Banks urged to monitor money transfers in the run-up to polls

Is the UPA government’s pet scheme, the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), being misused in the run-up to the elections?

A.H. Vishwanath, Congress MP, has accused Opposition parties in Mysore of collecting the account numbers of voters to transfer cash in lieu of votes.

In fact, Mysore is one of the few districts in the country where the DBT scheme is being implemented on a pilot basis. In this scheme, cash subsidy is directly transferred to the savings bank accounts ensuring that it reaches the beneficiaries.

“I have information that both the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Bharatiya Janata Party are doing this,” Mr. Vishwanath told presspersons here on Wednesday.

Expressing fears that this could play havoc with the concept of free and fair elections, Mr. Vishwanath said he would appeal to the Election Commission, the district administration and bank officials to monitor the money transfers in the run-up to the elections. “I will discuss the issue with bank officials as to what best can be done to prevent such malpractice.”

When contacted, chief lead bank officer M.B. Chinnappa of the State Bank of Mysore told The Hindu that 4,05,842 account numbers in all have been seeded with Aadhaar numbers to facilitate cash transfer of various government schemes. However, as per the government list handed over to the banks, 22,224 people in the district are eligible for cash transfer under various schemes, but the account numbers of the beneficiaries have not been made available to the public. Of these, 90 per cent pertain to scholarships for students, said Mr. Chinnappa.

Monitoring cash flow

Though authorities have been told to monitor withdrawal of large sums of cash in the run up to the elections, banks generally do not monitor transactions below Rs. 50,000. They insist on PAN numbers if the amount exceeds Rs. 50,000. Again, monitoring thousands of accounts daily for petty cash transfers may be difficult, though not impossible.

“While banks may not question petty cash transactions that take place on a routine basis, they will definitely question and monitor cash deposits made in bulk to multiple accounts,” said Mr. Chinnappa.

Observers, however, said it is more likely that political groups will collect the bank account numbers directly from their ‘prospective’ or ‘susceptible voters’ rather than seek details from banks. Even then, in order to bribe voters, cash in hand make more sense than going through the tedious process of collecting individual bank account numbers and depositing or transferring money through them, which would leave a money trail.

Though Mr. Vishwanath’s allegations may seem far-fetched, it has sparked off an interesting debate here.

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