The Jharkhand government on Wednesday started a new system of direct benefit transfer (DBT) in which BPL beneficiaries would get the amount in their account for purchase of foodgrains from the Public Distribution System (PDS) dealers. The project was launched at Nagri Block in the capital and would be monitored for four-five months before being extended to the rest of the state, if successful.
Activists of the Right to Food Campaign, however, questioned the move saying the model has failed in other places and there were way too many gaps and risks in implementing it.
Officials, however, said that the scheme covers for the gaps and problems that have appeared so far in different places and it would be tweaked in case any problems arose in future.
Inaugurating the scheme, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said that use of technology in providing benefits to the BPL families was proving helpful. He informed that the state has been able to delete at least 11.64 lakh ration cards that were fake and illegal and got 9.31 lakh new ration cards made. “We have saved 72,000 tonnes of foodgrains and Rs 224 crores from the middlemen” he told the gathering.
PDS Minister Saryu Rai assured the people that they should not worry about officials and should complain if they had any problem. The Department has floated a helpline and ‘ration committees’ comprising local people will also be constituted in all the places to keep a keen watch on the dealers and officials.
In a press statement issued, the Right to Food Campaign said that the move to provide amount directly to the people was fraught with many risks. “There are chances of price rise, which would make it difficult for the beneficiary to buy the grains. The bank coverage is not 100 per cent and, people living in far-off distances would have to first come to the Bank to withdraw money and then go to the shop for buying grains” it said.
Also, it pointed out that in places like Puducherry an overwhelming population has favoured the old system, as technology-based interventions often robbed the beneficiaries of their rights.
However, Secretary (PDS) Vinay Chaubey said that most of the apprehensions raised by the activists have been covered under the new scheme. “We have gone through the Chandigarh and Puducherry model and have tried to remove the anomalies. While on one hand, we will be providing money directly to the beneficiary, we would also be providing the PDS dealer the requisite amount of grains. If there is a price rise, that will be factored in the amount being transferred to the beneficiary. As far as provision of withdrawing the amount in case the family does not avail of it in two months is concerned, the provision has already been there,” he said.
Chaubey added that accounts of only 40 people out of a total of 12,151 beneficiaries in Nagri Block have not been mapped. “They have been identified and the task would be completed in three to four days,” he said.
The official further added that all the 11 banking correspondents (or bank mitras) have been brought in the loop for the purpose. “These people would take their micro-ATM, to all the localities helping people to transfer the amount from their account to that of the dealers without having to withdraw it. The entire system is going to be cashless,” said Chaubey.
The PDS department is already supplying foodgrains through PoS authentication across the state. “So far, we have not had any problems. But we can always improve it, if there is one. That is why, it has been launched in one block and will be monitored for about four to five months,” said Chaubey.