The Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) subsidy scheme is being extended to 78 more districts in July even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged on Friday that it has "run into difficulties" and that efforts must be made to ensure the programme does not fail.
The flagship programme, rolled out in 43 districts in Phase I in January, will be expanded to include LPG subsidy in a phased manner to cover 20 districts by May 15 and more districts will be brought in its ambit along with the expansion of Aadhaar enrolment.
The total number of LPG consumers in the country is 14 crores and as the scheme rolls out, the subsidy amount will be transferred to consumers directly into their bank accounts.
With the subsidy going directly, there will be only one price at which cylinders will be sold at a dealer's shop. This will eliminate all ghost connections and diversion of cylinders, an official statement said.
The scheme will be expanded to include post offices from October, 1 2013.
Reviewing the progress of the scheme, Singh said, "We have come some distance since Direct Benefits Transfer programme was rolled out in January. In this period, we have resolved a number of operational issues. I am encouraged by this progress and hopeful about the future.
"But we have also run into difficulties that we had not anticipated when we began the programme. We must therefore renew our efforts for successful implementation of the programme."
He said its implementation has "revealed the unsatisfactory nature of tracking and monitoring systems we have in various departments." Underlining that "we cannot afford to fail", he said, "We need to show that we can deliver results and benefits."
In the meeting of the National Committee on DBT attended by ministers concerned including finance minister P Chidambaram besides deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Prime Minister said that the initiative has the potential of transforming the way in which government benefits are delivered to the people.
He asked all ministries and departments to apply themselves with dedication to this major initiative and the challenging task in rolling out the DBT program.
At the meeting, it was decided that the scheme, in phase II beginning July 1, will be extended to cover one-fifth of the country as 78 more districts will be brought in its ambit in states like Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
Three pension schemes of rural development ministry would also be included in the programme.
"Conceptually, Direct Benefits Transfers involves a few simple steps- digitising data, enrolling in Aadhaar, opening bank accounts and seeding these accounts. However, Direct Benefits Transfers also require process re-engineering.
"We need to change the way we transact business, the way we release funds, the way we track funds and the information we have on beneficiaries. I hope due attention will be paid to these aspects as we move forward in implementing the programme," he told the meeting.
Singh asked all the departments to apply themselves with commitment to this major initiative.
"The Planning Commission and the finance ministry have a special responsibility of working together for the achievement of the objectives that we have set for ourselves," he emphasised.
"If we need to ensure that the money we spend delivers outcomes, it is necessary that we have a robust monitoring system in place. That is one of the things that Direct Benefits Transfers will achieve, in addition to making the process of getting benefits simpler for the beneficiaries and eliminating corruption and wastage," he said.