The Telegraph
Saturday , December 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar model plea to Delhi

Patna, Nov. 30: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today said he would request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to follow the “Bihar model” of cash transfer to beneficiaries for food materials and fertilisers.

Citing his government’s scheme of providing cycles and uniforms to school-going girls as the perfect example of “cash transfer”, Nitish said: “The project has become a massive success because cash is given directly to beneficiaries,” before adding: “It helps check corruption. I think it should be extended to food and fertilisers and the cash transfer should be linked to price.”

Speaking on the opposition from some quarters about cash transfer of food, Nitish told mediapersons that it was wrong to start the scheme by presuming that beneficiaries given money for food would purchase something else.

An IAS officer close to Nitish Kumar said: “Even in case of food materials and fertilisers, the beneficiaries may be asked to produce cash memos against the purchased items.”

When the state government initially kicked off the cycle scheme for girls going to government schools in 2007, the headmasters were asked to buy the cycles and distribute them to girls. But there were complaints about cycles not being distributed or sub-standard cycles being distributed. Later, the government decided to give them cash for cycles (Rs 2,500 to each beneficiary) and uniform (Rs 500 each).

The beneficiaries are called to the school on a particular day and cash for the cycles and uniform is distributed in the presence of a distinguished local citizen. The only check the beneficiaries are asked to maintain is to give a cash memo for cycles and uniforms purchased. The volume of direct cash transfer has been huge. In the 2011-12 fiscal, the state government distributed more than Rs 315 crore for cycles and Rs 273 crore for cycles. More than 1.15 million children got cycles and over 3 million children got uniforms. “We even give cash to our policemen to purchase their uniform and shoes,” said Nitish.

He called the Centre’s move to promote “cash transfer” as half-hearted, which tends to bring institutions and organisations as executing agencies. “The Centre is talking about opening bank accounts in banks or post offices for the beneficiaries,” he said.

He said he would meet Manmohan Singh and urge him to follow the “Bihar model” of cash transfer to the beneficiaries. “Our own experience is that banks and post offices are reluctant to open no-frills accounts for children,” he said.

Nitish said Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan had started giving uniforms to school-going children. “The Centre will give 65 per cent of the Rs 400 earmarked for uniforms. The state will give the rest and even additional money. However, the Centre is saying that the education committee of schools will make the uniforms and distribute them. Why does not the Centre leave it to the beneficiary and their guardians to get the uniforms on their own?” he asked, stressing that the decision to put the onus is bound to create problems.

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