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Cash transfer plan excludes Odisha

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 1: The state government seems to be relieved as the direct cash transfer scheme that kicked off today across the country did not include any of the districts of Odisha.

The Congress, however, plans to launch an agitation in the tribal districts on the issue of the state opposing the scheme.

Four days ago, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had opposed the scheme at the 57th National Development Council (NDC) meeting in New Delhi, stating that the system would not solve the purpose.

“It would be difficult to implement the scheme here as all the people don’t have the bank pass books. Besides, many inherent problems are associated with the plan,” said an official.

In another development, the number of districts covered under the programme has been whittled to 20 from 51 and the number of schemes covered under the project has been scaled down to 34 to 26 because of want of data.

State food and civil supplies minister Pratap Keshari Deb said: “It will be difficult for the UPA government to include the rice scheme. A number of technicalities are also involved in it.”

Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik said: “The government is opposing the scheme, fearing that their double standards will be exposed if it is being implemented.

“People will come to know that many of schemes, including Rs 2-a-kg rice one, for which the state government is taking the credit are not the scheme of its own.”

The state Congress leaders had hoped that inclusion of rice in the cash transfer scheme would deprive the Naveen government of the publicity it has been garnering by providing rice to people at Rs 2 a kg.

Patnaik said: “We will launch another padyatra during the end of January against the state’s stand on the scheme and why 35kg subsidised rice allotted to each beneficiary family by the Centre is not being distributed.”

“If the rice scheme come under the direct cash transfer system, it will take the steam out of the Naveen Patnaik’s cheap rice campaign,” said senior leader Narasingha Mishra, adding that rice was likely to be brought within cash transfer ambit from July.

The Centre is providing rice to the state at Rs 5.65 per kg after taking a burden of Rs 16.84 paise on each kilogram of rice.

“Our cost comes around Rs 6.40 per kilogram of rice. For each kilogram of rice, we take a burden of Rs 4.40,” said Deb.

To continue with the rice scheme, the state government is nearly spending Rs 1,090 crore per annum.

“If the Centre takes out the entire subsidy amount, the state has to shell out huge money to continue with the scheme. The state exchequer cannot be able to bear the burden,” said a state government official.

Sources said the state government is opposing the cash transfer system for the rice scheme on three grounds.

“If we give them the cash, they will not purchase the rice and instead spend it in other ways. Similarly, the state does not have adequate banking infrastructure and each person does not have a bank account.”