HRF Submission to Chief Election Commissioner urging door to door cash delivery of social security pensions in tribal areas

Mr Rajiv Kumar
Chief Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
NirvachanSadan, Ashoka Road
New Delhi 110001
Sub: Request to exempt tribal areas from Direct Benefit Transfers for Social Security Pensions

We, the undersigned organisations, the Human Rights Forum and LibTech India, are writing to express deep concern regarding the recent circular issued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh dated April 28, 2024 (Refer to Annexure 1), regarding the disbursement of social security pensions during the period of the General Elections to the Lok Sabha and Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

At the outset, we appreciate the efforts to continue with door delivery of cash for certain categories of pensions like differently abled individuals. However, the circular, which mandates the transition from door-to-door distribution of pensions to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for certain categories of pensioners, raises significant issues, particularly for tribal communities residing in remote areas of the Fifth Schedule.

Tribal communities face unique challenges such as limited access to banking facilities and having to traverse long distances to reach the nearest bank branch/business correspondents/customer service points. For example, residents of Nittamamidi village, G. Madugula mandal, (ASR district) in Andhra Pradesh, must walk at least 15 km to reach the nearest bank branch/BC/CSP point, situated in Tajangi (Chintapallimandal, ASR district). Furthermore, the additional financial burden placed on tribal individuals who have to spend significant amounts in collecting their cash from banks/BC/CSPs is deeply troubling (Refer to report in Annexure 2). Research conducted by LibTech India has revealed that BC/CSPs often levy exorbitant commissions when tribals withdraw their cash. Additionally, there have been numerous instances of tribals being deceived at BC/CSP outlets. The earlier system of door-to-door delivery of cash pensions was instrumental in ensuring that tribal beneficiaries received their entitlements without undue hardship. We therefore strongly urge you to consider exempting tribal areas from the DBT system and reinstate the previous method of door-to-door cash disbursement for tribal communities in the State.

Additionally, we would like to highlight a discrepancy in the circular regarding the eligibility criteria for AEPS (Aadhaar Enabled Payment System). The circular mentions that the transfer will be made to pensioners who are eligible for AEPS. This is confusing because to transfer cash, one needs to be eligible for ABPS (Aadhaar Based Payment System) and not AEPS. The AEPS is necessary for cash collection using Aadhaar and biometrics, whereas ABPS facilitates cash transfer into bank accounts. This discrepancy needs to be addressed urgently to ensure clarity and smooth implementation of the disbursement process.

Furthermore, the failure to consult tribal communities when making such crucial decisions goes against the spirit of various provisions under Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, PESA.

Continuing the door-to-door distribution system for tribal areas would not only alleviate the financial burden on tribal individuals but also ensure that they receive their entitlements in a timely and efficient manner, especially during the period of the Model Code of Conduct.

We request your immediate intervention in this matter to ensure that the rights and welfare of tribal communities are safeguarded.

VS Krishna (Human Rights Forum)

Chakradhar Buddha, Senior Researcher
LibTech India, Ph-92465 22344

Date: 29-4-2024

Annexure 1:

Annexure 2:

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