Game-changer cash transfer scheme in 20 dists from Jan 1: FM

New Delhi: Adopting caution, government today scaled down the launch of its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme tomorrow to 20 districts instead of 43 as planned earlier, keeping LPG also out of its ambit for now.

Touted as a "game changer", the programme will cover a select 26 schemes like educational scholarship for SC/ST and OBC and widow pension. Food, fertilisers, diesel and kerosene have already been kept out.

Addressing the media on the eve of the roll out, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the programme was being launched tomorrow only in 20 districts in 6 States and three Union Territories because the government wanted to move cautiously.

"We are proceeding with a great degree of caution… We will look at transferring all subsidies and benefit through this scheme but we have to do it slowly. We are not going to rush into anything and then find that the system cannot cope with it," he said.

Among the reasons why the launch was scaled down were all beneficiaries not having bank account to receive cash and inadequate Aadhaar enrolment.

The government had originally identified 51 districts across 16 states to be covered by the programme under which cash subsidy benefit will directly go to the bank account of beneficiaries with mandatory requirement of Aadhaar number.

Subsequently, four districts each of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat were exempted from the roll out tomorrow because of Assembly elections.

The states to be covered in the initial phase are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab and UTs of Puducherry, Chandigarh and Daman and Diu.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari, who too addressed the media, said the first phase starting tomorrow would benefit about two lakh people.

Chidambaram said all the beneficiaries will get the cash transfer in their bank accounts, even if they do not have the Aadhaar-card (UID) numbers.

He said: "Over the next few days or weeks we will aim at 100 per cent penetration of Aadhaar beneficiaries… Whether there is Aadhaar card or not money will be credited, money will be withdrawn."

The government intends to link subsidy disbursal with Aadhaar.

The Minister also said all the 7,900 bank branches in 43 district will have ATM facilities.

Chidambaram said banks have floated a tender for 20 lakh Micro-ATMs which will be inter-operable and will have facility for biometric scanning and Aadhaar authentication.

When asked whether the government was changing the tag- line of the scheme 'Apka Paisa Appke Haat', Chidambaram said the slogan is a "valid tag-line that has certain resonance. It conveys the meaning very effectively but in a formal document we think its proper to call it Direct Benefits Transfer."

Responding to queries, he admitted that there could be glitches in operationalising the scheme but assured that the officials overseeing its implementation will resolve them.

Meanwhile, a press statement said that the direct cash transfer scheme will not be a substitute for delivery of public services which would continue to take place as per the normal delivery channels.

The seven schemes which are ready for payout from January 1 include pre and post matric scholarships for SC, STs and OBCs, Indira Gandhi Matrutva Sahayata Yojana, Dhanalakshmi scheme and stipend scheme for SC, ST job seekers.

The statement said banks have also been asked to expand their reach to provide banking services to every 1,000-1,500 households through a Business Correspondent (BC) or Common Services Centre (CSC) scheme.