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Direct cash dash flops in twin districts

Hazaribagh, Jan. 1: An unprepared state administrative machinery crying at a Union government “aloof” from the ground reality ensured a shaky start to the launch of the much touted direct cash transfer scheme in the twin districts of Hazaribagh and Ramgarh today.

Highly placed sources in the Hazaribagh district administration said the Centre had hurriedly included four districts of Jharkhand — including Ranchi and Seraikela-Kharsawan — in the list of 51 across the nation as part of the pilot plan for a January 1 launch.

They said the Centre’s intention to gain political mileage with the project put enormous pressure on officials in Hazaribagh and Ramgarh as they lagged behind the target of opening Aadhaar-linked accounts of beneficiaries by a fair margin.

In Hazaribagh, the officials were faced with a target to implement direct benefits transfer in 15 welfare schemes — including old-age pension, scholarships, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) — to as many as 21,500 beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, in Ramgarh the target was 8,000 people and seven schemes.

However, North Chotanagpur commissioner Nitin Madan Kulkarni told The Telegraph the two districts had managed to dole out the unique identification (UID) or Aadhaar cards to only 36 per cent of the targeted beneficiaries.

In Ramgarh, which was presented with the National Aadhaar Governance Award — instituted by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), in Jaipur in October 2012 — deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal claimed some transfer took place today.

However, he could not cite any figure.

“Around 35 cash transfers through Aadhaar took place today,” said his Hazaribagh counterpart Manish Ranjan.

According to Kulkarni, wages under different schemes including MGNREGS and Samajik Suraksha Pension were going directly into accounts of beneficiaries but had not been linked to Aadhaar yet.

He claimed that with work progressing in this regard, both districts would meet their targets soon.

He refused to answer the reason behind the delay.

A top official in Hazaribagh, who did not want to be named, however said that the direct cash transfer plan would be officially flagged off only on March 1.

Giving an example of how far officials were behind, sources in Ramgarh district said that in Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana, officials had so far opened Aadhaar-enabled accounts of only 114 pregnant women out of 2,419 who had been identified.

The expected deliveries of the beneficiaries are between January and March.

In both districts, surprisingly officials do not have a concrete idea of how many accounts so far opened in banks of the beneficiaries.

“Don’t blame us, as time was less and all of a sudden we were asked (by the Centre) to get ready by January 1,” said an official.

According to officials, camps were organised in both districts to provide Aadhaar cards. Ramgarh at least knows how many people — 5,500 — have Aadhaar cards.