Madhya Pradesh: Hoshangabad, Harda, Khandwa - The UPA government will struggle to take credit for the DBT scheme in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, where schemes that seek to provide similar benefits are already in place. Simultaneously, should things go wrong, the UPA would be spared the flak because DBT is indistinguishable on the ground from the state’s measures — electronic transfer of funds or enhancing the scope of financial inclusion, both of which necessitate opening of bank accounts.
The Madhya Pradesh Model of Financial Inclusion and Direct Benefit Transfer weaves in benefits of several state and central schemes. It has named the project Samagra Samajik Suraksha Mission.
The government has been depositing money in the accounts of farmers after purchasing wheat, starting before DBT was introduced, besides making electronic transfers of MNREGA payments. In the last few months, 1,700 ultra small banks (also called community service centres) have been opened and 1,300 more are being added.
Unlike DBT, which is being implemented in Hoshangabad, Harda and Khandwa districts, the state’s initiatives are relatively hassle-free because they are not linked to the Aadhar card yet. Using biometric authentication, the beneficiary is provided benefits at the nearest USB. The RBI norm of one USB for a population of 2,000 did not suit a large state like MP, so the government changed the criterion to one USB every 5 km.
The USB works to the bank’s advantage also because it does not have to spend on infrastructure. While distributing benefits of government schemes, it can also convert the no-frills accounts to regular savings accounts.
Against this background, the idea of opening accounts for benefits such as LPG or kerosene under DBT has not really enthused potential beneficiaries, who fail to understand how they stand to benefit. They don’t know — or care — which government is behind the idea.
“Daily wage earners like me will have to pool money to buy kerosene at the market rate and then wait for the subsidy to reach the bank. I don’t see any benefit in it. What does my family eat till then?” says Janardan Shravankar, who tarvels daily from Hoshangabad to work at a highway dhaba.
Shakti Singh Chouhan, sarpanch of Jasalpur, has an LPG cylinder in mind. “Hamara paisa hamko vapas de rahe ho,” he says questioning the DBT. He claims, “There’s a rumour that the government will deduct tax before depositing the subsidy amount.”
When a sarpanch is influenced by rumours, not many in rural areas show enthusiasm. “I don’t know whose scheme this is but it’s not good for us,’’ says Ravindra Kushwaha, of Jasalpur, recounting his troubles with opening an account and getting an Adhar card.
Jasalpur, about 10 km from Hoshangabad on Pipariya Road, is one of the villages that have an USB, started by Central Bank of India. For a population of 3,115, it has a relatively high number of 1,600 accounts with only Central Bank.
Dharmendra Chouhan, who supervises the functioning of more than a dozen business correspondents (engaged by the bank at Rs 3,500 monthly), admits not one beneficiary of Janani Suraksha Yojana (a scheme to promote institutional delivery) has actually got direct benefits in the last eight months. More than 40 women have been given cheques when the money should have been deposited in their accounts directly. But the presence of a USB means the beneficiary did not have to travel to the main branch to deposit the cheque or to get the money.
In fact, beneficiaries had expressed similar doubts when the state government introduced its own DBT. For example, farmers used to be given cash on selling wheat, then they were given cheques, and now the money is deposited directly in their bank accounts. Whenever a change was taking place, they used to think the previous arrangement was better in some way or the other before being convinced.
Of a total population of 12.48 lakh, Hoshangabad claims to have enrolled nearly 11.30 lakh for Aadhar cards and distributed the number to more than seven lakh. The district has fared better in Aadhar enrolment because it was one of the pilot districts chosen in 2010 to link PDS to Aadhar by issuing food coupons to beneficiaries.
Hoshangabad district has had special camps for targeted beneficiaries (women and schoolchildren) for the centre’s DBT, under which eight kinds of school scholarships and Janani Surakshya Yojana have been covered so far.
For all the publicity around “Aapka Paisa Aapke Haath”, DBT has no resonance and looks unlikely to become a poll issue. “Only issues such as electricity, roads and water matter in the election, not schemes like these. People know least about which government runs them,’’ says B C Pandey, a government employee.
Congress leaders take credit for the scheme by talking about DBT in their political rallies but otherwise politicians or parties have showed little interest to either popularise or criticise them. Outside of audiovisual publicity, it is only government employees or banks that talk about the scheme.
Additional secretary (rural development) Brijesh Kumar says coverage of Aadhar is not very high, especially in rural areas. He says the state government schemes are working well because all bank accounts are biometrics-enabled.