The government on Monday made its intention clear of exploiting an Aadhaar-based direct cash transfer system as a political plank in the next Lok Sabha polls, due in 2014.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday cleared the schedule for implementation from January 1 of government subsidies and entitlements to beneficiaries in their bank accounts, through an Aadhaar-based platform across the country, at the first meeting of the National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers.
The schedule says the target to cover the whole country is latest April 1, 2014. Lok Sabha polls are due shortly after.
Singh summarised the challenges at the meeting. "This is a programme in which the implementation capacity of our government will be tested.
"We must ensure at all times that there is no duplication of effort and technology is used to the fullest for efficiency gains.
"The timelines we have set for ourselves are ambitious. Fifty one districts are to (have a) roll out from January next year and 18 states from April. And, the rest of the country later in 2013."
All ministries and departments engaged in transferring benefits would be quickly moving to the electronic Direct Cash Transfer system, based on the Aadhaar-payment platform.
Schemes are identified for movement to this system.
The road map for each scheme will follow a schedule under which 51 districts will be covered from January 1, 2013, a full 18 states from April 1, 2013, and the rest of the country from April 1, 2014, or earlier.
The Unique Identification Authority of India has set up a cell of technical experts to facilitate Aadhaar-enabled DCTs and help individual ministries.
The department of financial services is helping in the movement to universal financial inclusion through individual bank accounts for all.
The PM stressed the funds meant for direct benefits, such as pensions, scholarships and healthcare benefits, must reach the intended beneficiaries without delays.
"Apart from these direct benefits, the government also provides an amount of over Rs 300,000 crore (Rs 3,000 billion) in subsidies, which, too, must reach the right people," he added.
The PM also called for coordinated effort between the finance ministry and UIDAI.
"The twin pillars for the success of the system of DCTs that we have envisioned are the Aadhaar platform and financial Inclusion.
"If either of these pillars is weak, it would endanger the success of the initiative. I would expect the finance ministry and the Unique Identification Authority to work in close coordination to achieve a collective goal," he said.
Image: Prime MInister Manmohan Singh