500 central schemes to go DBT way next fiscal year

NEW DELHI: The Centre is looking to move nearly half its 1,000-odd schemes to direct benefit transfer (DBT) from the next financial year in the biggest-ever thrust to track beneficiaries, improve efficiency and check leakages.

At least 447 DBT-applicable schemes have been identified across 58 ministries after a rigorous exercise of scrutinising 1,061 schemes from 73 ministries.

A decision on another 160 is expected over the next few weeks and ministries and departments are being asked to ensure that Aadhaar numbers of all beneficiaries are seeded and cash payments are made directly to bank accounts, sources told TOI.

Schemes which do not involve cash transfers will only have a list of beneficiaries with Aadhaar numbers to ensure that the gains are not cornered by a handful, but are more evenly spread.

The plan is to expand the coverage of DBT significantly -from education scholarships to atomic energy research, crop insurance to dairy schemes, besides including support to artisans, postal life insurance and awards for sportsmen. The list includes subsidy payments for fertilizer, interest on home loans up to Rs 1lakh from public sector banks and those for transport and freight, among others.

Currently , 78 central government schemes are part of DBT although a bulk of the coverage is on account of transfer of subsidy on cooking gas cylinders and NREGAtransfers with the the coverage estimated at around 80% and 74%, respectively .AICTE’s fellowship schemes have over 99% coverage and the number of beneficiaries are estimated at around 21,500. However, there are several schemes in which DBT remains on paper and there is zero coverage.

“We have asked the departments concerned to begin the exercise to expand coverage. It will not just check leakages but also ensure better delivery of service,” said an officer.

The entire scheme has been in the works for over six months now, starting with the an office memorandum issued by the DBT Mission in the cabinet secretariat on March 31. It expanded the scope of DBT beyond cash transfers to include “in-kind transfers” to individuals and processes with ministries and departments asked to set up DBT cells and identify schemes.

This was followed by a review by PM Narendra Modi in May, followed by a discussion at the council of ministers in the same month and a discussion with all states at the interstate council in July .

While ministries were a little slow, the appointment of 170 IAS probationers as assistant secretaries really speeded up matters. By September, they had identified schemes in every department, in which a switch to DBT mode was possible. Now, the departments have been asked to be ready with their MIS by March.