New Delhi, India – In hopes of eliminating welfare fraud, India will distribute billions directly to its poor in accordance with a new program aimed to eradicate the middleman. The country has 440 million people living below the poverty line.
Before, officials would doll out funds to the needy but only after taking a share or keeping it all. The distributor would fraudulently register unqualified or fake individuals. Now the funds will be directly deposited into the intended bank accounts, which will require biometric data like a fingerprint or retina scans to access.
The model for this new welfare process was loosely borrowed from Brazil’s Bolsa Familia Program. Officials urge the people to be patient. The program will begin in 20 of the country’s 640 districts and expand to other districts in coming months. Funds will be transferred first to scholarships and pensions, circumventing many of the country’s corrupt networks.
The program is taking criticism, as millions of citizens do not have access to paved roads, electricity, or the convenience of a neighborhood bank.
The Associated Press reports hundreds of millions of Indians have no identity documents. Therefore, a government project (Aadhar) will be working to give every Indian identification numbers that will be linked to fingerprints and retina scans.
The Miami Herald quotes Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as saying:
“In a huge new experiment like this you should expect some glitches. There may be a problem here and there, but these will be overcome by our people.”
Chidambaram’s opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, has made accusations that the ruling is simply a ruse used to gain political leverage ahead of the 2014 elections. Activists and scholars published an open letter expressing concern that the government was forcing the poor to enroll in Aadhar to get welfare benefits without putting safeguards in place to protect their privacy.