Writes letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Strongly objecting to certain aspects of the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme and the manner of its operationalisation, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday made it clear that the Central DBT in its present form should not be implemented in the State.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, she urged him to move over to a DBT scheme through the State Government, which would not only make the rollout faster and more efficient, but also enable this mechanism to be extended seamlessly to other schemes like Social Security Pension disbursement, which were not currently included in the list of 25 schemes to be covered at present. “This would give the State Governments their rightful place as equal partners in the governance of the country and not reduce them to becoming vassals in the structure of governance,” she wrote.

Ms.Jayalalithaa said that the Centre had decided to operationalise the second phase of the DBT scheme from July 1. Ariyalur, Pudukottai and Tiruchirappalli districts were proposed to be included in Phase I of the rollout of the scheme. She conveyed her strong objections to some aspects and the manner of its operationalisation as they were clearly intended to bypass democratically elected State Governments. “They insidiously seek to secure for the Government of India unnecessary influence and authority over the finances of the States.”

She said Tamil Nadu had already adopted Direct Cash Transfer through bank accounts of beneficiaries for schemes involving conditional cash transfers like scholarships, maternity benefits and social security pensions. The State strongly opposed any move to monetise and transfer in cash the subsidy element under the PDS and fertiliser, kerosene and LPG subsidies, where not just the quantum of subsidy, but the access to and timely availability of commodities was a concern. “We are equally opposed to the direct transfer of cash to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries by the Government of India bypassing the State Governments altogether.” This was neither an administratively sound practice nor in keeping with the spirit of federalism.

The Chief Minister said the Union Planning Commission had issued a series of instructions and guidelines on a number of conceptual and operational issues relating to DBT with virtually no consultation with the State Governments. Once decisions were taken and the scheme was finalised unilaterally by the Centre, the States were required only to place their field machinery at the disposal of the Central Government to implement the mechanism. “Are the State Governments expected to look on as mere bystanders, far removed from the process of administering the scheme, after having placed their entire field machinery at the disposal of the Government of India? This is clearly an infringement of the authority of the State Governments and totally violative of the federal polity of the country and the spirit of democratic decentralisation,” she said.