New Delhi, Nov 30: The inaugural instalment of the government’s direct cash transfer scheme should roll into beneficiary accounts by the first week of February next year.
“This has become our top-priority, no-delay project and the Prime Minister is himself piloting it. Ideally the money should begin to flow in the 51 targeted districts by January, but the first week of February is an iron cast deadline we are working on,” a senior PMO official said on the day the Prime Minister wrote to key ministries to “immediately operationalise” the scheme.
The Prime Minister’s move follows the first meeting of the National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers (DCT) chaired by him last Monday.
“The emphasis (of implementing DCT) should be on having a seamless and trouble free rollout of the programme, first in 51 districts and subsequently as per the agreed rollout plan,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his letter.
Other then becoming the arrowhead government scheme in the run-up to the next general elections, DCT is also likely to become the Congress’ chief poll plank, a corollary to the aam aadmi campaign that fetched it power in 2004.
“The Prime Minister is keen that along with governmental effort, the Congress too propagates DST so that the message goes out maximally,” a prime ministerial aide said.
“Often in the past there has been a deficit in the political projection of the government’s achievements, especially with regard to schemes that affect the masses. We are keen that the Congress becomes a force-multiplier for key government programmes,” he said.
That finance minister P. Chidambaram and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh elaborated on details of DCT from the Congress headquarters rather than from a government platform might indicate a renewed push for sync between the two as elections draw close.
Ramesh may, in fact, have already coined the successor slogan to the winner cry of “Congress kaa haath, aam aadmi ke saath” based on the DCT initiative: “Aapka paisa, aapke haath”.
UPA insiders insist that despite the impression that the DCT is a “populist knee-jerk response” to a government mired in crisis, it has quietly been in the works a while. They point to Pranab Mukherjee’s last budget speech to assert it is a “well meditated and worked upon” idea that is now being rolled out.
“…Pilot projects show that substantial economies in subsidy outgo can be achieved by the use of the Aadhaar platform. It will be our endeavour to scale up and roll out these Aadhaar-enabled payments for various schemes in at least 50 selected districts within the next six months,” Mukherjee had said while presenting his budget.
Flagging pitfalls in the implementation of DCT, the Prime Minister said in his missive to ministries: “The main issue which you need to focus on is ensuring that you have a complete list of beneficiaries in digitised form seeded with Aadhaar numbers for your schemes. Digitisation of beneficiaries’ database is critical for rolling out direct cash transfers and maximum effort on this needs to be put in at the state and district levels. You will be provided necessary assistance for this by Unique Identification Authority of India 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 digitisation.
In a separate letter to UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani, the PMO asked the technology committee to consider providing “dedicated individuals” to each of the nine implementing ministries to assist them in their work on digitising databases.
The technology committee, headed by Nilekani, is meant to fast-track Aadhaar penetration in beneficiaries groups, ensuring “compete convergence” between the Aadhaar catchment and the banking system.