Mobile Money Transfer Project with UNOPS-NIPI in Bihar
In 2005, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) under National Rural Health Mission introduced a community of Health workers called ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) to deliver last-mile health services in rural areas. An ASHA is a local woman volunteer, trained to drive health related awareness and to act as an interface between rural people and the public health system for the control of epidemics like tuberculosis, Kalazar and infant mortality rate (IMR) etc.
For every service that they deliver, ASHAs are compensated financially e.g. she receives rupees 600/- to encourage each mother to deliver her child in a hospital rather than at home, rupees 150/- for each child completing an immunization session and so on. Today, close to 740,000 ASHAs have been trained and appointed across the country. Such scale has brought forth two big challenges: one of efficient funds disbursement to these workers in remote areas and the other of transparently tracking funds that cascade through the administrative hierarchies of State, districts, and blocks culminating in villages. Lack of bank branches in rural areas has deprived these women the option of opening a bank account. Manual interventions in the funds disbursal have therefore led to many unjust practices. As a result, ASHA workers have to go through the pain of tedious processes to claim their incentives and are confronted with problems like delays in payments as much as 6-12 months and in cases even non-receipt of payments.
NIPI (Norway India Partnership Initiative) - an agency that extends financial aid to Bihar Health society through UNOPS aims to strengthen newborn and related maternal health activities. NIPI has identified that the challenges in the process of monetary incentive disbursal outlined above has led to a severe lack of motivation to perform amongst an increasing number of ASHAs. NIPI believes that financially including these women can solve this problem for the Government; hence, with the support of Bihar Health Society and using the Eko model a district Sheikhpura, in the state of Bihar – was identified for a pilot activity to disburse their incentives.
Under this initiative, more than 436 ASHA workers have opened an SBI Mini savings account through Eko enabling the District Health society to do timely, cashless money transfer into these accounts. ASHA workers can now easily encash their incentives through the next door Eko counter with minimal manual interventions. Eko has successfully disbursed over Rs 1 crore to 425 ASHA workers in Sheikhpura, Bihar. With this system, every transaction can be tracked in real-time and detailed reports made available to authorities to track the flow of government funds transparently. Bihar Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumar has announced that this scheme should be extended across the state and to other welfare schemes like MAMTA. Eko believes that such scale will bring benefit multipliers to the end customer.