India will pay billions of dollars in social welfare money directly to its poor under a new program that aims to cut out the middlemen blamed for the massive fraud that plagues the system.

Previously officials only handed out cash to the poor after taking a cut — if they didn’t keep all of it for themselves — and were known to enroll fake recipients or register unqualified people. The program inaugurated Tuesday would see welfare money directly deposited into recipients’ bank accounts and require them to prove their identity with biometric data, such as fingerprints or retina scans.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has described the venture as “nothing less than magical,” but critics accuse the government of hastily pushing through a complex program in a country where millions don’t have access to electricity or paved roads, let alone neighborhood banks.

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