The Direct Cash Transfer to the 'poor' will not succeed as it would face the same leakages which the other schemes faced. These are populist measures aimed to get away with historically successful Initiatives in the name of corruption and creating another corrupt practice which will only work during the elections and will give rise to competitive populist schemes by the states too.
The central government is in extraordinary hurry to bring the 'economy' on the track. The decisions are being fast tracked and suddenly Dr Man Mohan Singh has become the 'economist' prime minister leaving aside his politics. The Industries are buoyant as the Parliament has passed the FDI bill which was so difficult to get through in Rajya Sabha yet its managers 'defeated' the opposition in the number games. Now the government wants to get through the important bills such as Food Security Bill, Land Bill, and Elimination of Manual Scavenging Bills which will be presented in the Parliament very soon. At the moment the most controversial bill has been the issue of reservation in promotion for SC-STs which the BSP is pushing through but is being vehemently opposed by Samajwadi Party. The media which was running after the prime minister and his government seems to be constrained now and it look the 'revolution' has died down as the 'revolutionary' has not got much takers for his charges against Narendra Modi who is being promoted as 'prime ministerial' material for the 2014 general elections.
The active government has found 'new confident' after the Congress organized the 'massive' show of strength on FDI at the Ram Leela ground where the entire cabinet was present and Congress Party launched its political campaign. The party wants to get back to its Aam Admi slogan and hence its planners feel that 'Direct Cash Transfer' will be the 'trump' card that can unsettle the political course in India towards the Congress. The government has already removed subsidies which were demanded by the major industries. Petrol, Diesel, Kerosene and cooking gas subsidies have already gone. There have been lot of leakages in these subsidies which never really went to the needy and used mostly by people with 'connections' including politicians who enjoyed the tax payers money. Subsidy is a 'bad' word for the government but they know the enormous political cost of an economically fair decision and hence government wants to create a 'win-win' situation for all.
The Direct Cash Transfer scheme was announced at the Congress Party headquarters by the Finance Minister Mr P.Chidambaram and his colleague Minister for Rural Development Mr Jai Ram Ramesh who answered the questions mostly in Hindi. The scheme will begin from January 1st, 2013 in about 50 selected districts in the country which will be used as a pilot but the government expects that by 2014, it could bring the entire country under its net. The government is working in different direction and the most ambitious one is the delivery of Adhar Card which is the implementing tool of this scheme. It is expected that about 30 Crore Adhar card beneficiary till the date would be benefited from the scheme while a large part of the country will be covered by it by 2014 as the government is confident that by that time over 60 crore people in India will have Adhar card.
Adhar Card is a multiple usage card which helps the government to reach to the people directly without any middlemen but the biggest angle in it also related to know the 'personal' details of the people which actually is an intrusion in our private life. Unfortunately, that issue is not a hot one in the country hence it has not become a political one as power elite want to know everything about our lives and control us through their 'dictatorial ways' and spying our private lives in the name of national security. While the government has popularized it to promote the card as an Identity card but its maximum usage would be the 'Cash' transfer from various schemes.
The Finance Minister told the media that in the beginning the Cash would be directly debited in the beneficiary accounts for the schemes such as Central government scholarships, Old age pensions, Asha workers, Anganwadi workers, MNREGA etc. It means that the government will be transferring the money directly into the bank accounts without getting engaged with the intermediaries including the related state governments. It actually violates the Federal structure of our country as the Centre would be announcing all the schemes and duplicating many of them with the state governments. Though on paper it looks good that there will be no middlemen and leakages will be averted yet there are other inherent dangers. When the money is directly transfer from the Central government for the work that one has to do at the state level or even at the district level, how is government going to ensure whether the work is done effectively and timely. Who will monitor it? When a person knows that the money is going to be debited in his bank accounts directly, how would he or she really work on time? The danger of such thing is that the local level seniors would find it difficult to get their work done but then, it look that the Centre want to eliminate the subsidies and leakages but create a monster where it is looked not as a manager of these funds but as a 'donor'. So, we will have the old Raja Maharaja kind of government which 'gives' charities to the people every month and cleverly done away with its welfare programmes. It is saving huge money due to that but still want to look providing 'charity' to 'poor'.
The real target of the Adhar scheme and cash transfer is actually the Public Distribution System which has been a successful institution of the government in many states. Unfortunately in the past decade was Public Distribution System was systematically discredited because of massive leakages in UP, Bihar and Maharastra. The system was not bad as it helped people to get subsidized ration but because of the petty populist politics there will massive leakages due to connivance of middlemen, political classs and businessmen. The government had aimed earlier that it would dismantle all the PDS shops and instead provide Rs 1000/- to every BPL family so that they can buy the ration from the open market. The danger of this cash is that it may look nicer for some people to 'donate' Rs one thousand rupees every month but it would make people perpetually enslaved to this charity all the time. More importantly, Public Distribution System has been widely acknowledged to have helped reduce the burden of poor people in the form of providing essential commodities on cheaper prices which actually cannot be compensated by Rs 1000/- cash transfer.The planners in the governments want to get away with all the responsibilities of their lives and just ensure that despite all their destructions they look 'respectable' and what could be better than the 'charity' to individuals below the poverty lines. It is another matter that no government can provide cash to people all their lives. It is also important that the cash schemes would only enhance during elections and may not function effectively during the rest of the period. Yes, it will save government everything but then why is there a government when it has no responsibility for the people? Why do we need such a huge bureaucracy and their huge bills to exchequer in the name of 'people's welfare'.
The Direct Cash Transfer is a dangerously populist move which can boomerang as its implementation would be difficult. It is nothing but running away from responsibilities such as strengthening the existing institutions of public welfare rather than dismantling them. Congress want us to believe that this is 'common's people's money at their hands', but people would realize the dangers of it later. While it is good if the cash transfer is made limited to certain schemes but if it is used to dismantle Public Distribution System, the government may lose everything which it wants to generate through these cash transfer. People of India will not allow this selective destruction of certain schemes which are unwanted to industries and international monitory institutions but then you cannot run a government at the whims of industries and big transnational corporations.
The government has virtually accepted that there is corruption though it is using term 'leakage' instead of corruption. It did not suggest what could be done to eliminate the corruption from the system. At one point, it was considered that decentralization of power will help eliminate corruption but it look corruption was also exported from the above to down. Now, the government has admitted that it has no zeal to deal with corruption and hence it has created another monster which will be the centralization of power and using money as a tool to influence people's opinion though it will not succeed. At the end people matter more and for that the government will need to do much more than mere doling out of cash which is nothing but bribery to voters and definitely violate the principle of decentralization where Panchayats were considered to be lowest level of democratic institutions for getting things done. How do you strengthen Panchayats when the salaries for even Anganwadi workers will be transferred from Delhi? Will we ultimately dismantle our federal structure through such schemes? Cant the state do the same in competitive populism in doling out cash and it will happen as political survival will compel parties to take more and more populist decisions which will never reduce poverty but then who is interested in removing poverty as it looks that political parties, bureaucrats, all are united and need Poor to fulfill their life long ambitions to rule them
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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