The Congress-led UPA’s game-changing cash transfer scheme will roll out on New Year day, but on a modest scale, with a cautious note, without drum-beats and re-christened as Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT). Union finance minister P Chidambaram accompanied by minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari, at the briefing of the Group of Ministers (GoM) for media, announced the details of the roll out of the big ticket “technology-driven” delivery of existing welfare schemes. “We intend to proceed with a great degree of caution,” Chidambaram said.
Responding to the different name given to the scheme from what was announced by the finance minister himself as cash transfer scheme, Chidambaram said that at the government level there was a need to stick to a neutral term. But he stuck to the party slogan, “Aap ka paisa aap ke hatth” as a legitimate political message.
The scheme will be launched in 20 districts affecting two lakh people and cover seven schemes, including post-matric, pre-matric scholarhips to SC, ST and OBC students, as well as housing scheme for beedi workers. Chidambaram requested the media not to pronounce the scheme as success or failure at 5 pm. He said there are bound to be glitches and that these would be sorted out.
There are two other stages in the first phase, with 10 more districts being covered on February 1 and 11 more on March 1. The finance minister said all the districts in the country would be covered and in the first year 26 schemes would be converted into the DBT mode of transferring money or benefit.
He said the DBT was part of the “financial inclusiveness” because the delivery of the benefits would be through bank accounts. The banks are aggressively opening the no-frills, zero-balance accounts and people are approaching the banks. This will result in greater bank penetration.
“The banks have pressed the accelerator,” he said.
He said “there is no intention to transfer subsidies for food, fertilisers and diesel”, though he did not rule out that in the future the cash payment mode would be tried out with the subsidies. He acknowledged that it was a complicated thing and it cannot be implemented at the moment.
Reassuring beneficiaries who do not have the unique identification biometric card that they would not be deprived of the scheme, he said they would be able to open their bank accounts and then withdraw the money due to them.
He said all the 7,900 bank branches in these districts would be fitted with ATMs so that the beneficaries can access the money during non-banking hours as well.