. The subsistence orientation produces sub-optimal social arrangements (Scott 1976), and needs to evolve to integrate a large number of different sectors and themes that governments in developing world find difficult to coordinate the cross sector policies.There is need of a tool to assist and develop their capabilities to in-build the multi sectoral and multidimensional approach. That institutional champion can be SAMAGRA.

A holistic approach to household database breaks silos, enables comprehensive monitoring, avoids duplication and wastage of precious resources, enables specific tailoring for the needs of specific households or categories like differently-abled.

Dr. Aruna Sharma (IAS) is a development economist and has served as secretary, Govt. of India.