The UPA’s showpiece direct benefits transfer (DBT) plan is struggling. Poor Aadhaar enrolment clubbed with lack of banking facilities is coming in the way of the anti-poverty programme.
Numbers are telling. Two months after the roll out in Rae Bareli, the constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, only `1,400 has been transferred in Rae Bareli. The district has 6,000 people enlisted for the National Social Security Programme. Only one person has seen cash transferred to his account.
In Etawah, the native district of Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, only `4,200 has been distributed among four of the 10,000 people who are part of the national security programme.
Low penetration of unique identification, or Aadhaar, numbers -- to which the cash benefits are linked -- is the reason why so many people are missing out.
The DBT programme is aimed at sprucing up public delivery by replacing subsidies in kind, such as cooking gas and fertilisers, with cash compensation, to be delivered straight into a recipient’s bank account.
Describing it as a “game changer”, the Congress even came up with Aapke Paise, Aapke Haath (your money in your hand) slogan to sell the scheme. But at the pace at which it is moving, it may be a while before the game changes and certainly not before the 2014 elections.
HT had reported on August 20 that fewer Aadhaar numbers and a large number of unbanked beneficiaries were among the bottlenecks identified by the prime minister’s office during a review.
Latest data, procured under the Right to Information Act, shows not much progress has been made after the anti-poverty programme was launched in a staggered manner on January 1.
The government has, so far, transferred only R64 crore through Aadhaar Payment Bridge — the foundation for 28 welfare schemes.
Initially, the plan was to bring all government welfare schemes under the DBT by March-April 2014. The sluggish pace of makes the deadline difficult to meet.
Not willing to give a time frame, DBT mission director S Sunderasan said it would be unfair to judge the progress in six months as it was a “historical process” results of which would take time to show.
The programme’s poor performance is best illustrated in a letter by Jharkhand chief secretary RS Sharma, who was earlier director-general of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to financial services secretary Rajiv Takru.
“For successful and speedy implementation of DBT, we will need faster action and communication on seeding and uploading from the banks’ end,” Sharma said.
Sharma was talking about Jharkhand, but officials say the problem is common to most of the 121 districts where the programme has been launched.
In Jharkhand’s capital city Ranchi — one of the first districts to be covered under the programme — the total money transferred is less than R1 crore.
Delhi’s North West district has a poor record of `2.46 lakh.
Many states like Kerala, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh have raised red flags. Lack of funds to meet implementations costs, inadequate business correspondents — those who disburse cash to people who do not have bank accounts — and banks poor performance have been identified as problem areas.