The UPA government intends to put the world's biggest job guarantee programme - MGNREGA - on its "game-changer" money transfer platform - the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) from this October.
That would happen if the government agencies are able to provide unique identification or Aadhaar numbers to entire population in 51 districts, where the government intends to put MGNREGA under DBT mode, and the banks and posts offices come on Aadhaar payment bridge.
The Prime Minister's Office, which is directly monitoring the DBT, has asked Nandan Nilekani led unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) to speed up Aadhaar enrollment in these 51 districts and ensure that the entire population is covered by July.
Directions have also been issued to the postal department for entire computerisation of the post offices and connect them with a secured internet line. The government also wants the postal department to implement its new Aadhaar enabled information technology solutions to help its integration with the DBT.
The government disburses around Rs 31,000 crore to poor as wages under MNREGA every year and the money is deposited in either their bank or post office accounts. But, there is huge delay in transfer of wages on account of manual updation of job records and the bureaucratic clearance for making the payment. Internal analysis of the programme had revealed that it takes up to couple of months to get wages.
The government by putting MGNRENA on DBT mode intends to reduce the delay and timely wage disbursement could be a huge political gain for the UPA before next general elections in 2014. If all works well, the government plans to bring MGNREGA in around 150 poorest districts of India on the DBT mode by end of March 2014.
The pilot project in Jharkhand by the UIDAI to disburse MGNREGA wages through Aadhaar based platform did well as villagers were able to withdraw the money immediately from their bank accounts. The government intends to replicate similar model for entire country which works with the help of banking correspondents --- extension arm of local banks.
The 51 districts in which MGNREGA in DBT mode will be implemented from October 1, 2013 are the ones where the DBT was to be introduced from this January 1. The government reduced the number of districts to 43 because of Election Commission's model code of conduct in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.