HARYANA had been trying various modes of Direct Benefit Transfer over the years—like through money orders—but they were costly and cumbersome. Also, there was no scope of reconciliation. Then, from April 2011, efforts were made for Electronic Benefit Transfer through no-frills savings account, offered by the banks under the Financial Inclusion Scheme, using the Business Correspondent (BC) model. More than 19 lakh bank accounts were created and the scheme was attempted in all the districts of the State. But the model failed miserably and people came out in the streets due to major gaps in the implementation methodology, like too much reliance on BCAs and poor conduct of BCAs, etc. Finally, the government had to go back to the old system of distribution of pension through gram sarpanches and municipal staff in urban areas. This not only resulted in local level corruption, but also tied up the Social Justice Department,, Development and Panchayats Department as also Urban Local Bodies, into spending a huge amount of time and energy in the monthly pension disbursal.
With a view to bring in more transparency in the disbursal mechanism, the Council of Ministers in its very first meeting held on November 5, 2014, decided that: “The Council of Ministers on its own accord decided that the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment will increase the Old Age Samman Allowance and other Social Security Allowances to Rs. 1,200 per month from Rs. 1,000 per month, with effect from January 1, 2015, (to be disbursed in February 2015) through bank accounts of individual beneficiaries. It was further decided that the allowances will be enhanced by a sum of Rs. 200 every year in the month of January for the next four years thereafter as well.”
The draft modalities were worked out and presented in the DCs/ SPs Conference held on December 8, 2014, under the chairmanship of Haryana Chief Minister. A detailed presentation was made, signifying the main features of direct transfer of pensions and allowances into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
With the complete commissioning of the ‘Thari Pension Thare Paas’ project, Haryana has become the first State in the country to disburse Social Security Pensions through Direct Benefit Transfer only to all its Social Security pensioners. The project has covered all 81 towns and 6,756 villages of Haryana and involves disbursing eight kinds of pension—Old Age Pension, Disabled, Widow, Destitute Children, Ladli, Non-School Going MR Children, Eunuchs and Dwarfs—involving a pension amount of Rs. 276 crore per month (Rs. 3,400 crore per annum at Rs. 1,400 per beneficiary). This has checked the leakage of pension to the out-migrants and also the dead besides other irregularities. Almost 8-10 per cent pensioners have got eliminated automatically by shifting to the DBT mode, which has led to the saving of almost over Rs. 200-280 crore per annum.
A major challenge arose when it was realised that with Brick and Mortar Bank branches in only 1,438 villages, innovative village-wise planning would be essential. The disbursal of pension is now being done through eight different modes in a major exercise which started in January 2015. The modes were selected by village-wise mapping, keeping in mind the stakeholders preferences as also the ground reality for the 6,756 villages. This resulted, after numerous iterations, in allotting 816 villages (12 per cent) to Post Office Banks, 988 villages (14 per cent) to Resident BCAs (BC Agents), 240 to Non-Resident BCAs (3 per cent), 807 villages (12 per cent) to PACS Sale Point made into Business Facilitators, 67 villages (1 per cent) to Vodafone M-pesa and two villages (0.1 per cent) to Common Service Centres (CSC). Most of these disbursing agents were within 2 km of the resident pensioners. Next, villages near physical disbursing agents were explored by allotting 1,244 villages (18 per cent) to nearby Banks, 599 to nearby Post office Banks (8 per cent), 178 to nearby BCA (2 per cent) and 376 to additional BCAs (5 per cent). Provision has been made that all above 80 year old or disabled villagers, ‘who are bedridden’, are given pension at their doorstep after office hours by the disbursing agent. Now about 2,337 CSCs are being opened in the State and as soon as they get BCA or Aadhaar-enabled payment gateways, pension will also be distributed through them. They are also being used for getting Jeevan Praman Patra uploaded on the department website.
The major outcomes of the ‘Thari Pension Thare Paas’ DBT project are:
- Time of Municipal Committee workers has been saved; they can focus on their core job.
- 2Staff of DSWO office is also now free to cater to the interests of disabled, elderly and work seriously on drug de-addiction
- People can see their account ledger online and see when their money came. They can also save the money and use it when necessary. Their propensity to blow up cash on liquor, etc., has got far reduced by the environment created as also the safety of money in banks apart from interest income. So, the saving habit will increase.
- At least 1.6 lakh people have dropped out even without de-duplication and the State will be able to save almost Rs. 200-280 crore on this account.
- The State can now do innovative things like Adapting Homes for the Disabled, and may be even for Elderly later.
- There is a scope for continuous de-duplication and improvement as all data is on the Database. Aadhaar linkage has been done in case of almost 84 per cent pensioners.
- The pensioners can now submit their forms at the CSC itself and get the pension as per the Service Level commitment.
The State has also planned to give six-months pension as advance to differently-abled pensioners. The State has also increased the grant for diet money for the visually and hearing-impaired students, apart from lepers, and is making its disbursal as DBT mode.
OVER 1.43 lakh pensioners are disabled and the good news is that uploading of accounts of the disabled has been found to be more than total uploading. In urban areas, it is a big more than 11.7 per cent compared to total pensioners while in rural areas it is 4.4 per cent more than that of total pensioners. Similarly, needy widows have also been 11.8 per cent more active in urban areas and 5.6 per cent more active in rural areas in getting their accounts uploaded as compared to total beneficiaries. This is great news for the 6.14 lakh widows enrolled with the department, of which 1.13 lakh are above 60 years of age. There is also a complaint window on the department website where anyone can anonymously give information about wrong pension being taken by anyone. List of all pensioners in the village/ ward can be seen on the internet by anyone, resulting in transparency.
The major reason of the success has been the constant support and pressure from the CM’s office as well as SJEM office, which triggered the process in the right earnest. The message and intent was loud and clear—this work was to be done and the State meant business. So, DBT in Haryana has happened for 22.2 lakh people.
The writer is an IAS officer and Additional Chief Secretary with the Social Justice and Empowerment Department, Government of Haryana