Over 54 lakh beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh received pensions at their doorstep on Saturday, delivered by an army of over four lakh volunteers.
The initiative has been launched by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's government for the elderly, the sick and people with disabilities so that they don't have to go to disbursement centres to collect their pensions.
80-year-old Manemma, who lives in Andhra Pradesh's Vizianagaram, says she is relieved that she doesn't have to travel to an office to collect her pension. Manemma says she is being able to lead a life dignity instead of living off the charity of her family.
"Earlier, we used to wait for hours in offices to get our pension. We even had to take a day off from work to get the pension. We are extremely happy with this initiative. Volunteers come to us early in the morning to deliver pensions," a beneficiary told NDTV.
Officials say the doorstep pension scheme is a step towards bringing administration and governance to the people. "The village and ward volunteers go to people's homes and get a physical biometric verification confirming identity of the beneficiary on their phones. There is provision to hand over cash or transfer the money to the beneficiaries' bank account," Gopal Krishna Dwivedi, Andhra's principal secretary of rural development told NDTV.
Not just volunteers, senior government officials also went to villages to hand over the pensions and check for any bottlenecks in implementation of the scheme.
After Jagan Mohan Reddy took over as Andhra Chief Minister, over Rs 15,675 crores were allocated for pensions as opposed to Rs 1,320 crore by the previous government, an official statement said.
Critics of the scheme, however, say that introducing volunteers as the last link for handing over pensions, may lead to corruption. The government says the processes will be closely monitored.
In Andhra Pradesh, the elderly, widows, single women, weavers and fishermen get Rs 2,250 every month as pension. People with disabilities get Rs 3,000 per month. Those with chronic kidney diseases get Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per month, the government says.
The state government has reduced cut-off age for old age pensioners (OAP) from 65 to 60 years. With an increase in the number of pensioners, the list of beneficiaries has gone up to 54.64 lakh this year, officials say.