Aadhaar-enabled Direct Transfer Benefit (DBT) payments during the last financial year that was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic helped save the government nearly Rs 45,000 crore, taking total savings since 2014, when the scheme was expanded, to Rs 2.2 lakh crore, the Modi government has said.
The official government data has been reviewed by News18 for the financial year April 2020 to March 2021.
According to officials, this was achieved by cutting leakages in government programmes, weeding out fake or non-existing beneficiaries of government schemes and sending money directly into Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of genuine beneficiaries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earlier said this was a departure from the past.
Speaking two days ago at the ‘Aadhaar 2.0’ conference, MEITY secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney said Aadhaar had “acted as a saviour” during COVID-19. “Aadhaar-enabled DBT payments increased by up to 140 percent in April 2021 from March 2020. It again shot up by more than 200 percent in May 2021 from the April 2020 levels, signifying DBT payments by the government in times of Covid,” Sawhney said.
Official data reviewed by News18 confirms the big rise in DBT payments in cash and kind through which the government had also sent benefits such as free rations to the poor. The government has transferred Rs 5.5 lakh crore to people through DBT in financial year (FY) 2020-21, up 40 percent from FY20 when total payout under DBT was Rs 3.8 lakh crore. For this financial year so far, Rs 3.4 lakh crore have been already sent to the beneficiaries.
The government figures also show that 98 crore people got cash benefits last financial year through DBT, which is the highest ever.
Sawhney also said the usage of Aadhaar had also risen exponentially in the pandemic time. “Aadhaar was given by residents about 1,400 crore times during FY 2020-21 for availing services under various schemes through online Aadhaar authentication,” he said, describing it as a “yeoman service” rendered utilising the Aadhaar platform during COVID.
It was the UPA government, which had started the DBT on a pilot basis in 2013-14 before the Modi government adopted the same and expanded it to cover all government schemes in which cash or benefits in kind are given to people. PM Modi in the past had extolled the virtues of DBT while citing the statement of former PM Rajiv Gandhi that out of 100 paise released by the government towards the welfare of poor and needy, only 15 paise reaches to the beneficiaries due to leakages and corruption. Modi propagated the ‘JAM’ (Jan Dhan Bank Account, Aadhaar and Mobile) for DBT.
At present, over 300 central government schemes are on the DBT-Aadhaar platform including PM-KISAN, PM Aawaas Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, LPG-PAHAL and MGNREGA among others. The biggest payout under DBT presently is under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS).