BHUBANESWAR: Opposing the Centre’s move to introduce direct benefit compliant system for disbursement of pension under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), the State Government maintained that any imposition of bank payment system will cause undue and avoidable hardship to the vulnerable beneficiaries.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday said, “I am sanguine you would appreciate the special circumstances of the State and not impose conditions on release of funds which may militate against the interests of the beneficiaries.”
Requesting the Centre to release funds under NSAP without imposing any conditions, the Chief Minister said, “I firmly believe that disbursement of pension in cash in accordance with the convenience and choice of beneficiaries is in the best interest of the beneficiaries.”
The Chief Minister’s letter to the Prime Minister came in the wake of a letter received by the State Government from the Ministry of Rural Development over disbursement of pension, under NSAP scheme, through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) platform.
The Ministry’s letter, issued in mid-November, had said the sanction of second installment of NSAP is conditional and the State Government is required to detail the action plan for switching over to the DBT platform. It also said the State should work with the banks to implement the RBI instructions on doorstep delivery of banking services to senior citizens and differently-abled persons.
The Chief Minister said, the guidelines of the NSAP clearly lay down that the guiding principle for disbursement of pension must be the choice and convenience of the beneficiaries. He said the State Government had conducted a sample study of the pension beneficiaries in 2016-17 and it was found that they were not willing to accept pension through banks and special monitoring and supervision by the RBI.
Naveen said, the State Government has been disbursing pension in cash on every 15th day of a month at the Gram Panchayats and ULB (urban local body) headquarters in an open and transparent manner. All beneficiaries assemble there are provided pension in cash in public view, he said.
This was being done, the CM said, in view of the difficulties people face in accessing banking service. There are 4,378 gram panchayats in the State with no bank branches. In other panchayats, too, existing banks have only one staff handling transactions, which makes it difficult for them to take the load of a large number of pension beneficiaries, he said.
The Chief Minister also pointed out that Odisha model of pension disbursement has been a subject of scholarly research.