United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched the Delhi government’s ambitious food security programme, ‘Dilli Annshree Yojana’, a direct benefit transfer system, and described it as a first-of-its-kind food security scheme integrated with the UID Aadhar in the country.

Ms. Gandhi asserted that the scheme, under which a monthly cash subsidy of Rs. 600 will be directly transferred to the bank account of the seniormost female member of 2 lakh poor families, will help eradicate hunger from the country.

The scheme, she said, was a testimony to the State government’s efforts at lending a helping hand to vulnerable families, and an effort to empower women. The scheme was not an alternative to the public distribution system, but was an extension of the existing food security efforts being undertaken under the PDS, she said. It would provide an option to beneficiaries to purchase food items and essentials whenever required. Ms. Gandhi said the city government decided to provide assistance to 25 lakh people in the first phase.

Handing over bank passbooks and Annshree enrolment certificates to 12 women beneficiaries who reside in slums and resettlement colonies in Delhi, Ms. Gandhi witnessed the process of transferring the assistance amount to their accounts, and withdrawal by them with the help of a micro ATM, assisted by bank correspondents.

Supporting the direct transfer scheme, Ms. Gandhi said it would benefit a large number of unreached, vulnerable and poor households. Hailing the scheme as the country’s first totally Aadhar-based cash transfer programme, Ms. Gandhi said the Central government’s Direct Benefit Transfer system would be implemented in 51 districts from January 1, 2013, facilitating cash entitlement in a total of 32 schemes.

The purpose of this scheme, she said, was to make sure that the government’s money being disbursed under pension, scholarship, MNREGA wage payment and social benefit schemes reached the beneficiaries directly, without any delay. She clarified that these did not include food safety and subsidy schemes.

The Union government, she pointed out, would come up with a Food Security Bill to overcome hunger in the country.

Referring to the help handed out to the poor identified on the basis of the BPL system, Ms. Gandhi said there were many problems related to the BPL list, as a number of needy and poor families were not included in these lists. The direct transfer system would provide food security to the people who had been left out, she said.