The friendly neighbourhood postman will now help tuberculosis patients open bank accounts. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has tied up with India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) to train postmen to help TB patients access cash support by opening bank accounts from the comfort of their homes.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the MoHFW in disbursing direct benefit transfer (DBT) of ₹500 a month for nutrition support is the lack of — or inactive — bank accounts of TB patients. To overcome this issue, a pilot will be initiated in up to eight districts in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
A senior MoHFW official said: “After we identify a patient as suffering from TB, we will share his/her address with the IPPB. We will provide the patient with a plastic card with a bar code or embedded QR code.”
The postman will be asked to visit the patient at the specified address in order to open the bank account. “The postman will generate a new bank account for the patient after he conducts Aadhaar-enabled validation and logging the biometrics of the patient. The bank account details will be shared with the Ministry for transferring funds. The plastic card with the patient will be transformed into an ATM/debit card, which the patient can use for transactions. The IPPB has also provided mechanisms for merging different bank accounts of the patient so she/he can use the same ATM card for all transactions,” said the official.
Of the 21 lakh estimated TB patients, 19.6 lakh have received at least the first instalment of the DBT of ₹500 per head, adding up to a disbursement of ₹300 crore from April 2018 till date.
“Around 2.5 lakh patients, however, are slipping through the cracks and are unable to get financial support due to inactive or no bank accounts. The postmen will target this group,” said the official.
The MoHFW rolled out the DBT programme last April, but was not able to disburse funds till October due to administrative issues.
“It is still struggling with last-mile connectivity and is looking for novel solutions to enable 100 per cent coverage of DBT for TB patients. Since TB carries some stigma and risk of infection, postmen will have to be trained to take precautions while interacting with the patients,” the official added.