Aadhar-linked 'game-changer' cash transfer scheme to start Jan 1: Chidambaram

Chidambaram

The ambitious direct cash transfer scheme, to be launched from January one next year, will cover 29 welfare schemes initially, the government said today while describing it as a "game-changer" but dismissing suggestions that the roll-out hinted at mid-term polls.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the progress of the scheme under which beneficiaries would get cash through banks, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said the new flagship programme was a "path breaking reform" aimed at plugging leakages and ensure efficient delivery of benefits.

Chidambaram said about 29 schemes are ready to start from January 1 next year in 51 districts spread across 16 states.

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."

Insisting that the programme has "nothing to do with elections", he said, "Elections will come and elections will go. Governments will come and governments will go. Parties will come and parties will go."

He said the scheme will be a "game-changer from the point of view of ordinary citizens of India" and its benefits will be long-lasting."

Ramesh added that it was an election promise of Congress in 2009 which was being fulfilled.

"Congress is a political party, not an NGO. We had promised cash transfer of benefits and subsidies in our election manifesto of 2009," Ramesh said, asking "Where is the talk of elections?"

Ramesh, while addressing the joint press conference with Chidambaram, said the programme was "not transfer of cash but 'haq' (the right) of the people" and coined a slogan "aapka paisa, aapke hath (your money in your hand)."

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