Rajasthan plans aggressive time frame for this
While it looked as if Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfers (DBT) had been given the go by when the NDA came to power, the scheme is going to get a fresh lease of life on August 15. Prime minister Narendra Modi will outline the Centre’s financial inclusion plan which includes setting up of two bank accounts per unbanked family and probably a timeline in which the R3 lakh crore of annual central subsidies will be transferred directly to households. While the Centre goes about its DBT plans, Rajasthan has put an aggressive timeline to its own Aadhaar-based programme. As outlined in FE’s page 1 story today, the plan is to cover all families in the state under its Bhamashah platform by the end of the year.
The advantage Rajasthan has is that it first launched the Bhamashah platform in 2008 and was very successful, so it has a history of making it work. While a biometric capturing programme was planned for 50 lakh families in 2008, this was done for 44 lakh households; bank accounts were opened for 26 lakh families and R1,500 even transferred to 10 lakh of them till the programme was put on hold by the court—it was alleged this was a pre-election sop—and finally junked by the Congress government that came to power later that year. The current programme plans to go several steps further. For one, it will ride on the Centre’s Aadhaar enrolment, so when the central funds start coming in, they too will ride on the Bhamashah platform.
For now, the state plans to offer its current 100-odd e-services on this platform across its 9,000-odd panchayats along with some state schemes as well as entitlements under the Food Security Act. Each panchayat will have an e-Rajasthan Seva Kendra from where cash—through a banking correspondent—will be available along with, say, vouchers for ration shops. By the end of FY16, the state’s finance secretary is confident all the social sector programmes offered by the state—these add up to around R20,000 crore today—will ride on the Bhamashah platform. While the proof of the Centre’s and the state’s direct benefits programmes needs to be seen, we are in a new phase of financial inclusion. And with money from the state and the Centre all set to flow into bank accounts, inclusion seems more viable since, this time around, the banks stand to benefit from opening and servicing the accounts of the poor.