New Delhi: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has launched a major food security programme of the Delhi government in the Capital today. 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.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, UID scheme head Nandan Nilekani, and Delhi's power minister Haroon Yusuf were also present at the function where the scheme was launched.
The UPA's latest 'aam aadmi' (common man) initiative, direct cash transfer, is now being called 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 only Rs. 15 out of Rs.100 that the Centre sends, reaches the beneficiary. PCOs were the reason behind the mobile revolution...and that's what helped bring the telecom revolution. This yojana will change the delivery system," said Rahul Gandhi.
One of the main reasons the government is pushing this scheme, 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, which markets don't do", 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, which Congress President Sonia Gandhi launched this morning.