Direct cash transfer scheme: Some cash in, some uncertainty

National
Need no longer stand in queue at the bank to ask if it's arrived

MILIND GHATWAI

When Priyanka Dhurve was told that her scholarship money had been deposited directly into her bank account, she was not quite sure what it meant. To let her satisfy her curiosity, she was advised to withdraw Rs 500.

So far, the 16-year-old of class XI had only seen her parents collect cash from her hostel or deposit cheques into her bank account. "Standing in queue only to ask whether the money from the cheque had been credited used to consume a lot of time, and occasionally I had to miss school," she says. The school hours of 10.30 am to 4.30 pm coincide with banking hours.

A bright student, Priyanka scored 83.3 per cent in class X. She studies at a government excellence school and lives in a hostel for tribal girls. Her parents live in Nibhora village, about 45 km from Hoshangabad, and find it inconvenient to visit the town only to check her bank account.

Priyanka was among the first beneficiaries of direct cash transfers under the centrally sponsored merit scheme of SC/ST students. So was Hemlata Uikey, another student of XI living in the same hostel. Hoshangabad, Harda and Khandwa are among the pilot districts in Madhya Pradesh chosen for the scheme.

Hemlata has a modest background and is the only one in her family of six to have progressed this far in school. Her siblings dropped out after class V because her village, about 100 km from Hoshangabad, did not have a secondary school then. Her father, a farmer, would have withdrawn her too from school had it not been for the scholarship she earned.

Priyanka, whose father teaches at a government school, aims to become an IAS officer. Hemlata, 17, would like to be a teacher.

"It came as a new year gift," both say of the direct cash transfer. Both have had Aadhar cards made in their villages and have accounts with the State Bank of India.

Six other beneficiaries under the scheme had received their money by Thursday, with direct transfers having been launched from the new year. They got Rs 8000 each. Ironically, the scheme has been chosen because the money had so far been reaching beneficiaries much later than it should have.

Before the cheque facility was introduced, it was the beneficiaries' parents who were given cash, when they visited the child's hostel. This was to spare the student the hassles of protecting the money. But the cash did not always serve the purpose for which it was intended.

"Not every parent spent the money on their ward's educational needs," says hostel superintendent Rajvanti Uikey. The new system is aimed at ensuring that money will be withdrawn only when it is necessary for the beneficiary. "It means students will be able to get proper coaching," says Anjali Dubey, a hostel warden. Besides what they learn in school and special coaching at hostels, the scholarship also allows students to get external coaching.

Assistant commissioner (tribal) P K Pande says about 40,000 students receive various scholarships in Hoshangabad district. The pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for SC/ST students are among the four schemes where cash will be credited to students' bank accounts.

More than 1.5 crore people have received Aadhar cards in Madhya Pradesh and enrolment has acquired a sense of new urgency. Until December, eight lakh cards were being made every month, but that month alone went on to see 16.50 lakh enrolments.

With 8.62 lakh cards, Hoshangabad is behind only Indore (12.33 lakh), Shajapur (10.47 lakh) and Khandwa (10.08 lakh). In 15 other districts, the process of enrolment has just begun.

Nawashahr, Punjab
Held up by technicalities

ANJU AGNIHOTRI CHABA

Nawanshahr, one of the 20 districts where direct cash transfers were to roll out from the new year, has failed to launch these yet, with the delay having been caused by an administrative technicality. The district has been selected for direct transfers of post-matric scholarships to 4,972 SC students. Till the closing of banks on Thursday, not one transfer had been made.

Bank authorities cited the absence of a consent letter from the concerned government department (social welfare). They said the money cannot be transferred until the consent letter reaches their head office. The State Bank of India's district coordinator, J N Sharan, was hopeful that it would be possible to make the transfers by midnight.

Social welfare authorities said the letter has since been issued and expect the cash would be credited to bank accounts soon. They cited a delay from the finance department. R Venkat Ratnam, administrative secretary, welfare of SCs and BCs, said the finance department cleared the amount of Rs 3.89 crore "at the last moment". "I released the amount on Wednesday," he said. Pirthi Chand, director, welfare of SC and BC, said the cheque and the authorisation letter have been sent to the bank along with the list of beneficiaries, and expected the money would be credited in accounts in "a day or two".

Deputy Commissioner Tanu M Kashyap said that all preparations had been completed but the cash hasn't arrived. Every beneficiary has an Aadhar card, with coverage completed over the last couple of weeks. The DC said the district authorities had made preparations to launch the scheme not only in post-matric scholarships for SC students but also in the Janani Surksha Yojna, and in scholarship schemes for post-matric students engaged in unclean works, post-matric OBC students, and post-matric students with a disability.

Nationally, 34 welfare schemes will be covered under direct cash transfers; various districts of Punjab have been included in 11 of these in the first phase. Most of these involve scholarships for students, apart from the Janani Surksha Yojna.

Chandigarh
Not sure how it works: 'Teacher said it'd come'

Smriti Sharma Vasudeva

Sonia, 14, of Chandigarh was told her scholarship money would be credited directly into her account. She doesn't know if it has; she cannot check in an ATM, for she is a minor without a card. Finding out would involve going to the bank and updating her pass book — if she knew how to set about it.

Sonia is one of Chandigarh's 1,384 beneficiaries of direct transfers, and one of 890 SC students getting a pre-matric scholarship of Rs 2,100 under the project. She is in class X at Government High School, Sector 25. The eldest of four, she lives with her siblings and parents in a one-room house.

All she knows about the cash transfer is what she has been told. "My teacher told me I will get the scholarship in my bank account but I have no idea if I have," she says. Asked if she has got an SMS from the Punjab and Sind Bank branch where she has her account, she says, "I don't have a mobile phone. But my teacher had told me it can take 10-14 days for the money to be transferred."

At least two of Sonia's neighbours are equally hazy about how cash transfers work, or whether their money has arrived. Jyoti, 17, also in class X, lives in the same colony and her account too is in Punjab and Sind Bank. And Varsha, 15, who has a jhuggi near the colony, has an account in State Bank Of India. All they could say was that they were asked to get Aadhar cards made and give details of their bank accounts to the school. "I will go to school and, if possible, ask my teacher (if the money has come)," Jyoti said.

Chandigarh has sucessfully launched direct cash transfers for all schemes covered, says Deputy Commissioner, UT, Mohammad Shayin.

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