The finance ministry has conducted an examination of the existing welfare and subsidy schemes of the central governments and identified 532 of them as being suitable to be migrated to the ‘direct benefit transfer’ or DBT model of disbursing of funds.
Under the DBT scheme, the scheme benefit is converted into an equivalent monetary value, which is transferred directly to the citizen’s bank account.
“We have already brought nearly 90 schemes on board. All ministries have been told to bring the remaining on board as well,” said a finance ministry official.
The most famous and successful implementation of the strategy has been in delivering subsidized cooking gas.
Earlier, the subsidy amount meant for each household used to be handed over to the oil companies — who would in turn channel it through their distributors and agencies in the form of cheaper cooking gas. Under the DBT model, it is handed over directly to the citizens via their bank accounts.
This has prevented unscrupulous LPG dealers from pilfering off a part of the benefit meant for the subscribers.
Earlier, LPG dealers used to keep a substantial chunk of the subsidy meant for the end consumer by refusing to give gas refills or by giving a lower quantity than was shown in the books.
In some states, DBT is being used to prevent ration dealers from stealing from the citizens.
Here too, ration dealers would earlier claim subsidies corresponding to a certain quantity of grains and pulses disbursed every month, but would distribute only a fraction of that quantity to the end consumers.
They also engaged in substituting the higher-quality grain sent by the government with inferior quality product sourced from the market. They would then sell the original grains and pulses for high prices to food manufacturers and grain dealers while the citizens would be stuck with vermin-infested grains.
PLUG AND PLAY
The entire task of identifying and disbursing money under various DBT schemes is being centralized under an IT tool known as DBT Bharat. The portal has a list of beneficiaries, their Aadhaar numbers and bank account details.
Any ministry which wants to convert its scheme from traditional ‘trickle down’ model to the direct benefit system just needs to credit the money to the DBT Bharat Portal along with the beneficiaries’ Aadhaar numbers. The rest of the work happens quickly and efficiently thanks to the information already gathered via other projects.
The finance ministry has been pushing other ministries and departments to migrate the identified schemes and projects to the DBT model. As of now, 76 government departments — that encompass nearly all the wings of the central government — have already set up dedicated DBT cells for speeding up the process.
The review of the existing welfare schemes was undertaken by the ‘DBT Mission’ group inside the finance ministry. A total of about 1,200 schemes and programs were examined, out of which close to about half were identified as being suitable for transfer onto the new model.
At present, the LPG scheme is the one with the highest number of unique beneficiaries under the DBT model at18.72 cr individuals who represent nearly all the households in the country.
The LPG scheme is followed by the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, which has 11 cr beneficiaries, and the old-age pension scheme, which has 2.1 cr beneficiaries.
The fertilizer scheme — the second biggest subsidy scheme in India by amount of money spent — is however missing from the list.
Even programs such as scholarship schemes and cultural grants are being onboarded with the DBT portal.