The government has managed to save nearly ₹28,700 crore during the first nine months (April-December) of the current fiscal (2019-20) through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) regime.

That’s almost enough to meet the expenses on ‘Medical & Public Health’ for which Union Budget 2020-21 has provided ₹29,774 crore, or meet 46 per cent of the budgeted expenditure on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, which has a provision of ₹61,500 crore in the Union Budget.

According to official data, in the first nine months of the current financial year, Public Distribution System (PDS) or distribution of foodgrain at subsidised rates to the poor and the very poor, helped effect maximum savings for DBT. The amount saved was over ₹19,200 crore. Since inception, total savings under this head has touched nearly ₹67,000 crore. According to the government, large-scale use of information technology and other measures taken by it have helped delete 2.98 crore duplicate and fake/non-existent ration cards (including some due to migration, death, etc.), which played a vital role in effecting the savings.

Saving from domestic kitchen gas (LPG or liquefied petroleum gas), at over ₹6,000 crore, came in second during the period under consideration. With this, total saving since inception has reached over ₹65,600 crore. The government says, the saving was made possible through elimination of 4.54 crore duplicate, fake/non-existent, inactive LPG connections. In addition, there are 1.66 crore non-subsidised LPG consumers, including 1.03 crore ‘Give It Up’ consumers.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREGA) also chipped in with savings of over ₹3,300 crore. Now, total saving till December 2019 has touched over ₹24,000 crore. Based on field studies, the Ministry has estimated 10 per cent savings on wages on account of deletion of duplicate, fake/non-existent, ineligible beneficiaries.

Under DBT, benefits or subsidies are transferred directly to the beneficiaries’ accounts, thus removing duplicate/ fake beneficiaries, plugging of leakages, and cutting wastage, thus ensuring the effective use of resources for schemes such as the LPG subsidy or wages under the rural employment guarantee programme. As on date, 429 schemes implemented by 56 ministries and departments use DBT.

DBT is heavily dependent on JAM — the trio of Jan Dhan Yojana (over 38 crore accounts), Aadhaar (over 125.43 crore holders) and mobile connections (116 crore subscribers). The scheme was initiated by the UPA Government on pilot basis on January 1, 2013. The Modi Government, in its first term, started using it widely. The scheme took off in November-December 2014, when all the districts in the country and key schemes were brought under its ambit.

The Modi Government has always advocated DBT quoting an old remark which said that only a fraction of the budgeted amount reached the people for whom it was meant. Even in Budget 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama said that a former Prime Minister had once voiced concern that the fruits of the welfare schemes were not reaching the intended citizens — the common and deserving citizen was only receiving 15 paisa of every rupee sent for him. “Guided by ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’, our government and our Prime Minister added manifold speed and scaled up the implementation of schemes and programmes that directly benefitted the poor and the disadvantaged,” she said.