The flagship programme will now include LPG subsidy

Admitting that the UPA government’s ambitious flagship Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) programme had run into unanticipated “difficulties” since its roll-out in January this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday exhorted the departments concerned to renew efforts for its successful implementation. Dr. Singh pointed to the “unsatisfactory nature of tracking and monitoring” systems of the scheme which had the potential of “transforming the way in which government benefits are delivered to our people.”

In his remarks at the meeting of the National Committee on DBT to finalise extension of the programme to 78 more districts in the second phase, Dr. Singh noted that while the scheme conceptually involved a few simple steps — digitising data, enrolling in Aadhaar, opening bank accounts and seeding them — it also required process re-engineering.

“We need to change the way we transact business, the way we release funds, the way we track funds and the information we have on beneficiaries. I hope due attention will be paid to these aspects as we move forward in implementing the programme,” he said and hoped that due attention would be paid to these aspects during implementation as the DBT would now cover over 120 districts which was roughly one-fifth of the country. Besides, it would include three pension schemes pertaining to the Ministry of Rural Development.

With the start of phase II on July 1, the DBT programme, would be extended to 78 more districts to cover seven States which were not covered in the first phase. Of the 78 districts, six are in Uttar Pradesh, three in Bihar, two in West Bengal, four each in Odisha and Gujarat, six in Himachal Pradesh and three in Tamil Nadu.

The meeting was attended by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia among others.

The flagship programme, rolled out in 43 districts in its first phase in January, will now be expanded to include LPG subsidy in a phased manner to cover 20 districts by May 15. The scheme is to be further expanded to include post offices from October 1.

Pointing out that the exercise of implementing the DBT till date revealed unsatisfactory tracking and monitoring in various departments, the Prime Minister said: “If we need to ensure that the money we spend delivers outcomes, it is necessary that we have a robust monitoring system in place. That is one of the things that the Direct Benefits Transfers will achieve, in addition to making the process of getting benefits simpler for the beneficiaries and eliminating corruption and wastage.”

Dr. Singh said that while all departments ought to apply themselves to this major initiative, “the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry have a special responsibility of working together for the achievement of the objectives that we have set for ourselves”.

In particular, for purposes of financial inclusion, the banking system should integrate with the widely spread-out post office system and ensure that the front-end infrastructure was in place so that people had no trouble opening bank accounts and had easy access to their cash.

“There should be a system in place, where people can get a simple bank account on demand if they have an Aadhaar card,” Dr. Singh said.

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