Shimla: Unique identification number for each citizen may take awhile to get started but a pilot project of issuing social pensions through bio-metric cards is already ushering in a hi-tech revolution by ensuring transparency, checking fraud and misuse in depriving a beneficiary of state welfare benefits.
â€œThe project was started as a pilot in Una tehsil on January 1 and by April the whole district was covered,â€ said Lokender Chauhan, additional director, social justice and empowerment department.
The project has been rolled out by State Bank of India and for a start is disbursing about 12,000 pensions in the district.
â€œTo obtain the pension, the beneficiary has to implant his finger impression on a device with a business correspondent engaged by the bank and only if the impression matches with the one to whom a bio-metric card has been issued, then only the amount is released,â€ said SBI bank official.
In all the department is giving out 2,52,048 social pensions across Himachal for which an budget of Rs 103.72 crore has been marked. A three month advance pension of Rs 330 per month is given to aged persons who have surpassed 60 years of age and widows. A disability relief allowance is given to persons with more than 40 percent disability.
â€œSuccess of the pilot has made us look at expanding the project to other districts,â€ says Chauhan. As more and more banks are showing interest in the scheme, we are in the process of putting a proposal before the government for including other districts under the bio-metric card for delivery of social pensions, he added.
Earlier these very pensions in Una were dispersed by the postal department who were charging 5 percent commission for the service. But there were loopholes as it was not a full proof system and frauds came to light as some pensions in Mandi district being drawn for years after the death of the actual beneficiaries.
Not only the bank is charging 3 percent commission for the service which the business correspondents hand out at a delivery point and handicapped and infirm individuals are made a door to door delivery.
The Una biometric project is one of its kinds in entire north India and perhaps a forerunner for the unique identification number project for which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has roped in Nandan Nilekani.
As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post.
Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.