New Delhi: The Union health ministry has proposed opening joint family accounts for underprivileged households to ensure accurate targeting of beneficiaries under the direct benefit transfer (DBT) programme.

The proposal has been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a routine audit of the ministry’s key welfare programme for pregnant women, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), revealed discrepancies between beneficiary details and the actual recipients of monetary benefits.

“The JSY scheme under the National Health Mission (NHM) is aimed at reducing the financial burden on pregnant women by giving cash benefits. During an audit we found that the actual needy are not getting benefits of the scheme because most poor women in rural areas do not have a bank account. Other members of the family are taking the money in the beneficiary’s name," said a senior official associated with National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the ministry, on condition of anonymity.

During the audit, ministry officials found a case where a 60-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh had claimed benefits under the JSY scheme five times in two years. Investigations revealed that the woman had claimed benefits for two deliveries of her daughter-in-law and one each of her sister and daughter as they did not have bank accounts.

“The government’s idea behind DBT scheme is that crediting subsidies into bank accounts will reduce leakages, delays and ensure transparency. We need to have joint family accounts so that the benefits reach those who are actually needy. With a family account, subsidies and monetary benefits can be availed by each family member through a single account by producing an identity proof," said the official.

Banks are reluctant to open bank accounts for pregnant women because the account becomes dormant after the birth of a baby and remains so until the next baby is expected and the woman becomes eligible for monetary benefits, he said.

“We proposed to the Prime Minister that if there is a family account, each and every member of the family can avail DBT advantage for some of the other scheme and the account will also be active throughout," the official added.

DBT is being used for 410 schemes from 56 ministries. These include the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Grameen, Midday Meal Scheme, National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education, Sakshar Bharat, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities and Atal Pension Yojana.

Seven of the 410 schemes are from the ministry of health and family welfare. These include the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) incentives, JSY, NIKSHAY - DOT Provider Honorarium (A web-based solution for monitoring of TB patients to monitor Revised National Tuberculosis Programme effectively), NIKSHAY - TB Notification incentive for Private Sector, NIKSHAY - Tribal TB Patients, payments to contractual staff and Rashtriya Aarogya Nidhi.

After reviewing the DBT programme for the JSY scheme, the health ministry also found problems in opening accounts for below poverty line (BPL) people for one particular scheme.

DBT was started on 1 January 2013 with the aim of reforming the government delivery system by re-engineering the existing process in welfare schemes for simpler and faster flow of funds and to ensure accurate targeting of the beneficiaries, de-duplication and reduction of fraud. Under the programme, subsidies and monetary benefits under various schemes are directly given to people through their bank accounts.

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