The government will launch its “game changer” direct cash transfer project on Tuesday in a scaled down format — it will cover 20 districts instead of 43, with only seven schemes against 34 announced earlier.
“We are proceeding with caution,” finance minister P Chidambaram said, announcing the rollout. He said the project would cover 20 districts from January 1, 11 more from February 1 and another 12 from March 1.
Chidambaram said once the project stabilised in 43 districts, it would be extended to the rest of the country in a phased manner. The target is to cover the country by the end of 2013 for schemes such as scholarships, pensions and wages under the employment guarantee scheme.
The decision to scale down the first phase was taken after the government found that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) could not cover 80% of the districts identified by the PMO in October.
Plus, the pace of opening of bank accounts for beneficiaries in many districts was slower than anticipated. And digitisation of data has not taken place at all in some of the 43 target districts.
“There is also the complaint that states are trying to increase the number of beneficiaries to keep the volume of their central allocation intact as bogus entities are being weeded out,” a planning commission official said.
The slow digitisation affected the unique identification or Aadhaar numbers, a must for transferring cash through Aadhaar numbers.
In case a beneficiary does not have an Aadhaar number, the benefit will be transferred to his bank account according to the existing practice. The UIDAI has been asked to conduct special camps to enrol beneficiaries.
Chidambaram also assured that there was no plan to disburse cash subsidies on fuels and fertilisers in the first phase.