Unique ID helps bridge the Bharat-India divide

Written by Indronil Roychowdhury | Ranchi | Updated: Jan 30 2011, 06:56am hrs
For Sambhu, a native of the little known and barren hamlet of Kantu in Jharkhand, forget having a bank account, even the thought of it could never dare strike him till the day it actually happened.

Thanks to the unique identification (UID) number scheme, today Sambhu, a daily wager, is armed with a UID number and henceforth will draw his earnings from Bank of India.

Though needless to say that Sambhu is not alone to be benefiting from this drive, its uniqueness in Jharkhand lies in that it integrates five services: Public Distribution System (PDS); NREGA payment; old age, widow and handicapped pension schemes; state stipend scheme and mid-day meal.

All these schemes cover the underprivileged. UID numbers are being given to BPL card holders, NREGA workers, handicapped, widows, old age people, poor students, on a priority basis, said AP Singh, Jharkhands IT secretary who is responsible for developing new modules to bring the five services under the UID ambit.

A visit to Lehna village under Ratu block reveals the excited state of being among the villagers who are queuing up to get their eyeballs pictured and fingers imprinted.

It took years of effort to get a voter ID card and that too came with an error in the name, which very often puts me into trouble, said Milisa Minz,an anganwadi sevika, after enrolling herself under the UID. The UID, she said, has a much more systemic and realistic approach.

Im told that I shall get my new number in a month and I believe I will get it since many in our nearby village have got the same in less than a month after getting enrolled, Minz said.

Jyotshna Singh, Ratus Block Development Officer (BDO), under whose jurisdiction come villages like Lehna and Kantu, said, Out of the blocks population of 1,26,000, 25,169 people have got their UID numbers so far and 60% have been enrolled.

The BDO office started empaneling agencies from September 24 onwards, five days before the scheme was officially launched in Maharashtra, so we are quite ahead of others in giving the UID as well as enrollment, Singh said.

The state government has given high priority to UID, and chief minister Arjun Munda wants the states entire BPL population to get their UID numbers by June-July with five services integrated into it, Chittaranjan Kumar, Ranchis additional collector, also the nodal officer for UID in the state, said.

But AP Singh says six months was a very tight time line because PDS, one of the major component of the integrated UID would have to be realigned.

Linking NREGA, the pension and the stipend schemes with the UID will not be a problem since there is an existing data base and banks are playing an important part in opening new accounts and facilitating money transfer from concerned departments to the UID holders bank account, Singh said. But linking PDS and mid-day meal with UID would mean all the ration shops (35,000) and primary schools in the state would have to be provided with machines enabling biometric signature, against which people would draw their ration and children their mid-day meal, Singh said, adding that tenders for roping in contractors to place such machines would soon be floated.

However, this would not be a huge order not exceeding Rs 50-60 crore and the state will spend the entire amount since integrating the rural development programmes with UID are not within the scheme of UIDAI, Singh said.

But SK Sathpati, Jharkhands rural development secretary, who is overseeing the UID implementation in the rural areas, said UIDAI would bear the entire cost of integrating NREGA with the UID number scheme and that Jharkhand was pioneering the process.

This integration will actually extend banking services to all the 4,223 panchayats in the state with all the 259 blocks coming under core banking. This means Jharkhand will soon become a state with the entire population having access to banking services and the state becoming an important market for the banking sector, Sathpati said.

Jharkhand's 140 blocks are under the coverage of core banking facilities and the state has tied up with the State Bank of India, Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Union Bank of India, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank to have branches open in the blocks which dont have a bank branch yet. Once the branches are open, all panchayats will have a Common Service Center (CSC), which will coordinate with the banks and NREGA workers, so instead of queuing up in the bank branches at the block, people can withdraw against a biometric signature from the CSCs, Sathpati said.

He said while Zoom Developers of Mumbai and UTL of Ranchi have been roped in to set up CSCs, a global tender would be floated in 15 days to appoint a consultant to streamline the entire mechanism. Currently, NREGA covers 38 lakh households in the state, Sathpati said.

After having rolled out in five districts Ranchi, Dhanbad, Deoghar, Lohardaga and Hazaribagh, UID would be rolled out in another 16 districts from February 20. However, the menace of naxals at Chatra, Latehar and Simdega prevails and no agency has come forward to implement UID in these districts even after two tenders were floated. We have floated a third modified tender for the three districts, to be opened on February 4. Let's see the response now, Sathpati said.