Linking Aadhaar to payment may deprive Adivasis of cash transfer

Meeting the stringent criteria for inclusion under welfare schemes is a tall order for those living in far-flung tribal areas

Published - July 01, 2022 11:30 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

A rigorous seven-step validation process introduced by the State government to weed out bogus beneficiaries from welfare schemes runs the risk of alienating even genuine beneficiaries living in remote tribal areas.

A woman named Chilakamma of Benavaram village in Chintapalli mandal of ASR district is a case in point. Despite linking her bank account to her Aadhaar card, she has not got her bank account linked to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) mapper, which is a prerequisite for the direct benefit transfers (DBTs) to be deposited into the account of beneficiaries under the Amma Vodi scheme.

In 2019, after the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) formed the government in the State, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy introduced a number of cash transfer schemes with the aim of providing financial succour to the ‘poorest of the poor’.

However, the definition of ‘poor’ was not clearly laid out and the eligibility criteria loosely defined, and it varied from scheme to scheme according to the payment architecture of the respective welfare schemes.

Now, the State government has come out with a rigorous system of validation in order to filter out bogus beneficiaries.

In the case of Amma Vodi, the welfare scheme that was part of the ‘Navaratnalu’ was launched with the intention to encourage parents to send their children to school by depositing ₹15,000 as financial assistance in the bank account of the mother of the student.

In order to avail benefits under the scheme, the mother of the child should possess a ration card, have her child enrolled at school between Classes I and XII, should possess an Aadhaar card which should be linked to a bank account in her name, and ensure that her child has an attendance of 75%. She should also meet the other criteria mentioned in the seven-step validation process, which are: having a total family income not exceeding ₹10,000 per month in rural areas and ₹12,000 per month in urban areas, have less than three acres of wetland or less than 10 acres of dry land or a combined landholding of less than 10 acres, and should consume fewer than 300 units of electricity per month on a six-month average.

Laborious process

Now, the major hurdle which beneficiaries, particularly those living in far-flung tribal areas, will face is the Aadhaar for payment or the Aadhaar Payment Bridge system in the Amma Vodi scheme.

There are two payment systems — one in which the government directly deposits money into the beneficiary’s account via Aadhaar, and the other in which the government deposits money directly into the bank account. The government prefers the Aadhaar payment mode as it is transparent and eliminates the possibility of beneficiaries receiving benefits in multiple bank accounts.

According to B. Chakradhar, a researcher with LibTech India, in the Aadhaar bridge system, the bank accounts of all beneficiaries should be linked to Aadhaar and also with the NPCI mapper for direct benefit transfers. The problem here is many of the bank accounts are not linked to NPCI, which is depriving the beneficiaries even if they have a valid Aadhaar card and it is linked to the bank account, he said.

“The moment a payment is transferred to the beneficiary through Aadhaar, NPCI will immediately scan the database to find out which bank the Aadhaar is mapped or seeded to for DBTs. With new accounts, there is no issue, as the Aadhaar is linked to the account and NPCI mapping is also done with the customer’s consent. However, there are issues regarding the NPCI mapping of old bank accounts as the resolution process is cumbersome and the citizen must go to a bank to get it done,” Explaining the lacuna, Mr. Chakradhar said.

Offering a a solution to the issue, both Mr. Chakradhar and V.S. Krishna of Human Rights Forum say that transferring the benefits into the bank accounts of beneficiaries who fulfil the criteria using account-based payments would be the correct approach.

“The pension scheme of the State government has been highly successful because it is paid in cash. The same can be replicated for schemes such as Amma Vodi or YSR Rythu Bharosa,” said Mr. Chakradhar.

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