Monday, December 17, 2012

Sonia Gandhi rolled out cash transfer scheme

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi will today launch a major food security programme of the Delhi government. Under the scheme, a monthly cash subsidy of Rs. 600 will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of senior-most female members of two lakh poor families.

The government has tied up with five leading banks for implementation of the 'Dilli Annashree Yojana' which will be implemented with retrospective effect from April 1, 2013.

The UPA's latest aam aadmi (common man) initiative, direct cash transfer, is now being called as direct benefits transfer. The subtle change is perhaps due to the difference between the government and the Congress.

"Rahul Gandhi also said that 'aapka paisa, aapke haath' (your money in your hands) is a political slogan and we will take advantage of it in the upcoming elections," Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development had said.

"You know my colleague sometimes has trouble with Hindi. What Jairam meant to say was that others may term it a political slogan, but for us it is nothing more than a social initiative for the welfare of people," Janardhan Dwivedi, Congress Spokesperson had countered.

The move also takes care of aggressive criticism. Even the Election Commission had expressed its displeasure highlighting this scheme in the middle of elections in Gujarat. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had complained to the commission saying it is an attempt to lure voters.

The government and party may differ on whether aapka paisa aapke haath is a political slogan or not, but both hope it will be a game changer - the reason why the party's second in command, Rahul Gandhi, addressed Congress party workers where he compared this scheme to the telecom revolution.

"Rajiv Gandhi said Rs. 15 of Rs. 100 reach the beneficiary... PCOs were the reason behind the mobile revolution... And help bring telecom revolution... This yojana will change delivery system," said Rahul Gandhi, Congress General Secretary.

One of the main reasons the government is pushing this scheme is that the UPA managers say it will plug leaks and check middle men. But critics say this is the first step before the government tries to do away with subsidies altogether.

"They are looking at making the whole country into a market friendly place where everybody has to go to the market. If the government is going to spend money it is going to spend it in the market... If you look at the Public Distribution System (PDS), it is a closed system...which doesn't have any room for the market. It accounts for poverty and the responsibility of the state to the poor..." said Usha Ramanathan, Activist and Lawyer.

Though the government has said that food is not part of the scheme, Congress ruled states like Delhi are already experimenting with transferring cash subsidies directly into the bank accounts of two lakh families.