Regular-article-logo Friday, 12 July 2024

State stops DBT in Nagri

Mass protests force govt to eat humble pie

A.S.R.P. Mukesh Ranchi Published 09.08.18, 12:00 AM

Ranchi: The Raghubar Das government has decided to roll back direct benefit transfer (DBT), a system of crediting PDS beneficiaries' bank accounts with cash to buy rations, almost a year after it was introduced as a pilot in Nagri block after a rash of complaints centred around banking issues and poor internet connectivity.

In a letter to Ranchi deputy commissioner Rai Mahimapat Ray dated August 7, the food and civil supplies department directed him to restore the earlier system of PDS in Nagri, adding that the Centre had agreed to the state government's request.

Under DBT in PDS, a pet project of the Centre introduced in October, as many as 12,000 people of 13 panchayats of the block were to receive money to buy rations. Every month, the state transferred Rs 1,106 to the bank account of a beneficiary to buy 35kg rice from a PDS outlet at Rs 31.60 per kg, while the beneficiary paid Re 1 per kg as his/her share.

Now that the old system has been restored, each beneficiary will continue to buy PDS rice at Rs 1 per kg while the state would reimburse the dealer.

"Although this project is among the pet projects of the Union government, it (Centre) has shown its magnanimity by understanding the concerns of Jharkhand to allow us the rollback. The earlier system of PDS will henceforth be followed in Nagri," said food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy, adding that a social audit had found that over 95 per cent of the people were in favour of a rollback.

District supplies officer Nagendra Gupta, who said he was yet to receive the formal order of the rollback, however said the old system could start only next month as money had already been sent to banks for payments in August.

Food and rights activists, along with the Opposition, had been clamouring for a rollback of DBT in rations at Nagri. All welcomed the state government's move on Wednesday.

Economist Jean Drèze described the roll back as good news. "But the fact it took almost a year of popular protests for the Nagri pilot to be discontinued is worrying. The pilot was a symbol of three related diseases of social policy in India today: centralisation, authoritarianism and technocracy," he told The Telegraph.

Balram, former adviser to the Supreme Court-appointed right to food cases, recalled how scores of people had suffered in Nagri.

"DBT was creating more problems for the people, For example, there were scores of cases where beneficiaries weren't getting money on time in their accounts. The reasons were varied, from bank issues to non-linkage with Aadhaar, or payments going into accounts about which beneficiaries weren't aware of," he said.

Balram cited certain systems the government could adopt. For example, the food and civil supplies department had decided to maintain registers at PDS shops where beneficiary details could be noted, in case thumb impressions could not be taken. It is still not being followed... This challenge still exists on the ground," he added.

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