Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has embarrassed Congress managers — who have been marketing the direct cash transfer scheme for the below the poverty line (BPL) segment as a ‘game changer’ — with her assertion that a deposit of Rs. 600 under the scheme could meet the monthly requirements of a family of five. The statement has triggered a torrent of criticism from the Opposition, with senior BJP leader Vijay Goel terming it a ‘cruel joke’ on the poor.

At the launch of direct cash transfer under a food security programme of her government on Saturday here, Ms. Dikshit suggested that a monthly subsidy of Rs. 600 transferred directly into Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of the seniormost female members of two lakh poor families was a panacea for poverty.

“In Rs. 600, they would get dal, rice and wheat... A family of five can easily complete its needs,” Ms. Dikshit said at the function in the presence of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Mr. Goel, in a written statement on Sunday, said: “Sheila Dikshit says a family can manage on a budget of Rs. 600 per month for buying rice, wheat and dal. This, in effect, means that one person can manage on Rs. 4 per day. The Chief Minister has never visited a slum or unauthorised colony, nor has she ever gone to a village. Hence, she is unaware of the ground realities.”

It is for the second time in over a year that the UPA has landed itself in controversy over the BPL definition and contours. In October 2011, the Planning Commission had to distance itself from an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court setting Rs. 32 per capita per day as the poverty line.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia also said that these figures were not used as basis for extending benefits to the deprived sections.

Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta said people also wanted to know the basis on which the beneficiaries had been selected.

Mr. Goel said the grant of Rs. 600 was nothing but a “mockery of the poor people.”

He contended that by offering cash in place of food, the government had acknowledged its defeat and admitted that it was unable to cleanse the PDS of corruption.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Delhi Chief Minister Mukesh Sharma slammed the BJP for playing dirty politics over the issue.

“The support of Rs. 600 per month is for those needy families which are not covered under the ambit of the PDS. Thus, by opposing this welfare scheme, the BJP stands exposed.”