The government's ambitious scheme of direct cash transfer of subsidy to bank accounts of beneficiaries begins Tuesday across 20 districts of the country with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram describing the move as a "game changer".
Talking to media persons along with Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, Chidambaram said the scheme will be rolled out across 11 more districts Feb 1 and 12 more districts March 1, taking the total to 43 districts over the next two months.
Admitting there could be some unforeseen glitches in the implementation of the scheme, Chidambaram said these would be overcome and the government was confident to roll it out across the country by the end of 2013.
He said 26 schemes were ready for rollout and cash benefit transfers will take place according to date of payment of the scheme. He said more schemes will be rolled out.
Chidambaram said payment through direct benefit transfer would be credited to accounts of beneficiaries in seven schemes, including scholarship and stipend schemes for students from weaker sections Jan 1.
"Over two lakh beneficiaries will start receiving benefits through direct benefits transfer," he said.
The minister said the government had no intention of direct benefit transfer for subsidies relating to food, fertilizer and kerosene as these were "complex issues".
Answering queries about the word "cash" having been used for the scheme earlier and the Congress almost claiming its ownership for political gains, Chidambaram said that the party's slogan "aapka paisa aapke haath (your money in your hands)" was valid.
He said that the party would continue to use the slogan as it resonates with people, but declined to link the scheme with 2014 general elections.
He said that a more appropriate phrase for the scheme from the government platform is "direct benefit transfer" as it was more neutral phrase.
In some schemes, cash benefit may be credited to college accounts and not to students directly, he added.
Tewari said there had been concern over several years that the money which leaves the government does not reach the beneficiary.
"The purpose of direct benefits transfer is to ensure that benefits go to individuals bank accounts electronically, cutting down delays and diversions," he said.
They said cash benefits will be transferred in schemes such as scholarships, pensions and MGNREGA wages.
Chidambaram said credit transfer will take place even if beneficiaries did not have Aadhar (brand name of the Unique Identification number ).
He said that beneficiaries, by and large, have bank accounts.
The minister said efforts would be to ensure that Aadhar is seeded in every bank account in future.
Chidambaram said withdrawals could take place through saving accounts and ATMs. Banks had floated a tender for 20 lakh micro-ATMs, which will be inter-operable and with facilities for biometric scanning and Aadhar authentication.
He said the scheme had been launched in partnership with states.
Chidambaram added: "It is game changer in the way we account money, in which money reaches beneficiaries."
He said an Aadhaar card holder did not need any other document to open a bank account.
Answering a query, he said while Delhi wants food subsidy to be covered in direct benefits transfer, Chhattisgarh was against it.
The national committee on direct cash transfers, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had taken a decision to roll out the scheme from Jan 1 in 43 identified districts in 16 states.