Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday urged the Centre not to impose the bank payment system on pension disbursement under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) but allow his government to disburse the money in cash.
"In view of special circumstances prevailing in Odisha, especially the fragile nature of the network of financial institutions and telecommunications, I firmly believe that disbursement of pensions in cash as per convenience and choice of beneficiaries is in their best interest," Patnaik said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Any imposition of the system of bank payments will cause undue and unavoidable hardship to the vulnerable beneficiaries, he added.
Patnaik claimed that Odisha, according to the NSAP guidelines, has been disbursing pensions in cash on a fixed day (15th of every month, even if it's a holiday) at the gram panchayat and urban local bodies headquarters in an open and transparent manner.
This was done in view of the difficulties faced in accessing banking services in the state, he said.
"Regular cash disbursement on a fixed day of the month entails burden on state administration but ensures the desired outcome of providing social security to the most vulnerable sections of population. The state is discharging its responsibility in the interest of the beneficiaries," the Chief Minister said.
He said 4,376 gram panchayats in Odisha had no banking facilities and existing banks find it difficult to take on the burden of a large number of pensioners due to staff shortage.
"Payment of pensions in bank accounts will not serve the desired purpose due to difficulties in withdrawing money from banks. In view of their impecunious condition, pensioners need cash urgently to meet their daily needs and not deposits in their bank accounts. Cash for disbursement of pension ensures achievement of the basic objective of social security for the vulnerable pensioners," he added.