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Wednesday , January 2 , 2013
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New Year Aadhaar of embarrassment

Jan. 1: Complete confusion ruled the much hyped inauguration of the Centre’s ambitious direct cash transfer scheme via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts today in all the four pilot districts — Ranchi, Ramgarh, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Hazaribagh — with one clocking a zero success rate.

Across India, too, Aadhaar (literally foundation in Hindi) was found to be on shaky ground. Instead of the stipulated 51 pilot districts, cash transfer could begin only in 20. As of now, Jharkhand’s quartet alone corners 20 per cent of districts under Aadhaar, making the state a pilot showpiece for arguably the biggest public welfare of UPA II that proved to be casebook studies of bureaucratic mess and technology gone wrong.

For instance, in industrial belt Seraikela-Kharsawan, 20 pregnant women were left disappointed. Till the filing of this report at 5.40pm, not a single beneficiary could get direct cash transfer. In Ramgarh and Hazaribagh, officials claimed 36 per cent Aadhaar enrolment rate but could not say how many actual cash transfers took place today. In Ranchi, cash was transferred directly to 244 beneficiaries of National Child Labour Project and 99 of National Merit-cum-Means into their bank accounts through their Aadhaar cards as a symbolic start to the central scheme.

But even in Ranchi, against the original target of 29 lakh Ranchi district residents, only 15 lakh so far have received Aadhaar. The deadline to cover all 1.1 lakh beneficiaries of schemes has been now extended to January 28.

In Seraikela-Kharsawan, network problems and bureaucratic preoccupation with chief minister Arjun Munda’s visit were equally to blame for the flop show. The target of 20 was modest and each lady was to get Rs 1,400. Seraikela-Kharsawan DC K.N. Jha said he asked the district civil surgeon to start direct cash transfer scheme with Janani Suraksha Yojana as this was the only one for which they had received cash allotment.

But the cash transfer process began after 4pm as the babus were busy the whole day with Munda’s tribute to Kharsawan martyrs. Then, the lead bank (Bank of India) technical official apparently failed to get the real time gross settlement (RTGS) process in motion due to the network snag. Under RTGS, transfer of money for security takes place from one bank to another in real time.

In sole passable performer Ranchi, though the launch event hosted by district administration was a bland affair without any beneficiary, the efficiency was visible. Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey emailed scanned copies of the cheque and a beneficiary list to Ranchi district’s leading Bank of India.

Original cheques and list were handed over to the bank representative in person. The entire process took less than 15 minutes, after which Choubey was told that the due sums had been credited in respective personal bank accounts.

While a total payment of Rs 1,09,800 was made towards the National Child Labour Project, youngsters under National Merit-cum-Means Scholarship got Rs 500 each.

“Children are happy to know they are among the first beneficiaries of the central direct cash transfer scheme. Some said they would soon withdraw money from their account,” said Dr Ira, principal of National Child Labour Project School in Hindpiri, Ranchi city.

The school has 50 students — all of whom enrolled under Aadhaar — who got cash transferred directly.

“This scheme will bring about revolutionary changes in Jharkhand,” an elated deputy commissioner Choubey told The Telegraph. “Our January target is transferring cash directly via Aadhaar to bank accounts of 1.1 lakh beneficiaries in the 13 out of 34 schemes currently running in our district. Completing their UID enrolment in the next few days is a major challenge before us,” he said, adding that from January 4, special camps would be set up in different schools and colleges for Aadhaar enrolment. Ranchi district has 323 enrolment machines in 53 camps.

But glitches are many. “At least 40 per cent impression is mandatory, but here we usually get barely 20 per cent of most candidates,” said a senior official engaged in the enrolment process. Whether it is due to faded fingerprints in work-worn hands or faulty machines is open to question.

In both Ramgarh and Hazaribagh, officials said glibly that 36 per cent target of Aadhaar enrolment had been achieved. Hazaribagh has to implement direct benefits transfer in 15 schemes with 21,500 beneficiaries, whereas Ramgarh in seven with 8,000 people.

Ramgarh, which received the National Aadhaar Governance Award, cut a sorry figure. “I am not sure of the figures but some have definitely happened,” said deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal.

A highly placed official in Hazaribagh refused to comment, only saying the deadline was extended till March 1. “Off the record, it is a mess,” he said.

North Chotanagpur Commissionerate commissioner Nitin Madan Kulkarni told The Telegraph that 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. But he refused to entertain the question — why the delay.

Ramgarh at least knows how many people — 5,500 — have Aadhaar cards. Hazaribagh doesn’t. Seraikela-Kharsawan has at least completed formalities for 11,000 tribal and OBC students to receive scholarships and are awaiting funds allotment.

Babus also have an excuse ready. “The central government exerted political pressure to start Aadhaar in a hurry,” said a bureaucrat not wishing to be named, in an indirect admission that they weren’t ready.

In Garhwa today, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said he would exhort Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to speed up Aadhaar enrolment. “Direct cash transfer scheme is related to Aadhaar. In some districts, the enrolment process is slow. I will speak to the UIDAI authorities,” Ramesh, who ended his three-day visit of Maoist-hit Latehar, Palamau and Garhwa districts covering about 700 km to and from Ranchi, said.

Back to basics. On today’s glitch, Seraikela-Kharsawan civil surgeon Shiv Shankar said: “We shortlisted 4,393 beneficiaries under Janani Suraksha Yojana for 2012-13 fiscal. These 20 beneficiaries had all papers like Aadhaar card, bank passbook and others. But we failed to get cash transferred to their accounts as the network tripped. We will distribute them tomorrow morning.”

Tomorrow is another day.

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