Business Standard

Dharmendra Pradhan objects to Odisha govt's move of pension pay in cash

You would appreciate the fact that cash payments, historically, have had tendencies to spur corruption, pilferage, and exploitation of beneficiaries by middlemen, Pradhan's letter read

Union Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan

Union Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan

ANI General News
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday wrote to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik objecting to the Odisha Government's move to provide social security pension in cash to the beneficiaries in the state.
"I write to you, expressing my worry, and more importantly, the distress of the citizens of Odisha, regarding 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. This decision, unfortunately, appears to be a step backwards in our collective pursuit of corruption-free governance and efficient public service delivery," said Pradhan in his letter.
"Under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, we have strived to ensure that the fruits of government schemes reach every individual, without any pilferage. The Jan Dhan Yojana is a sterling example of this approach. Across India, a whopping 48.99 Crore bank accounts have been opened under this scheme, amassing savings of Rs 1.97 lakh crore. In Odisha itself, 2.01 crore bank accounts have been activated, saving Crore for the people of our state. Moreover, 1,45,48,473 Rupay cards have been issued in Odisha for ease of transactions," he stated in a letter.
He further said, "Prime Minister Modi's social security schemes such as the PM Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, PM Suraksha Bima Yojana, PM Matru Vandana Yojana, and Old Age, Widow and Divyangjans Pension Scheme under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) have provided safety nets for our fellow citizens in Odisha, settling claims worth hundreds of crores, and financially aiding numerous families through the DBT Mechanism."
"Under the NSAP of the Government of India, approx. 2.99 Crore beneficiaries especially old, widows and divyangjans are being paid monthly pensions through their bank accounts. Similarly in Odisha also, 20,95,695 beneficiaries are being provided with benefits through the DBT mechanism. You must appreciate the fact that these significant numbers of beneficiaries are being disbursed directly to their bank accounts, eliminating any possibility of corruption," the letter read.
"Adoption of DBT has resulted in massive savings to the exchequer, by removal of fake/ghost beneficiaries and reducing need for intermediaries/middlemen. This has immensely helped in plugging leakage and diversions and has eliminated the scope of corruption. It promotes transparency by cutting down discretionary decision-making and opacity in processes.Odisha has swiftly adopted DBT both in central and state schemes, Odisha's total DBT in FY 2022-23 was a whooping 8135.18 crore which includes transfers through Centrally Sponsored Schemes and State Schemes and almost 1.95 crore beneficiaries have been covered in FY 2022-23," he stated.
The letter further read, "Due to the elimination of ghost/ duplicated beneficiaries by the adoption of DBT, the government of Odisha has made an estimated saving of Rs 459.96 Cr in FY 2122. Needless to mention Government of India has saved approx. 2.73 lakh crore cumulative till the close of FY 2021-22 due to the 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 Indians, especially our brethren in Odisha. Considering such a substantial impact, it is disconcerting to witness the Odisha Government(s decision to return to cash payments for old age pensions.Talking of concerns related to pension payments to elders and divyangjans, as of January 2023, there are 82,261 active banking correspondents available with different banking institutions in Odisha," the letter stated.
Apart from it, there is a wide network of 8491 post offices in Odisha which are fully capable and trained to provide financial services in remote and rural areas, India Post has a wide presence and its wide network needs to be leveraged along with DBT, the letter read.
"Furthermore, 6,772 Gram Panchayats in Odisha are covered through more than 22,000 functional Common Service Centres across Odisha, their extensive presence has been used in the implementation of various social security, financial services, agriculture, and farmer welfare schemes of the Government of India successfully," said Pradhan in his letter.
The letter read it would be encouraging if existing Banking Correspondents, a wide network of India Post and Common Service Centres are fully utilised in the disbursement of old age pensions, social security schemes and other financial services within the DBT Framework. They promise innovative and efficient ways that the benefits reach the unreached.
You would appreciate the fact that cash payments, historically, have had tendencies to spur corruption, pilferage, and exploitation of beneficiaries by middlemen, it read.
"The recent decision of the Government of Odisha to pay out cash, I fear, may revive these grim scenarios, adding burdens to our elder citizens, already grappling with the hardships of old age. Keeping in mind our commitment to maintaining transparency and rooting out corruption, I urge you to continue the DBT mechanism for payment of pension to old age, widows and divyangjans in Odisha and review the decision of cash payout," the letter read.
However, the ruling Biju Janata Dal has countered the Union Minister on the issue, in a statement BJD Rajya Sabha MP Sasmit Patra said, "Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's stand about providing social security pension for Divyangs and Senior Citizens through DBT instead of cash is shocking. It seems Union Minister Pradhan is unaware of the ground realities and problems faced by them due to the lack of banking facilities. They have to travel 20-30 kms and spend Rs. 200 to 300 to withdraw pensions amounting to Rs 500 from Banks."
"Providing it in cash, in fact, will reduce their burden of travelling long distances. He is doing injustice to the lakhs of widows, differently abled and old age persons by making such a stand and harassing them. This is one more stand of his for which he will suffer and be forced to withdraw his opinion," BJD MP said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: May 25 2023 | 7:51 AM IST

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