11 Lakh Beneficiaries Excluded from State Welfare Plan

Food activists in Odisha have alleged that 11 lakh beneficiaries out of 49 lakh have been debarred from availing monthly entitlements under the state welfare plan. They went on to call this a callous move during the coronavirus pandemic. These beneficiaries include old age, disability and widow pensioners who have failed to verify their Aadhaar card.

As per reports, approximately 49 lakh old, disabled, transgenders, HIV affected and widows in Odisha get monthly pension between Rs 500 and Rs 700 under the National Social Assistance Programme and Madhu Babu Pension Yojana. The state government has been continuing these schemes to help survive in these difficult times.

However, when the state Social Security & Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SSEPD) department decided to grant the monthly pension to people with Aadhaar verified accounts, more than a million people were excluded from the benefits. “Aadhaar, as a proof of identity, has been made mandatory for availing benefit under both the pension schemes from August 2020,” the department stated in a letter to all district collectors.

“During the Aadhar verification, we found out about ghost beneficiaries. Only those with Aadhar verified accounts will get the pension. We are trying to finish the verification process as soon as possible, but can’t say how long the process will take,” said the joint secretary of SSEPD department, Dipak Routray.

Food activists have severely criticised this move, with one of them saying, “People who depend on the allowances can die of starvation when the pandemic is raging. Mandatory linkages with Aadhaar have caused mass exclusions, both at the point of disbursal of welfare entitlements (because of biometric or technical failures) and during the process of seeding and verification. The Aadhar seeding and verification processes are also shrouded in opacity”.

The situation escalated after Dukhi Jani, a 46-year-old tribal woman in Nayagarh district died of hunger in June.