Direct benefit transfer (DBT), the UPA government’s ‘game changer’ has been slow in taking off primarily due to lukewarm response from the banks, said rural development minister Jairam Ramesh insisting the “huge challenge” with DBT was to get the banks on board.
Preferring to call it Direct-To-Home (DTH) money, Ramesh said the scheme was launched on January 1, 2013 across 43 districts, but only about 6 % of the total beneficiaries were on the Aadhaar-based money transfer platform till April-end.
“The response from the public sector banks is lukewarm. That is the reason we have to move to post offices for DBT,” he suggested. The government has announced to put his ministry’s national rural employment guarantee scheme on DBT mode from October 2013 after computerisation of post offices in 51 districts.
Another roadblock identified by Ramesh, was absence of banking correspondents to disburse money to beneficiaries at their doorsteps. “We have to look at Andhra Pradesh as a model where women self help groups have been notified as banking correspondents,” he told HT. The rural development ministry has allowed Anaganwadi and health workers to be appointed as banking correspondents.
Acknowledging that the DBT has potential to check leakages, the minister said the present financial rules were a big impediment in the fast flow of funds to the implementing agencies and was a reason for slow implementation of the social sector schemes.
“We cannot have a system where most of the funds to ministries are released in February and March (fag end of a financial year) and then the finance ministry refuses to provide money at the beginning of a financial year saying there is a huge opening balance,” he said.
The minister, who has the biggest social sector funding, believes the government departments’ need to infuse “transparency” and “accountability” in the way public money is used. “I think DTH is a step in this direction,” he added.