Expressing his concern over the recent decision of the Odisha Government to shift the social security pension for old age and divyangjans to cash rather than maintaining the existing Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) strategy, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday wrote to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and called this “a step backwards in our collective pursuit of corruption-free governance and efficient public service delivery”.
In his letter, Pradhan said Odisha has swiftly adopted DBT both in Central and State schemes which helped the Government in an estimated saving of Rs 459.96 crore in FY-21 due to elimination of ghost/ duplicated beneficiaries. In FY 2022-23, Odisha’s total DBT was a whopping Rs 8,135.18 crore, which included transfers through Centrally-Sponsored schemes and State schemes and almost 1.95 crore beneficiaries were covered.
Pradhan wrote that under the Jan Dhan Yojana, across India, a whopping 48.99 crore bank accounts have been opened. In Odisha itself, 2.01 crore bank accounts have been activated. Moreover, 1,45,48,473 Rupay cards have been issued in Odisha for ease of transactions. Prime Minister Modi’s social security schemes have provided safety nets for citizens, settling claims worth hundreds of crores, and financially aiding numerous families through the DBT mechanism.
He said the Government or India has saved Rs 72.73 lakh crore cumulative till close or FY 2021-22 due to adoption of DBT. These figures elucidate how the DBT strategy has been instrumental in alleviating poverty, empowering citizens and improving service delivery, directly benefiting crores of citizens. “Considering such a substantial impact, it is disconcerting to witness the Odisha Government’s decision to return to cash payments for old age pensions,” Pradhan’s letter stated.
Reiterating that adoption of DBT has resulted in massive savings to the exchequer by removal of fake/ ghost beneficiaries and immensely helped in plugging leakage and diversions, Pradhan said 2.99 crore beneficiaries are being paid monthly pension through their bank accounts under the NSAP of Government of India. Similarly in Odisha also, 20,95,695 beneficiaries are being provided with benefits through the DBT mechanism.
“You would appreciate the fact that cash payments, historically, have had tendencies to spur corruption, pilferage, and exploitation of beneficiaries by middlemen. The recent decision of Government of Odisha to pay out cash, I fear, may revive these grim scenarios, adding burdens to our elderly citizens. I urge you to continue the DBT mechanism for payment of pension to old age, widow and divyangjans in Odisha and review the decision of cash payout,” he urged the CM.