A group of nationalised banks, including the SyndicateBank, has come forward to launch the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) scheme as part of the smart card-based payment project in six districts of Karnataka for payment of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) wages and other social security benefits to beneficiaries.
Officers in the SyndicateBank told The Hindu that several banks have agreed to launch the EBT scheme in Bellary, Gulbarga and Chitradurga districts under the “One District Many Banks” model.
A special State-Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) meeting held here recently discussed the proposal to launch EBT scheme in three more districts under the “One District One Bank” model. The names of the districts are yet to be finalised.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor D. Subbarao has directed the banks to launch the EBT scheme in three districts each under the One District Many Banks model and One District One Bank model by February 2010.
The bank implementing the EBT scheme appoints a business correspondent at the village level. The business correspondent uses biometric smart cards and voice-guided systems to help people in the rural areas access banking services at their doorstep.
On a pilot basis, the EBT scheme was launched in Bellary taluk a few months ago. Pension under the social security schemes is being disbursed through the EBT system. Forty villages in the taluk have been covered and smart cards have been issued to 6,000 beneficiaries of old-age, widow and other pensions.
However, payment to beneficiaries of the NREGA is not being made through EBT as of now. The EBT system can eliminate bogus claimants of pension as well as save a lot of money to the State exchequer. “Nearly 20 per cent of claimants of pension under the various social security schemes are bogus”, an official in the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department said.
The State Government has been paying the transaction fee for the banks implementing the EBT scheme. Besides, it was bearing the cost of smart cards. But now the RBI has agreed to bear the cost of smart cards, according to a bank officer.
Besides eliminating the role of the Postal Department through which pension was being disbursed by way of money orders, the EBT will save time and money of the beneficiaries of various government schemes as they will get their payment at their doorstep.