In a development that shows the importance of the direct benefits transfer (DBT) scheme in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s various initiatives, the administrative control of the DBT division has been shifted to the Cabinet Secretariat from the finance ministry’s expenditure department.
Earlier, the DBT administrative team used to report to the expenditure secretary and the finance minister. It now comes under the cabinet secretary and, hence, the Prime Minister himself.
Business Standard has learnt this move happened around the same time the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s administrative control shifted from NITI Aayog to the ministry of communication and information technology.
Sources said since UIDAI is a full-fledged official programme of the government, an amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 was required and a notification was issued. However, since DBT is a scheme, no such amendment is required and no notification was issued either. The sources added only an internal government circular was issued regarding the shift in administrative control.
DBT encompasses various government schemes such as directly transferring subsidy amounts to the bank accounts of beneficiaries of liquid petroleum gas and foodgrain subsidies. It also includes directly crediting Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGS) payments directly to bank accounts.
The shift denotes MGNREGS’ renewed importance under the Modi government, which views it as one of the most efficient ways to alleviate rural distress and increase rural consumption.
As reported by Business Standard earlier, faced with rural distress amid a bad monsoon, the Centre wants to revive MGNREGS. With the Opposition accusing the government of not paying enough attention to rural India, a renewed focus on the job guarantee scheme, which had seen a weak performance last year, could help the government improve its pro-poor outreach.
“The progress of DBT will now be more closely monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office. It also means the Centre’s resources will be more readily available for the scheme,” said a senior official.
It should be noted that the administrative staff of DBT, headed by mission director D K Mittal, remains the same. So does its office space at the Shivaji Stadium Complex in New Delhi.
This is the second time the administrative control of DBT has been changed. In July 2013, it had moved from the erstwhile Planning Commission to the finance ministry.