January 2, 2013 -
In an attempt to cut notoriously corrupt middlemen out of India’s social welfare system, the country has kick-started a new program leveraging biometric identification technology to deposit welfare money directly into recipients’ bank accounts, stuff.co.nz reports.
Previously, as the stuff.co.nz article suggests, officials only handed out cash to the poor after taking a cut themselves, and were known to enroll fake recipients or register unqualified people. There are 440 million people living below the poverty line.
The program, loosely based on Brazil’s Bolsa Familia programme, India’s new program would see welfare money deposited directly into recipients’ bank accounts and require them to prove their identity with biometric data, such as fingerprint or retina scans. The new program will begin in 20 of the country’s 640 districts, encompassing more than 200,000 recipients and will be rolled out to remaining districts in the coming months.
Though many suggest this new program is a step in the right direction, critics argue this new system could be leaving out many in need. As gulfnews.com reports, “the problem with the new scheme is that those most in need live in villages where electricity is a luxury and banks are not readily available.”
Eventually, the cash transfers are expected to help fix much of India’s welfare spending, though the government’s food, kerosene and fertilizer distribution networks would be exempt from the new program.
The government has said this new program will cut out middlemen and as a first step it plans to begin directly transferring money it would spend on programs such as scholarships and pensions.