Contrary to indications given so far, there are chances that the Congress-led UPA government's mega direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme of giving subsidy to targeted sections of needy people may find favour with the BJP-led NDA government.
According to sources, PM Narendra Modi, who chaired a meeting on the issue on Saturday with finance minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh and minister of state (planning) Rao Inderjit Singh, wants to continue the scheme.
The meeting was also attended by Union home secretary Anil Goswami and director-general of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Vijay S Madan.
PM Modi seems to have understood the windfall benefits the DBT scheme could bring to it, a source said. He directed that DBT for LPG, pensions and scholarships should be rolled out expeditiously in 300 districts where more than 80% of the district population has already received Aadhaar numbers. The decision would also help the BJP government cut subsidies substantially in the coming budget.
The Congress failed to cash in on the benefits of DBT as it was running against time by starting very late. Also, there was the problem of red tape. The party barely managed to roll out targeted subsidies in a handful of districts, and that too only on a few counts like cooking gas.
Besides containing the huge subsidy flow that failed to reach the vulnerable and deserving sections, the Congress government felt DBT would translate into votes like the NREGA that virtually got the party to power in 2004.
The development could lead to the tabling of the National Identification Authority of India bill in Parliament with some changes to give legal status to the UIDAI that the previous government had set up through an executive order. The source said that the PM has made finance minister, Arun Jaitely the point person to work on the NIAI bill and redraft it.
But this may not mean that the UIDAI would continue to carry on its work of enrolling people as residents by acting as the registrar to take their biometrics because the government is keen on the security aspect as well. It wants to roll out the NPR on the basis of citizenship, the source said.
This could mean, the source said, that the NPR may be given the full mandate to enrol citizens by having control on registering them through security features of biometrics and give UIDAI its original mandate of generating unique identity numbers.
In the meantime, DBT can be rolled out in areas where biometrics has been done by the office of the registrar general of India under the NPR.
One key advantage the BJP government has on its side is time. If it starts enrolment under the NPR now, it can finish it in next three years, including re-verification of Aadhaar cards and replacing them with national identity cards. Simultaneously, it can start getting the benefits of targeted DBT and reach at complete coverage by the time next elections approach.