THE 2016-17 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed that there were major flaws in identification of beneficiaries under the state government’s social welfare schemes – Dayanand Social Security Scheme (DSSS), Griha Aadhar Scheme (GAS) and Ladli Laxmi Scheme. The government provides doles of Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,200 per month under the DSSS and GAS respectively, while the girl beneficiaries under Ladli Laxmi receive Rs 1 lakh for marriage. The CAG found instances where doles were released to dead persons. As many as 6,223 of 98,644 senior citizens, 3,327 of 32,141 single women and 1,162 of 11,001 differently-abled beneficiaries availed of financial assistance aggregating Rs 40.34 crore under Dayanand Social Security Scheme (DSSS) between 2012 and 2017, though they were not eligible for benefits. Of the 1.52 lakh beneficiaries under DSSS, over 5,220 availed the benefit, though they were not senior citizens. As many as 25,176 ‘beneficiaries’ were non-genuine. There are a good number of government servants too among them.
The implementing departments have not conducted a comprehensive scrutiny of applicants and physical survey to identify ineligible beneficiaries. The software system developed for operation and management of the scheme was flawed as it did not have complete and accurate data of beneficiaries; in the process identification of genuine beneficiaries was rendered impossible. The CAG has found that there was considerable leakage of government money by way of disbursement of financial assistance to ineligible beneficiaries. There were also instances of beneficiaries availing overlapping benefits under other schemes. The fraudulent availing of benefits has been going for long. Despite the government authorities being aware of the existence of bogus beneficiaries, no mechanism has been set up to prevent leakage of hundreds of crores of public money. Has the government turned a blind eye to the acts of crooked people so as to derive political benefit?
What is surprising is that the CAG found that 108 beneficiaries under DSSS and 31 Under Griha Aadhar, who had died, were disbursed benefits amounting to Rs 50 lakh and Rs 11.5 lakh between 2012 and 2017. Though it is mandatory for every recipient to produce life certificate every year, it is shocking to note that the system failed to detect the irregularities. It has also been found that many people registered under DSSS and Griha Aadhar owned cars, but had enrolled themselves as ‘vulnerable’ and had taken home over Rs 61 lakh and Rs 80 lakh, respectively. It is apparent from the major inadequacies found in granting benefits under the welfare schemes that the government machinery colluded or failed to carry out its responsibility of scrutinizing the applications and cleared the claims because the applications were backed by MLAs who wanted to buy loyalty of beneficiary families. Had there been an authentic verification system the cases of leakage could have been plugged long ago. Will action be taken against the illegitimate beneficiaries and the MLAs who recommended their applications? Will the government officers who failed to detect the large scale fraud be ever held responsible and punished so as to send a message across to all that accountability would not be allowed to be compromised?
That the implementation of the schemes has political undertones is well known, and the belief has been fortified by the statement of former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who has acknowledged that legislators could have recommended ineligible individuals to the government for welfare doles. Parsekar has also demanded that the money paid to those who did not merit the benefits of the welfare schemes should not only be recovered, but they and their political patrons should be acted against. The government says it has started a survey to identify ineligible beneficiaries, including among government servants, and will recover the money from them. However, it is easier said than done. The government servants who fraudulently availed of the benefits might have no option but to let the deductions take place from their salaries, but the big question is how will the government recover the money from the illegitimate beneficiaries who are not government servants? Can we rely on the survey being conducted? What is the guarantee that the persons engaged in the survey would put illegitimate beneficiaries on the list even if they are tempted with gratification? What is the guarantee that the illegitimate beneficiaries would not use the influence of kinship or friendship to prevent their names from being included in the black list? The government has to put a robust mechanism with a biometric database to weed out illegitimate claimants.