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“India a cash-mukt Bharat” – Modi government’s next big plan

“India a cash-mukt Bharat” – Modi government’s next big plan

According to senior government officials, the Centre is discovering methods to make it compulsory for all government agencies and departments — including services like road transport corporations and railways — to accept digital payments at points of customer interface. The officials told ET about the plans, which are on drawing board, for large scale integration of various gateways of online payment of the state-owned agencies with modes of official payment like BHIM and Bharat QR code. The government is considering enticements for those citizens who opt for digital payments.

A senior official mentioned that, there might be a launch of a big-ticket campaign by the government on Gandhi Jayanti announcing some of the measures to achieve the goal of a cashless economy. This campaign will run till January 26 (Republic Day). “Of the overall transactions, government payments account for a large proportion and if done digitally, there will be a massive growth in electronic payments,” said the official. The mandate of promoting digital payments has been given to the ministry of electronics and IT. At their internal review meeting, Ravi Shankar Prasad (union minister) asked officials to roll out the campaign from October 2. 

The inter-ministerial committee on digital payments is discussing the details of the proposals. A top Railway Board official said, “In order to accept digital payments, we have decided to equip all the ticket counters. As per the recent procedures, across all 14 lakh reservations counters in the country, Bharat QR code will be put up. Our target is to make half the transactions digitally enabled at ticket counters”. He added, “For freight bookings also, the same will be done. Already, 90% payments are cash free for freight”. Passenger tickets worth Rs 52,000 crore are sold by Indian Railways every year wherein 60% are through the online booking portal and rest are sold for cash at reservation counters.

Another official mentioned, “One thing to focus upon is how can Bharat QR code be made universally accepted payment infrastructure”. He added that a lot of background work is required since Bharat QR code still reject payments from individuals without a debit or credit card. The official stated, “Still digital is not the primary payment mode. Regarding the reduction in dependence on cash, lots of ideas are discussed but they are still to be finalized”. Integrating BHIM and UPI with all online payment options of public sector undertakings (PSUs) and government departments is one of the proposals being discussed.

All points of government-public interface, like train, bus, passport offices and metro ticket counters may well be asked to receive payments through Bharat QR code. Bharat QR code should be printed as a prominent payment option on all utility bills, like water and electricity. Added to this, there is another proposal which includes incentivizing the state road transport corporations to switch to digital payments and compel them to offer discounts. This should be done along with a missive to all PSUs and ministries to promote digital payments. Senior roads ministry official mentioned that for all cars from October, the government is planning to make RFID toll tags compulsory. The official also said, “We’ll prepare all toll lanes also to accept payments through digital mode. The focus will be to have electronic toll collection, but also there will be a display of Bharat QR code for people willing to pay through BHIM app“.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, is also focusing on digital payments because currently a majority of its card recharges and token sales happens through cash. The DMRC spokesperson said, “All recharges are made online or through cards. It can even be done through banking apps. Handling cash is difficult, hence it’s better to be as cash-free as possible”.

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