‘Aap ka paisa aap ke haath’ — the slogan for the Centre’s Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme — may have been a hit. But on the ground, several bottlenecks are hampering implementation, raising doubts if the full impact of the “game-changer” project will be seen in time for the government to reap rich electoral dividends in the 2014 general elections.
The Centre had roped in post offices to carry out transfers to make up for the absence of banks in vast rural stretches. But in an August 5 review meeting chaired by PM Manmohan Singh, his principal secretary Pulok Chatterji said that the postal system will not be DBT-ready, except in Andhra Pradesh, before March 2014.
He added: “The rollout of the core banking is badly behind schedule. The tender for placing orders for handheld devices (for biometric authentication) has been cancelled and (orders are) yet to be placed.”
The DBT, the government’s anti-poverty programme launched in January this year with the aim of transferring subsidies directly to BPL people, has so far delivered Rs. 135.18 crore to 39.76 lakh beneficiaries across 121 districts.
But with time running out before the general elections, the Centre also feels that an overhaul of the process of giving out funds “must be an absolute priority if the DBT is to expand any further”.
Government managers are also worried that very few programmes are covered under the umbrella project.
Janani Suraksha Yojna and four post-matric scholarships alone account for 33 lakh or 83% of beneficiaries.
Chatterji termed database digitisation as a “challenge” and added that beneficiaries’ lists were often “never ever collected or compiled at the central level”, minutes of the meeting available with HT show.
In the meeting, it was also noted: “It is time to crack the whip and move faster, for which it is necessary to take hard decisions.”