NEW DELHI: The government is alarmed by the fact that the year-long cash transfer pilot project in Alwar district‘s Kotkasim block has virtually been a non-starter as money has rarely, if ever, come into the bank accounts of intended beneficiaries.
Reacting to a report that TOI front-paged on December 2, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The Kotkasim thing is a very serious issue. There will be operational issues. That’s why this is being rolled out in the 51 districts. We will learn all these issues and then we’ll take a call.”
Ramesh is a key person for the implementation of this programme which is being viewed by the political class as UPA-2’s “game changer”. If it gets stymied by lazy implementation, the political dividends for UPA may be minimal. Possibly mindful of that, Ramesh said, “That’s why I have proposed that we must admit a system of concurrent evaluation. It should not be only officials giving you feedback that everything is very rosy and working on the ground.”
Asked whether cash transfers were being made into an electoral issue, the minister said, “What we’re saying is what’s yours should be yours. Today pensions are paid once in five months and you have to pay a bribe to get what is yours. This is also a huge anti-corruption step. I’ve seen with my own eyes how people have to pay bribes to get their measly Rs 200 pension.”
‘Cash scheme can tackle graft better than Lokpal‘
Ramesh felt direct cash transfers to intended beneficiaries was “far more efficient in dealing with corruption than the Lokpal model”. “The Lokpal model is needed but to think that the Lokpal is a panacea as some fellows seem to think is ridiculous,” he said.
Asked if ‘cash transfers’ is the right term, given that schemes proposed by the government entail some element of cash, but don’t replace subsidies like food, Ramesh said: ” It is not cash transfers. I have never used the word. It’s the media that’s going gung-ho and unfortunately even the Prime Minister‘s committee is called PM‘s Committee on Direct Cash Transfers.”
What would he call it then? “I would say it is direct benefits transfer. Direct entitlements transfer would be another. It is not direct cash transfer. If we were replacing the food or fertilizer subsidy with cash, that would be direct cash transfer. I react very negatively to the words ‘direct cash transfer’.”
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