A recent communication from the chief minister’s office (CMO) says that the social security benefits to old and disabled people and widows would be given in cash rather than through direct benefit transfer (DBT). In addition, the department has also raised the number of beneficiaries from 28.61 lahks to 32.75 lahks adding another 4.31 lakh beneficiaries from 15 August 2023 as informed by the Chief Minister’s office.
Widows, Old and disabled people will have to stand in queues
This decision by the CMO in a way reveals that the Technology enabled Transparency tools, Timely delivery system and efficient Teamwork could not Transform its administrative mechanism in the last five years. So now the widows, old and disabled people will have to stand in queues to get Rs 500 per month as government assistance.
The communication from the CMO added that the step of reverting to paying the beneficiaries by cash was taken after grievances were received during the visit of VK Pandian, Secretary to the CM, to various districts in the recent past. This would mean that the DBT has failed to deliver.
Pandian is heading the 5T initiatives of the CMO and is keen on implementing these 5T mantras in various schemes and departments for the benefit of the citizens. But the frequently changing stand of the CMO regarding the distribution of pension benefits and adopting the old traditional method of paying them by hand has raised questions on the efficiency of 5T.
Cash delivery mechanism for the “KALIA”
Officials concerned say that the government is planning to adopt a cash delivery mechanism for the “KALIA” scheme also. This decision may increase the popularity and benefit political activists as ghost beneficiaries suddenly but would be a stress on the state exchequer.
It is interesting to note that the state government rejected the idea of adopting DBT in pension schemes in 2017. In a letter to the PM in December 2017, Patnaik said: “Any imposition of the system of bank payment will cause undue and unavoidable hardship to the vulnerable beneficiaries. I am sanguine you would appreciate the special circumstances of the State and not impose conditions on the release of funds which may militate against the interest of the beneficiaries.”
But after the ruling, Biju Janata Dal returned to power in the state, the government praised DBT and accepted the method of transferring benefits to the bank accounts on 23 October 2019. On that day, Bhaskar Jyoti Sharma, who is still serving as the commissioner cum secretary of the Department of social security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, instructed all the district collectors to implement the decision by 15 November 2019. However, cash distribution facilities were allowed at places where banking facilities had not been created.
As per the government data, in the last five years, the banking situations in the state have improved a lot –out of 6,798-gram panchayats, only 49 GPs covering 357 villages are yet to be provided with financial services through banks or agents from any bank. In 2019, only 4,921 GPs were connected to banking facilities.
But, surprisingly, the government is abandoning DBT and reverting to cash payment when branches of the banks have increased in the state.