This led to several eligible beneficiaries being left out of the scheme
Around Rs 79 crore has been transferred to ineligible beneficiaries under the Ministry of Rural Development’s National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) between 2017 and 2021, an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed.
Of this, Rs two crore was paid to beneficiaries even after their deaths, added the audit report tabled in parliament on August 8, 2023.
At the same time, many eligible beneficiaries were likely to have been excluded from the welfare programme either due to non-maintenance of Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists or due to states not carrying out periodic surveys to identify eligible beneficiaries.
India launched NSAP to provide social security to the destitute population living below the poverty line and vulnerable groups in 1995. The programme includes five sub-schemes, of which three — Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) and Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS) — are pension schemes.
The other two sub-schemes are the National Family Benefit Scheme which provides one-time assistance to the bereaved family in the event of death of the breadwinner and the Annapurna scheme, which ensures food security to eligible old age persons who are not covered under IGNOAPS.
The CAG report found several irregularities in beneficiary payments, the most glaring being that all states, except for Haryana and Kerala, did not maintain a database of eligible beneficiaries. This led to several eligible beneficiaries being left out of the scheme while payments worth several crores were made to ineligible persons.
In 14 states / Union Territories (UT), 57,394 ineligible people, who were under 60 years of age, were paid pensions worth Rs 30.47 crore under IGNOAPS.
Around 38,540 ineligible people who were below 40 years of age were paid pensions amounting to Rs 26.45 crore in 17 states under IGNWPS / UTs (the widow beneficiary should be above 40 years of age under NSAP).
Moreover, in six states / UTs, ineligible payment of Rs 0.57 crore under IGNWPS in 414 cases was made to women who were not widows or to male family members.
In 12 states / UTs, payments worth Rs 4.36 crore were paid to 5,380 ineligible persons who had not attained the age of 18 years under IGNDPS as disability pension.
Additionally, ineligible payments of Rs 15.11 crore under IGNDPS as disability pension was paid to 21,322 people in 16 states / UTs. In these cases, the percentage of disability was either below 80 per cent or could not be ascertained.
In 26 states / UTs, 19.9 million ineligible payments were made to over 2,103 beneficiaries even after their death.
Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Ladakh are among the States that made the highest numbers of ineligible payments.
The beneficiaries were to be selected from the BPL list until the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was finalised. Though the governments are mandated to identify beneficiaries using SECC once it is finalised, they continued to use BPL lists that were not regularly updated.
Moreover, departments in 24 states / UTs did not even maintain the BPL lists, which was a necessary condition for determining a beneficiary’s eligibility under NSAP. And no state or UT except Kerala carried out periodic surveys to identify eligible beneficiaries during 2017-21.
“In the absence of proactive identification and non-maintenance of database of eligible beneficiaries as intended, the scheme was being implemented in a demand-driven mode where benefits were provided to only those beneficiaries who applied for pensions/benefits under NSAP themselves. The eligible beneficiaries who were unaware/lack resources to apply for the benefits were left out of ambit of NSAP,” the report revealed.
The Centre allocates NSAP funds as per a cap fixed by the ministry, asking the states / UTs to cover additional beneficiaries from their own resources. But 11 states/ UTs, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Punjab and Manipur, could not even cover beneficiaries equal to the cap.
Further, funds of Rs 57.45 crore earmarked for NSAP were diverted for other schemes and purposes in six states/UTs, while funds amounting to Rs 18.78 crore were lying idle for a period ranging from one to five years in eight states/UTs, even as in the four-year period, National Social Assistance Advisory Committee held only three meetings.
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