An attempt to use technology to end corruption, says Rahul

The UPA government’s plans to roll out direct benefits transfers — earlier referred to as direct cash transfers — from January 1, 2013 is being billed not merely as its centrepiece for Elections 2014 but, as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told a gathering of Congress leaders here on Friday, an attempt to use technology to end the corruption that affects the poorest of the poor. Aap ka paisa, aapke haath will be the Congress’ political slogan in the general elections, just 17 months away.

Mr. Gandhi said technology will be harnessed to ensure that leakages in the system are plugged and the money in its entirety reaches the targeted beneficiaries, not Rs. 15 out of every Rs. 100, as his father Rajiv Gandhi had said in the 1980s. This, he said, will be the biggest thing since the telecom revolution.

But in implementing the direct benefits transfer programme, the government is playing safe, staying out of the Public Distribution System, as was being feared by some State governments and NGOs. In the first phase, the scheme will address 34 benefits that are currently given in cash form such as scholarships, old age pensions, MGNREGA wages etc.

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who addressed a press conference along with party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi — said the scheme will move on within a year to subsidies given for fertilisers, kersosene and LPG. This will be far more complicated, he admitted, as it will also have to take into account the possibility of market fluctuations in the prices of these commodities.

Indeed, even as the Congress was holding its meeting to ensure greater synergy with the government, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the ministries to take up the implementation of the direct benefits transfer programme on a “war footing”, organising camps to fast pace enrolment under Aadhaar.

The primary activity of the concerned ministries in the coming weeks will be to complete enrolment of Aadhaar for all beneficiaries, ensure they have bank accounts in which the Aadhaar numbers are mentioned, and compile beneficiary databases.

“This has to be addressed on a war footing,” the PMO said in a statement, adding, “The best approach may be a Camp approach. The Planning Commission has been asked to finalise dates for a one-day meeting of the Collectors of the concerned districts (excluding Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh). Collectors will need to be given clear instructions on how to do this when they come for the meeting next week. Planning Commission will coordinate the necessary preparations for this,” the PMO said.

The Committee, chaired by the Principal Secretary in the PMO, Pulok Chatterji, discussed the core objective of how direct cash transfers of benefits in the selected 51 districts (excluding, till the end of the election process, eight districts in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat), will be implemented as per the timeline.

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