German delegation visiting India to take Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana lessons
(Economic Times) - Germany has sought India's help to provide social benefits to needy schoolchildren in a cost-effective way on the lines of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, the smart-card based health insurance scheme that covers over 30 million poor households.
Next month, a German delegation will arrive in New Delhi to test an application based on the technology deployed in the RSBY. Germany, which has the world's oldest social security system, hopes to use this application to replace its present system of giving out social benefits to 2.5 million schoolchildren through paper vouchers, which entails high administrative costs.
The development was confirmed to ET by director-general of labour welfare and additional secretary Anil Swarup, who has been spearheading the RSBY scheme from the conceptual stage. "This offers us the opportunity to gain insights into the functioning and difficulties of social administration in a developed country and to showcase the RSBY system's ability to add value to the oldest social security system," Swarup said.
India's four-year-old RSBY has been hailed by the World Bank, the UN and the International Labour Office as one of the world's best health insurance schemes. While India is helping several developing economies evolve similar schemes, this is the first time its assistance has been sought by a developed country.
Germany's social security system, set up in the 1880s, offers a comprehensive and complex array of benefits to its citizens. Under a law to provide basic income for job seekers, the country also addresses the needs of their children through an education and participation package.
Local municipalities are generally responsible for managing these benefits, which include entitlements for school trips, learning material, daily transport, and cultural and sports activities.
Though these benefits are quite different from the ones offered under RSBY-—cashless hospitalisation and treatment across 10,000 hospitals—the Germans are keen on using the principles behind RSBY's smart card-based system.
Software is being developed for the use of the smart card system by German municipalities and Indian officials will help them get it off the ground.
"Providing meal entitlements to children is one of the most complex benefits, as it involves maximum transactions on every single school day," said another official close to the development. "So it was decided that this will be the first benefit to use the smart card system," the official, who did not want to be named, said.
Three German municipalities—Offenbach (10 km from Frankfurt), Vorpommern-Greifswarld and Mannheim— are expected to be the first to implement the system on a pilot basis with India's assistance. They will start with subsidised lunches and then offer additional tutoring for eligible children through smart cards.
"More corporations are interested in the idea and will come on board after we demonstrate the proof of concept," another senior official said. "Apart from eliminating paperwork, the RSBY system would also make the process transparent and efficient so that every eligible child gets the benefits," the official said.
This collaboration is taking place under the Indo-German Social Security Programme, which was created as part of an economic co-operation pact between the two nations.