Shortly after UPA government’s Aadhaar and direct benefit transfer scheme got a shot in the arm with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking 100-crore enrolment under the project, West Bengal authorities have started working on war footing to expedite the process across the state.
Sources at the secretariat said biometric enrolment under the project had nearly halted during the Lok Sabha elections. “Work had stalled owing to severe shortage of manpower at the district level,” said an official. He admitted that after the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar card would not be mandatory to avail of gas subsidy, there was a sharp fall in the number of applicants.
He added that about 8.22 crore people of the state were eligible for biometric enrolment as per National Population Register. “So far, about 50 per cent of cards have been despatched and of those about 20 per cent failed to reach the addressees,” he said.
Bankura and Purulia, with 30 per cent and 50 per cent biometric enrolment respectively, are among the Bengal districts lagging way behind the national average of 65. North Dinajpore and North 24 Parganas have also completed 50 and 55 per cent of biometric enrolment, respectively.
The process is almost complete in Kolkata, Howrah and Cooch Behar.
“The agencies, which had been outsourced work under the project, are reeling under manpower crunch. While they have enough kits, they do not have trained people to operate them. We have asked them to rope in trained operators. We are also in talks with district magistrates and they have assured that they would provide sufficient number of enrollment venues,” said an official of National Population Register. The official added that they had spoke to the postal department to ensure maximum delivery of the cards.
A Kolkata Municipal Corporation official said biometric enrolment in its command area was complete except in wards 142, 143 and 144. “These wards had been included later. We are working towards 100 per cent enrolment,” he said.