Despite howls of protest, PMO pushes ahead with direct cash transfer scheme

Pushing ahead with the direct cash transfer scheme, the Prime Minister's Office has directed various ministries and departments to immediately get down to the task of operationalising the ambitious programme to be rolled out from January 1, next year.

"I would request you to get down to the immediate task of operationalising Direct Cash Transfers in the identified schemes in your Department," said Pulok Chatterjee, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister in a letter to nine secretaries of the central government.

This follows the first meeting of the National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers (DCT) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 26.

The letter said that emphasis should be on having a seamless and trouble free roll-out of the programme, first in 51 districts and, subsequently as per the agreed roll-out plan.

"The main issue which you need to focus on is ensuring that you have a complete list of beneficiaries in digitized form seeded with Aadhaar numbers for your schemes," it said.

Digitisation of beneficiaries' database, it said, is critical for rolling out the scheme and maximum effort on this needs to be put in at the state and district levels.

Chatterjee told the secretaries that they will be provided necessary assistance by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the Department of Information Technology.

The implementation Committees in each ministry have been directed to meet on a weekly basis to complete the task of digitization.

The PMO said concerns relating to availability of banking infrastructure and the financial and accounting procedures required would be addressed by the Financial Inclusion and Technology Committees.

In a separate letter to the UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani, the PMO has asked the Technology Committee to consider providing dedicated individuals to each of the nine implementing ministries to assist them in their work on digitizing databases.

The Technology Committee is addressing the issues of rapid penetration of Aadhaar numbers to beneficiaries, ensuring that the Aadhaar Payment Bridge is made operational and there is complete convergence of banking system with Aadhaar.

The PMO has also asked the Department of Financial Services to hold a meeting "immediately" to oversee opening of bank accounts by the beneficiaries, seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers and ensuring that the operations of business correspondent, who will help in cash transfer, are made suitably flexible so they are easily accessible to beneficiaries wherever necessary.

The Department has been also asked to design an incentive package for the business correspondents who will dispense cash directly to beneficiaries.

The Department will also need to resolve issues of utilising the existing Post Offices network to undertake Direct Cash Transfers.

BJP leaders lodge protest with EC against cash transfer scheme

Top BJP leaders today met the Election Commission to lodge their protest against the Centre's announcement of direct cash transfer scheme ahead of Gujarat elections and demanded its withdrawal.

Led by party leader L K Advani and Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the BJP delegation questioned the timing of the announcement and demanded its withdrawal to ensure free and fair elections in Gujarat.

The BJP delegation also handed over a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath for taking an appropriate decision so that the Centre's announcement does not influence the voting in Gujarat.

"We have discussed the issue.

It was a good discussion.

The Election Commission has assured us that all the issues raised by us will be taken care of before taking a proper decision in this regard," Advani told reporters after the meeting with CEC.

In its memorandum handed over today, the BJP has urged the Election Commission to take serious note of the "blatant" violation of the model code of conduct by the UPA by announcing the scheme.

Urging the EC to take immediate action, BJP said it is being done with the "deliberate intention of influencing the voters" in the ongoing election process in Gujarat.

"We request the Commission to direct the government to withdraw the announcement and defer it to an appropriate time after the completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh," the memorandum said.

Advani said, "The Election Commission's primary responsibility is to ensure free and fair elections.

That is why they frame a code of conduct and Government should not make any announcement before or during elections that could influence voting or voters.

"The cash transfer scheme is for the entire country but the two states where elections are being held should have been excluded.

If you make an announcement before the elections are due, the party in power at the Centre can benefit."

'Direct cash transfer not violation of poll code'

The government today rejected BJP's allegation that the direct cash transfer scheme is a violation of the code of conduct of election, saying that the announcement was made in the Budget speech in March.

Government sources said the first announcement about Direct Cash Transfer was made by the then Finance Minister (Pranab Mukherjee) in his Budget speech on March 16 and a statement from the PMO on September 28, well before the announcement of elections in Gujarat.

In a complaint filed to the Election Commission yesterday, BJP's Gujarat state unit had said the direct cash transfer announcement is a poll code violation as four of the 51 districts selected fall in poll-bound Gujarat.

Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17 and the model code of conduct is in force in the state.

The government proposes to roll-out the Aadhaar-enabled cash transfer for 29 schemes from January 1 in 51 districts, spread over 16 states.

It also plans to cover the entire nation by the end of December 2013.

Later, the cash transfer would cover all the 42 welfare schemes.

While presenting the 2012-13 Budget, the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said the government will extend the UIDAI's Aadhaar enabled payments for various government schemes in at least 50 selected districts within the next six months.

Under the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)'s Aadhaar enabled payments, subsidies are directly transferred into the beneficiaries' bank accounts.

"This will be rolled out nation-wide during 2012.

Direct transfer of subsidy to the retailer, and eventually to the farmer will be implemented in subsequent phases.

This step will benefit 12 crore farmer families, while reducing expenditure on subsidies by curtailing misuse of fertilisers.

"It will be our endeavour to scale up and roll out these Aadhaar enabled payments for various government schemes in at least 50 selected districts within the next six months," Mukherjee had said.

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