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Hardsell for cash transfer

Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Dec. 14: Rahul Gandhi today called on Congress colleagues to aggressively sell the idea of direct benefits transfer and work for its success, saying it would prove as important as the telecom revolution that had changed the life of the common man.

Direct benefits transfer — or direct cash transfer, as the scheme to transfer subsidies or benefits in cash into the accounts of recipients was initially called — is a potent weapon against corruption and the infirmities of the delivery mechanism, he said.

Plugging the loopholes in the delivery system was his father’s dream and Rajiv Gandhi had publicly accepted that only 15 paise from every rupee sanctioned by the Centre reached the targeted beneficiary, the Congress general secretary said.

He was addressing the presidents of the party units in the 51 districts where direct benefits transfer will be rolled out in the first phase from January.

But Rahul stressed that the existing system of giving food and fertiliser subsidies, including the public distribution system, would continue. He dismissed as false propaganda the talk that the government was planning to stop subsidies.

The direct benefits transfer scheme, which at present mainly includes scholarships and pensions, does not cover food and fertilisers.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who too addressed the conference, said food and fertiliser subsidies would not be included in the scheme for “several years to come.”

Rahul stressed the need for the party to work in harmony with the government to ensure the success of the scheme. He asked Congress leaders to launch a campaign to popularise it and promised to visit all the 51 districts soon.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram, speaking at the conference, said the system would be operational in the entire country by 2014.

The Prime Minister’s Office has decided to call a meeting of collectors of the selected districts, except in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the date for which will be finalised by the Planning Commission. The plan panel has also been asked to organise a video conference with chief secretaries/finance secretaries of the participating states to assess preparedness for the rollout.