The Congress believes it has stumbled upon a “game-changer”. Party leaders, however, insist it has nothing to do with the 2014 general elections.
The direct cash transfer scheme, to be launched on January 1, 2013, will cover 29 welfare schemes initially. A day after PM Manmohan Singh reviewed the progress of the scheme under which beneficiaries would get cash through banks, finance minister P Chidambaram said the programme was a “path-breaking reform” aimed at plugging leakages and ensuring efficient delivery of benefits.
Chidambaram was addressing a joint press conference with Jairam Ramesh, rural development minister, at the Congress headquarters.
“For us, this is a fulfillment of our electoral promise made in 2009,” Ramesh said. “More than two decades ago, Rajiv Gandhi, as the prime minister, had said if the government sends Re1 from Delhi, only 15 paise reaches the beneficiary. The rest is lost in transit. Now, the entire rupee will reach the beneficiary.”
Ramesh also announced the party’s next slogan: “Aap ka paisa, aap ke haath.”
The electronic cash transfers will be based on Aadhar (Unique Identification Number) platform. The entire country is targeted to be covered by the end of next year.
Rejecting opposition charge that the scheme amounted to offering bribe to people as there could be mid-term polls, Chidambaram said, “It is an absurd argument. I cannot find a stronger word... People should choose their words carefully. People should hurl their accusations with a sense of responsibility.”
The Congress will soon call a meeting of presidents of its 51 district units to be covered in the first phase.
Rahul Gandhi and Chidambaram will address the meet. The district presidents would be sensitised about the scheme as will be the district collectors, Chidambaram said.
Explaining the benefits of the programme, Chidambaram said there will be “practically no case of falsification or duplication”. No one can falsify. Efficiency gains are incalculable... We think people will appreciate.”
Responding to questions related to the last mile transfer of cash from the bank accounts to beneficiaries, Chidambaram said, “The entire banking infrastructure has the capacity to handle all these accounts as well as more that could be loaded. And the Aadhar UID is sufficient to open a no frills account without any initial payment and without any minimum balance.”
About 29 schemes will start in 51 districts spread across 16 states. The districts to be covered in the first phase include five each in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, four each in Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand, three each in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tripura, and two each in Haryana, Kerala and Sikkim.
(With inputs from agencies)