Nine ministries have been asked by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to immediately operationalise the direct cash transfer scheme announced for 51 of the country's 640 districts, including the opening of beneficiary bank accounts.
“I would request you to get down to the immediate task of operationalising direct cash transfers in identified schemes in your department," Principal Secretary in PMO Pulok Chatterji wrote in a letter to nine concerned secretaries in the central government.
"The emphasis should be on having a seamless- and trouble-free rollout of the programme, first in 51 districts and subsequently as per the agreed rollout plan," Chatterjee's letter said, even as the finance ministry has been asked to act fast on bank accounts.
Each of these nine ministries have been told not just to have the full list of enitled beneficiaries in a digitized form but also ensure they are linked with Aadhaar numbers of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilakeni, who also heads the institution's Technology Committee, was asked to provide dedicated individuals to each of the nine implementing ministries to assist them in their work on digitizing the databases.
These initiatives follow the first meeting of the National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Nov 26 during which it was decided to launch the scheme in 51 districts across 14 states from Jan 1, 2013.
The scheme is slated to become a pan-India operation by end-2013.
It requires the money for welfare schemes like those for pension, scholarships and healthcare to be directly deposited into bank accounts of beneficiaries in a bid to curb delays and leakages.
For the moment, food and fertiliser subsidies have been kept out of its purview.
The prime minister had said Nov 26 that direct cash transfers were becoming possible via innovative use of technology and the spread of modern banking across the country to cut waste and leakages in order to target the beneficiaries better.
"We have a chance to ensure that every rupee spent by the government is spent truly well and goes to those who truly deserve it," he told the meeting, setting the agenda for what some experts feel can be a game-changer in the next elections.