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Tripura ire over cash transfer

Agartala, Jan. 2: The Tripura government has firmly opposed introduction of direct cash transfer scheme, now euphemistically called direct benefits transfer (DBT), in 20 districts across the country.

Moreover, the non-receipt of Aadhar cards, which will form the basis of disbursing of cash subsidy through banks, by 70 per cent people, is fuelling its resentment.

This is despite the fact that Tripura has earned an award from the Centre for 90 per cent coverage of Aadhar cards but the reality is while photographs and details of these people were taken, not more than 30 per cent has actually received the card.

Tripura finance minister Badal Chowdhury himself disclosed that he had received the card but not his wife.

According to the announcement made by the Centre, 11 more districts will come under the purview of the scheme on February 2 while 12 more will be added to the list of beneficiaries from March. Four out of Tripura’s altogether eight districts, namely Khowai, Dhalai, North Tripura and West Tripura, will come under the coverage of the DBT scheme from March 1, the last date of the first phase.

Chowdhury said according to feedback received from the Centre, altogether 26 schemes would be covered in the initial stage. This includes stipends for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, OBC and other backward sections of people, Indira Gandhi Maternity Assistance scheme, Dhanalakshmi scheme, stipend for training of unemployed SC and ST youths, wage of MGNREGA, merit stipend and pension.

The finance minister castigated the DBT scheme as “politically motivated” and said it will create more problems than it will solve. “What will create the real problem is the lack of banking coverage in Tripura, and presumably other states of the Northeast; we have 128 branches of Tripura Gramin Bank (TGB), 39 branches of state co-operative bank, 52 branches of UBI, the leading bank in Tripura with 103 ATMs, 48 branches of the SBI with 104 ATMs; besides there are 19 other nationalised banks operating in Tripura with branches ranging between two and four; this will not be enough to cover the rural and hilly areas of the state if the DBT scheme is implemented in full swing.

He said Tripura has altogether 511 gram panchayats and 527 village committees. “

Chowdhury lashed out at the Centre for unilaterally announcing and implementing the scheme without any consultation with the state.

Interestingly, there are only 65 bank branches in the gram panchayat areas and only 37 in village committee areas, which are totally inadequate to meet the demands of people as far as cash from DBT scheme; our assessment is that every two-three panchayats or village committees should have a bank branch but when will that be possible?” asked Chowdhury. He also pointed out that regional rural banks like Tripura Gramin Bank and state co-operative bank, which do not have ATM facilities, might be left out of the scheme, further worsening the problem of lack of banking coverage to implement the scheme.