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Arunav Sinha , TNN | May 10, 2013, 02.17 AM IST
LUCKNOW: Centre may bypass Aadhaar to accomplish the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) before the scheme is launched on July 1. According to sources, instructions were issued to ensure speedy and timely implementation of DBT and to ensure no beneficiary was left out, in a meeting held on April 29 in New Delhi, chaired by Union finance minister P Chidambaram and mission director of DBT Sindhushri Khullar and attended by district magistrates of 78 districts, where the second phase of the DBT will roll out.
Aadhaar, which was to be the basis of receiving the benefit, seems too have been circumvented. “The main objective of the DBT is to transfer benefits directly to Aadhaar-seeded bank accounts of the beneficiaries. But, if a beneficiary does not have an Aadhaar number, it has been decided to take an alternate route such as ECS or NEFT, so that no one is denied the benefits he/she is entitled to,” said a senior state government official, who attended the meeting.
He stated further that in the first phase of DBT (which was earlier called direct cash transfer), around 3.5 crore transactions were complete, with transfer of Rs 45 crore to the Aadhaar-seeded accounts of the beneficiaries. The government had estimated that about 16 lakh beneficiaries would be covered under phase-1 of the scheme rolled out in 43 districts. Of these, 13 lakh were identified by the banks, of whom only 5.5 lakh reported their Aadhaar numbers to the banks.
In Uttar Pradesh, six districts have been selected for the second phase of the DBT rollout, including Congress bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi, besides Samajwadi Party stronghold of Etawah, Chitrakoot, Shravasti and Sant Kabir Nagar.
Sources also indicated that the relatively slow pace of Aadhaar enrolment may also contribute to finding an alternate route to reach the target beneficiaries. Most of the district magistrates TOI spoke to expressed confidence they would complete the list soon. P Guruprasad, DM of Etawah, said, “At present, we are focusing completely on the schemes, which we have to implement in our district, and completing all the necessary work on a priority basis, so that no beneficiary is left out.” Similar views were expressed by Amit Gupta, district magistrate of Rae Bareli.
When contacted, Balkar Singh, district magistrate of Chitrakoot, said, “There have been some technical problems during enrolment of beneficiaries, but that would be sorted out soon by the agency concerned.” DM of Shravasti Bhanu Chandra Goswami, elaborating on steps taken to meet the deadline, said, “We have started simultaneously opening bank accounts of the beneficiaries in the district and have also stepped up capture of fingerprint through biometric means. We will ensure that maximum coverage of the beneficiaries is done before the commencement of the DBT. If (in worst-case scenario), any beneficiary is left out, we may opt alternate ways, but no beneficiary would be allowed to suffer.”
When asked to comment on the current developments, CS Mishra, assistant director general of UIDAI, Lucknow regional office, said, “Our role is limited only to Aadhaar generation.” On the critical question of what would be the fate of the DBT without Aadhaar, Mishra refrained from answering.
Experts, however, argue that DBT without Aadhaar may defeat the purpose of the latter altogether. “Before rolling out the DBT, the government must ensure who are the genuine beneficiaries and they are the ones who benefit actually, so that a story of graft like in the case of MNREGS does not repeat. One of the prime objectives of Aadhaar is to eliminate duplicates and ghost beneficiaries under various schemes. This is expected to save the government exchequer a substantial amount. It will also provides governments with accurate data on beneficiaries, enable direct transfer of benefits. But, if it is bypassed conveniently, this may become the new breeding ground of corruption in India, and the magnitude of corruption would be gigantic. Apart from this, the choice of VIP districts like Etawah, Amethi and Rae Bareli has also raised doubts on the intention of DBT. This adds strength to the possibility that corruption will prevail here too,” said SN Shukla, former IAS officer.