Direct cash transfers: Long queue for cards, long delay for benefits

Written by Ruhi Tewari | Rajasthan/Delhi | Updated: Oct 4 2013, 21:51pm hrs
In a narrow lane of Kanjhavala in Northwest Delhi, Maina Devi, 75, waits to get her Aadhar card made. Having lost her legs, she has not been able to go to the enrolment camp. Without the card, she would not get Rs 600 a month under the Delhi governments Annashree scheme. She is entitled to the cash subsidy for food by virtue of being the eldest woman in the household. The Annashree Yojana, which entails transferring the cash directly into Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, is for needy families that dont get subsidised food under either the BPL scheme or Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

It is a new scheme, but several existing schemes such as scholarships, widow pensions, Janani Suraksha Yojana, too, have been included under DBT, launched in Northwest and Northeast districts in the first phase in January this year.

With polls due at the end of this year, the Sheila Dikshit-led government will be looking at making the maximum impact with the cash subsidy for food. However, eight months after the launch, the noise has been about delays.

I got the subsidy just once in the past nine months, though I have visited the bank several times, says Reshma of Saavda in Northwest district. She is among 11 women who have thronged the Mission Convergence office to complain. The scheme was supposed to be implemented retrospectively from April 1, 2012, with arrears to be credited into accounts. Several women come to us every day complaining about not having received the cash. It comes with a lag of four to six months on an average, says Meenakshi, who works with a gender resource centre for the Mission Convergence programme.

DBT is something people are yet to understand fully. Not everybody has got a bank account or an Aadhar number and seeding remains a concern. I still get my pension by cheque. The bank told me my account is not linked to Aadhar, says Munni Bibi of Ghevra village.

In Nathu colony in Northeast, Murti Bai says her son and daughter-in-law, both disabled, got their last pensions directly in their accounts. It was convenient... But it happened only because of the people working with the gender resource centre, she says. Most women credit the social workers in their area. No one from the government ever came to them to explain, they say.

Outside the Northeast district magistrates office, people queued up to enrol in Aadhar say they have been waiting for hours. We have been waiting since 8 am. We have to get the cards, else we wont get benefits, says Sangeeta Yadav, while her nine-month-old baby wails in the heat. Several have not received their childrens scholarships for lack of a card.

The DBT scheme is still in the preliminary stages... We are still doing Aadhar enrolment. We get around 200-300 people every day for Aadhar generation, says Anoop Thakur, SDM (Kanjhawala), Northwest.

Another scheme that appears to be suffering after being included under DBT is the Janani Suraksha Yojana, under which BPL women get Rs 600 for a childbirth registered with a government hospital. Earlier women were given cash or cheques but now it goes straight to their accounts. But only those with Aadhar numbers and bank accounts are given it, so invariably some get left out, says a government official dealing with the scheme in Northeast.

The biggest problem in Delhi has been that banks dont cooperate and are reluctant to open no-frill accounts... The business correspondent model also exists more in the books and less on the ground, says Sanjay Kumar, director of Sewa Bharat, an NGO that has been working in the area of direct cash transfers.