Tuesday, November 27, 2012


India is the only country where citizens, especially poor in terms of income, are showered with subsidies for every thing to the tune of trillions of rupees, whether they are justified or not. The leaky Public Distribution System (PDS), supposed to deliver the basic needs of food grains and sugar to all families below the poverty line bench marked by the government, entails almost one lakh crore every year though it is an open market secret that a significant portion of the grains earmarked by the government is siphoned of by unscrupulous and lumpen elements, many beneficiaries short circuited in the process. Time and again the ruling government had shown their incapability or apathy in curtailing such colossal misappropriation of public resources to such a staggering extent. Against such a back ground comes the declaration from no less a person than the Prime Minister of the country who declared that in stead of subsidized food grains each beneficiary would be paid cash directly under the electronic Direct Cash Transfer policy being implemented soon. Here is a take on this grandiose plan of the government.

"Singh summarised the challenges at the meeting. "This is a programme in which the implementation capacity of our government will be tested. We must ensure at all times that there is no duplication of effort and technology is used to the fullest for efficiency gains. The timelines we have set for ourselves are ambitious. Fifty one districts are to (have a) roll out from January next year and 18 states from April. And, the rest of the country later in 2013." All ministries and departments engaged in transferring benefits would be quickly moving to the electronic Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) system, based on the Aadhaar-payment platform. Schemes are identified for movement to this system. The road map for each scheme will follow a schedule under which 51 districts will be covered from January 1, 2013, a full 18 states from April 1, 2013, and the rest of the country from April 1, 2014, or earlier. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has set up a cell of technical experts to facilitate Aadhaar-enabled DCTs and help individual ministries. The department of financial services is helping in the movement to universal financial inclusion through individual bank accounts for all. The PM stressed the funds meant for direct benefits, such as pensions, scholarships and healthcare benefits, must reach the intended beneficiaries without delays. "Apart from these direct benefits, the government also provides an amount of over Rs 300,000 crore in subsidies, which, too, must reach the right people," he added. The PM also called for coordinated effort between the finance ministry and UIDAI. "The twin pillars for the success of the system of DCTs that we have envisioned are the Aadhaar platform and financial Inclusion. If either of these pillars is weak, it would endanger the success of the initiative. I would expect the finance ministry and the Unique Identification Authority to work in close coordination to achieve a collective goal," he said.

It is difficult to understand the boldness of a government, especially towards the end of its term to indulge in such massive distribution of cash to millions of people using the electronic Identity system of Aadhar. If one looks at the working of Aaadhar itself during the last two years, there are thousands of citizens who have been left out and even those cases already processed are waiting to receive their ID cards indefinitely. Assuming that every citizen is covered by Aadhar ID system, how can the banking infrastructure at present cope up with millions of new accounts needed to be opened by beneficiaries? What happens if bank facilities are not available nearby? What about delays that may be caused by an inefficient bureaucratic set up in processing the papers? What if the bank account holder misuses the funds credited to his account for drinking and gambling which is a major social curse in Indian society? With illiteracy prevalent widely what happens to those who cannot operate bank accounts? Is it not opening the flood gates of corruption in a country which is seeing huge financial scams taking place under the very nose of the citizens? Like these there are going to be hundreds of issues which need to be sorted out before rolling out such a difficult scheme all over the country. Impending elections should not the driving force for changing the existing PDS which, in spite of its many deficiencies, has stood the test of time. Probably this is a fit case for judicial intervention which only can stop this reckless policy of the present government in squandering tax payers money!


No comments: