UPA shows off Congress hand in cash trans­fers

Pen­sions, schol­ar­ships and sub­si­dies to be cred­ited into ac­counts of poor from Jan next year

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent ■ let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: The UPA government on Tues­day an­nounced an am­bi­tious project to trans­fer cash hand­outs, such as oldage pen­sions, di­rectly to the bank ac­counts of mil­lions of end-users, strongly pitch­ing it as a ser­vice from the Congress for the com­mon man, rather than a re­form.

Ru­ral devel­op­ment min­is­ter Jairam Ramesh and fi­nance min­is­ter P Chi­dambaram sym­bol­i­cally chose the party head­quar­ters — 24 Ak­bar Road — to an­nounce what is es­sen­tially a re­form mea­sure. They said when the project kicks off in Jan­uary 2013, the Congress will have ful­filled a key prom­ise made in its 2009 elec­tion man­is­festo.

The po­lit­i­cal mes­sage was clear: not all re­forms bite, some can bring cheer too by spruc­ing up pub­lic de­liv­ery.

Chi­dambaram said 42 schemes — in­clud­ing 14 schol­ar­ship fa­cil­i­ties un­der var­i­ous min­istries — would move to the new plat­form in 51 dis­tricts across 16 states ini­tially. How­ever, the government is not mov­ing two big sub­sidy hand­outs — food and fer­tiliser — on to the new plat­form just yet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will mon­i­tor im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project through the party's lead­ers in the se­lect dis­tricts.

"Garib ka paise uske haath me hoga (The poor's money will be in their hands)," Ramesh said.

The new de­liv­ery mech­a­nism will link bank ac­counts to Aad­har smart cards, which are sin­gu­lar, iden­tity num­bers based on bio­met­ric data­base of in­di­vid­u­als, the largest in the world.

The out­comes could be as­ton­ish­ing. A stu­dent would be able to re­ceive his monthly schol­ar­ships in­stantly. El­derly pen­sion­ers, whose al­lowances of­ten come in fits and starts, will get timely pay­ments, cut­ting out bribe-seek­ers.

A lot de­pends on how ef­fec­tively the plan is rolled out. "In any new project, there are prob­lems," Ramesh said, when asked about com­plaints of non­de­liv­ery in Ra­jasthan dur­ing ex­per­i­men­tal tri­als ear­lier. The government plans cover the en­tire coun­try by the end of next year.

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