Number of selected schemes scaled down from 26 to 7

The Union Government's ambitious plan for direct cash transfer of subsidies into bank accounts of beneficiaries was formally launched in three districts of Rajasthan on Tuesday seemingly without preparedness, with the number of selected welfare schemes being scaled down from the original 26 to merely seven.

State Chief Secretary C. K. Mathew said the plan has taken off in Alwar, Udaipur and Ajmer districts to cover the areas of social justice and empowerment, health, scholarships and women and child development.

However, the State Government did not announce the number of beneficiaries who it expects would get the subsidies under different heads.

Right to Food Campaign activists from the three districts reported that the Unique Identification (UID)-enabled bank accounts are yet to be opened for large sections of population. In Udaipur, the rural populace migrating to neighbouring Gujarat for agricultural labour has not been covered.

Following adverse reports about the pilot project for kerosene launched in Kotkasim town of Alwar district, food, fertilisers, diesel and kerosene have been kept out of the scheme's purview. The seven segments covered in Rajasthan will include educational scholarships for Dalit, tribal, OBC and minority students, Janani Suraksha Yojana and social security pensions.

People's Union for Civil Liberties general secretary Kavita Srivastava said the banks where new accounts had been opened were inaccessible at several places due to distance, while students had been enrolled for UID to depict a sizeable number of beneficiaries. Residents of Kotkasim have been claiming that they are forced to buy kerosene at the market rate as they do not get any subsidy.

The Right to Food Campaign has submitted memorandums to Mr. Mathew and Collectors of the three districts raising questions about the norms and benefits to ordinary people from the scheme's rollout. “The lists of beneficiaries are yet to be computerised and put in the public domain,” said Ms. Srivastava.

The memorandum pointed out that the Panchayati Raj institutions and Gram Sabhas had not been consulted before launching the scheme and the people had been told that they would get money immediately if they opened bank account. “Many people have an impression that they would get houses if they get UID-enabled bank accounts opened.”

Activists demanded that that a Food Security Act, such as the one passed by the Chhattisgarh Government on December 21, be enacted in Rajasthan.

The legislation should guarantee cash transfers such as old age, disabled and widow pensions and maternity entitlements.