Buoyed by the initial success of Direct Benefit Transfer, government plans to double the number of schemes under DBT to 147 by March and has launched pilots for paying subsidy on food, kerosene and fertiliser directly via bank accounts of beneficiaries, a top official has said.
Benefits and subsidies in as many as 74 schemes of 17 government departments and ministries are paid directly to beneficiaries under DBT, said Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa.
The government, he said, has implemented 30 per cent of the recommendations of the expenditure management commission that was set up to suggest reforms to overhaul the subsidy regime and lower fiscal deficit.
“We plan to extend DBT to 147 schemes by March 2017. Right now there are 74. By and large, it is the food subsidy where we have been able to rationalise and bring it down. Similarly, in case of fertiliser subsidy, non urea subsidy there has been a reduction,” Lavasa told PTI.
Through DBT, he said, government hopes to achieve accurate targeting of beneficiaries, weed out duplication, curb leakages and bring efficiency in delivery process to help control expenditure and bring greater accountability and transparency.
DBT makes use of Aadhaar or the unique identification number to identify beneficiaries and benefits are transfered directly to their bank accounts, thus preventing any diversion and misuse of funds.
Government saved Rs 14,872 crore by offering subsidy on cooking gas (LPG) directly to consumers and DBT is now being extended to kerosene in over two dozen districts on pilot basis to save a part of the Rs 24,000 crore subsidy outgo.
Lavasa said DBT on food as well as fertiliser is also being tried on pilot basis.
As many as 1.6 crore duplicate and bogus ration cards have been eliminated, helping save about Rs 10,000 crore in subsidy bill annually.
The Expenditure Management Commission (EMC), headed by former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan, had in its report, suggested rationalising and merging centrally-sponsored schemes and extending DBT to all subsidies and welfare payments.
It had favoured expenditure reform and rationalisation rather than reduction. It also favoured eliminating the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure.
Lavasa said the EMC report had recommendations pertaining to DBT, domestic LPG, kerosene subsidy reduction, digitisation of PDS beneficiary records, launching of non-tax receipts portal, recommendation of payment of dividends by CPSUs, database for autonomous bodies and all these have been implemented.
The expenditure department has been able to rationalise food and fertiliser subsidy and pilot project is also going on in kerosene, he added.
He said: “By and large, it is the food subsidy where we have been able to rationalise bring it down, similarly in case of fertiliser subsidy, non urea subsidy there has been a reduction. Pilot is going on in kerosene and fertiliser.”
With regard to kerosene, Lavasa said more and more states are gradually turning to be kerosene free and are gradually shifting to LPG.
“Chandigarh has already declared itself kerosene free, Haryana has also said that by March 2017 they will make Haryana kerosene free. So all those efforts are going on,” he said.