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Slowcoach cloud on cash transfer

Patna, Nov. 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ambitious plan to replace the leak-prone subsidy regime with direct cash transfers to bank accounts of beneficiaries may get delayed in Bihar due to the tardy progress of enrolment of residents in the National Population Register (NPR).

The Union home ministry has set the target of registration of an estimated population of 10 crore citizens under NPR within a period of one year starting December 2012. But the state government is yet to finalise the action plan for beginning the biometric registration process.

The Union home ministry, through the directorate of census operations, Bihar, has been persuading the state government to commence work on NPR over the past several months. A senior official in the directorate told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity: “The Union home ministry is extremely keen to start NPR enrolments in Bihar at the earliest. It is in this regard that the registrar-general of India had come to Patna on October 30 and met the chief secretary. The Union home secretary wrote a letter to the Bihar chief secretary on November 20 asking him to ensure commencement of NPR enrolment in the state at the earliest.”

Several senior officials of the state’s census directorate met with chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha on Friday. “We are dependent on the state government for getting enumerators who would do NPR biometric enrolments. Earlier, the base data for NPR was collected during the house-listing process conducted in the state in April-May 2010. The scanning of the collected data has also been done. Now, camps are required to be set up for NPR enrolment for which we need enumerators from the state government as it is a huge process,” said the official of census directorate.

However, it seems that NPR does not figure on the priority list of the state government. The state revenue and land reforms department coordinates with the census directorate for most of its activities, including house-listing and population enumeration. Asked about the steps being taken in this regard, the principal secretary, revenue and land reforms, C. Ashok Vardhan, said: “The action plan for NPR enrolment in the state is being worked on at present. A decision is also to be taken on whether old enumerators (teachers in April- May 2010) would be used for NPR enrolment or new ones would be appointed. A detailed plan is likely to be officially announced in a couple of days.”

The biometric enrolment in NPR is the first step for Bihar residents to get the Aadhar number, a 12-digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the Centre. The number can be utilised for over 600 services in the country, including opening of bank accounts, which the Centre will use to directly transfer cash to beneficiaries under various heads — ranging from scholarships to students to subsidy on LPG cylinders to households.

The NPR project comprises three steps: collection of demographic data, collection of biometric data and issuance of Aadhar numbers.