The government has substantially scaled down the initial reach of its direct cash transfer scheme, now called the direct benefit transfer (DBT). It will now be rolled out in only 20 districts of 16 states tomorrow. For now, seven scholarship schemes will be covered and 200,000 beneficiaries will start receiving benefits from day one.
Given that the government had planned to launch the transfer scheme in 51 districts for 34 schemes tomorrow, this is a significantly curtailed beginning. Eight districts of poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh had been dropped from the first list after the Election Commission’s objection, bringing the number down to 43.
Giving details of the DBT launch, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the scheme was being launched with “caution” to minimise errors. According to the new schedule, the 43 districts would be covered for 26 schemes by March 1. All benefit transfers under the 26 schemes — whenever due after tomorrow — would be through DBT.
The benefits would be transferred to beneficiaries’ bank accounts. Money would be credited and withdrawn even if a beneficiary does not have Aadhaar, Chidambaram said, adding all beneficiaries covered in the first phase were expected to get bank accounts by tomorrow.
In an apparent admission Aadhaar enrolment was lagging the desired pace, he said the numbers would, in due course, be seeded with bank accounts to become unique identifier.
In the next phase, DBT for the 26 schemes would begin in 11 more districts from February 1 and the rest 12 from March 1.
“Once the scheme has stabilised in 43 districts, it will be rolled out in phases in other parts of the nation,” the finance minister said. Even as banks have floated tenders for two million inter-operable micro ATMs to meet the DBT needs, he ruled out immediate plan to bring food, fertiliser, diesel and kerosene subsidies under DBT.