Maharashtra to go cashless in rural areas, but where’s the internet?
This drive will start from the state’s rural areas, but achieving the goal is a herculean task and is likely to stay on paper.mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2017 16:03 IST
In a bid to promote a cashless economy, the Maharashtra government has planned to stop accepting cash for any of its payments, including fees, taxes, penalties in the coming months. This drive will start from the state’s rural areas, but achieving the goal is a herculean task and is likely to stay on paper. HT looks at the government’s plan and hurdles ahead in a reality check of the announcement.
What is the plan ?
The plan is to start installing biometric machines in all 29,000 gram panchayats and tehsildar offices in the state.
These machines, with the help of BHIM-Aadhaar Pay app — a biometric-based payment system, will allow users to make payments digitally by authenticating the biometric details of the person with Aadhaar database.
The BHIM-Aadhaar Pay app basically links citizens’ Aadhaar number and fingerprint to complete a transaction in a safe and secure manner. To complete the transactions, the person concerned will only have to submit his Aadhaar details and the amount he or she wants to pay in the BHIM-Aadhaar Pay app and give his thumb impression to authenticate his biometric details. Once the identity of the person is authenticated, the amount will be deducted from his account. The state has procured 1.40 lakh biometric machines for the project.
The drive will be taken up at a later stage in urban areas, where existing credit card and other modes of cashless system will be continued.
The main hurdles
The basic requisite to run the digital transaction system – internet – is still missing on ground.
Most of the rural areas are yet to have internet access or adequate data to run the system, and government offices are no exception to it.
The state government has undertaken the Mahanet project, to connect all gram panchayats with optical fibre cable network to provide sufficient bandwidth for transactions. But, this project will take one to two years tocomplete.
So far, the government claims that around 15,000 gram panchayats have been connected with optical fibre network, and the state has set a target to connect the rest of the 14,000 gram panchayats by the end of 2018. This also means shifting to cashless transactions may take at least another year to be completed.
“It is possible that the government will roll out the project in many phases even in rural pockets,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.
The other challenge is that for this cashless system to work, everyone will require a bank account that is linked with their Aadhaar details. Most of the banks are still in the process of updating their customers’ Aadhaar number in the bank account details.
The only relief for the government is its Aadhaar card coverage, is reaching nearly 95 % for adults. The 6-18 age group has also been covered by 90%. The state is struggling only with the under-six age group, which is yet to cross 50% enrolment, the officials pointed out.