Calcutta, Sept. 11: The state government today set February 28 as the deadline for distributing Aadhaar cards among all Bengal residents, prompting many to wonder about the feasibility of covering over six crore people in little over five-and-a-half months.
Providing Aadhaar numbers to all citizens above the age of five is the precursor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dream project of rolling out a direct benefit-transfer scheme, replacing the leak-prone subsidy system.
The success of the project will depend on coverage as subsidies will be directly transferred to the 12-digit Aadhaar-linked bank accounts.
“We have set a target to complete the process by February 28,” home secretary Basudeb Banerjee said after a review meeting at Writers’ with district magistrates and representatives of the census directorate this afternoon.
The target is a phased one with three sets of deadlines for the 19 districts.
Although Banerjee said the deadline could not be missed, people involved in the project — an initiative of the Unique Identification Authority of India — expressed doubts about its feasibility, given the several steps involved in the process.
Sources in the census directorate, which is implementing the project in Bengal, said over six crore people were yet to get their Aadhaar numbers.
“The project is at various stages of implementation in the districts. We will try to cover as much as possible to meet the deadline but it is clear that it cannot be completed everywhere,” a census department official said.
The enrolment process, which started in 2011, got delayed by a few months because of the panchayat polls.
The project has faced other problems such as organising venues for biometric enrolment and lack of trained personnel to handle the kit.
Sources said delay in payment of vendors to whom the project has been outsourced was another reason for the sluggish pace of implementation.
“The Centre is not releasing funds and so we cannot pay our employees involved in the project. Unless they release pending payments, it will be difficult for us to mobilise our full strength,” a representative of a vendor company said.
“Lack of awareness on the need to enrol oneself is a problem area,” said a census department official.