‘Banks told to re-verify and retrieve these payments if found to be erroneous’

The input subsidy that the State government paid to a farmer, Venkatamma, has been debited to one Vincent Rajkumar’s account. This is one of the nearly 40,000 suspected erroneous payments in the first-ever Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) disbursal of input subsides — given as part of drought relief — to around 18 lakh farmers in the State, this year.

While the State government that opted for AEPS — billed as the best platform for fool-proof direct benefit transfer — has streamlined subsidy payments integrating it with Bhoomi platform, this may also have resulted in payments of input subsidy to wrong beneficiaries, depriving deserving farmers of their rightful subsidies in these 40,000 cases.

“Suspected erroneous transactions may seem small, since they account for just over 2% of the total transactions. But 40,000 is a huge number. We have now written to the banks asking them to re-verify and retrieve these payments if found to be erroneous,” said Rajeev Chawla, Additional Chief Secretary, e-governance, Karnataka. He was speaking at a south zone workshop on ‘Aadhaar Enabled Applications’, here.

The State government developed a software, Parihara, for the purpose and a special tool to reconcile Kannada names on Bhoomi platform and Aadhaar database.

However, this could not prevent the suspected erroneous transactions. “These are due to errors in seeding of Aadhaar data with the bank accounts of the beneficiaries at the banker’s end,” Mr. Chawla said.

M.V.S. Rami Reddy, Deputy Director-General, UIDAI, Hyderabad, said 40,000 suspected erroneous transactions were a cause for concern and the matter would be taken up by the head office. He expressed concern over the gaps at the banker’s end in the AEPS process.

“As per the standard operating procedure, bankers while they seed Aadhaar data with bank accounts have to cross-verify both the databases. Some of them are lax about doing this, leading to errors,” he said, and added that the good thing was that these erroneous transactions could be easily tracked down.

Another area where the bankers are accused of laxity is in updating the Aadhaar-seeded bank account data to the National Payments Corporation of India. “We have asked them to update it once in three days, but in many banks, there is a time lag of over two to three weeks,” Mr. Reddy said.

Despite these suspected erroneous transactions, deploying AEPS for disbursal of input subsidy to farmers has brought about a sea change to the whole process in the State. Earlier, the waiting time for farmers was around 12 to 15 months, which has now come down to a single day, officials said. “There was no accountability in the selection of farmers for input subsidy and also no verification of his/her landholdings. With Bhoomi and Aadhaar being linked, over 10 lakh landholdings have been linked to Aadhaar of the landowners, bringing in accountability,” Mr. Chawla said.