A pilot project for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in public distribution system in Ranchi’s Nagri block has been discontinued ten months after it was launched. The state government had in June requested the Centre to discontinue the pilot project after a social audit found that nearly 97 per cent of the beneficiaries and 36 gram sabhas out of 38 villages had said “No” to DBT, while the remaining two had said DBT should be implemented only after systemic reforms were put in place.
A letter, accepting the request, was sent from the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and PDS, on August 6. The state government directed the Deputy Commissioner Wednesday to take steps for reverting to the old system.
The DBT system in Nagri was launched in October 2017. The total number of beneficiaries was 12,126. Under the earlier system, a beneficiary would go to the PDS shop and buy rice at Re 1 per kg. The dealer would be reimbursed by the government at Rs 31 per kg. The new system provided for transfer of Rs 1,136 per beneficiary every month to allow him/her to buy 35 kg rice from the PDS shop by paying full price to the dealer.
According to the report of the government-ordered social audit carried out in April — first month of the pilot project — only 9,957 beneficiaries got the amount in their accounts. Of them, only 5,726 beneficiaries took ration from the shop. By March 2018, the number of beneficiaries getting the amount came down to 8,212. The number of beneficiaries taking ration from the PDS shop increased to 9,346 in January 2018 and again dropped to 8,832.
The audit also found that, on an average, more than 82 per cent took around 24 hours to get ration after they came to know that the money has come, while a few took more than four days. The audit found that the relative increase in the number of beneficiaries taking ration was primarily due to some beneficiaries borrowing money.
State Convener of Right to Food Campaign, Ashrafi Nand Prasad, said, “The problem was that people, all of whom are poor, would require to visit the bank three-four times to know whether the amount has been transferred. Once they come to know that it has, it took further time for them to withdraw the amount.”
State Food Minister Saryu Roy said, “When the audit’s findings showed people were in favour of the old system, we requested the Centre to withdraw the pilot project.”