|Saturday, 02 July 2016 05:43|
Progress on seeding PDS impressive
If the average balance in the country’s 219 million Jan Dhan accounts has more than doubled, from R795 in September 2014 to R1,735 in May 2016—according to IndiaSpend, the accounts themselves have quadrupled, from 53 million to 219 million—all the credit goes to the Aadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer scheme which pumped in R61,284 crore into them in FY16 for various scholarships and social benefit programmes. As FE’s lead story on Friday pointed out, close to 60% of all 24 crore ration cards in the country have been seeded with an Aadhaar number—which also means that, in 14.27 crore cases, at least, there is no duplicate or fake card. And of the country’s 5-lakh-odd ration shops, around a fourth already have an ePoS (e-Point-of-Sale) biometric reader to ensure only genuine beneficiaries get rations. The plan, which could do with considerable speeding up, is to have 3 lakh shops with ePoS by March 2017. The problem here is that poor and populous states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh fare very badly on this score. Just 9,000 of Bihar’s 1.54 crore ration cards are Aadhaar-seeded and there are no ePoS devices in the state—naturally, theft levels here are very high. Uttar Pradesh is slightly better off with a 44% seeding but has only 2 operational ePoS shops. Neither has made progress on automation, critical to track movement of PDS supplies from the FCI godown to the ration shop.
The savings with what has been achieved so far, though are considerable. The fact that 3.5 crore duplicate LPG accounts have been eliminated is well-known, but so have 1.62 crore bogus ration-card-holders—that has led to a saving of around R10,000 crore, including on kerosene supplies. In Haryana, just matching the LPG data with that of those receiving subsidised kerosene helped eliminate 6 lakh claimants. Another 1.5 lakh persons in the state were removed from the list of pensioners by using the Aadhaar de-duplication software. Uttar Pradesh claims to have saved R520 crore in the pension outgo using the same technique. Corruption in public service delivery is so rampant that there has been a 40% decline in post-matric scholarships in Haryana since Aadhaar-based de-duplication happened. In Kerala, Aadhaar-seeding of school children helped save R600 crore when it was found that, since Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan grants were based on the number of students, fake children were being enrolled in large numbers. That’s great progress, and we are not even talking of the payments and other revolutions possible based on Aadhaar and what Aadhaar-founder Nandan Nilekani calls the ‘India-stack’ of innovations.