New Delhi: UPA's much hyped scheme of direct cash transfer of subsidy to bank accounts of beneficiaries begins on Tuesday across 20 districts of the country with Finance Minister P Chidambaram describing the move as a "game-changer".
The programme, will cover a select 26 schemes like educational scholarship for SC/ST and OBC and widow pension. Food, fertilisers, diesel and kerosene have already been kept out.
"Please don't call this scheme failure or success by 5pm tomorrow," Chidambaram said.
This reflects the worry within the Congress and the government that the much hyped programme may not be such a game-changer. Many worry whether this will be a repeat of the NDA's India shining days. The response within the party, Sonia-led NAC and even the government has been a bit critical. Sources say that many ministers opposed the scheme, fearing that the hiccups in the scheme could hurt the party in the upcoming general election in 2014.
The UPA government on Monday scaled down the launch of its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme to 20 districts instead of 43 as planned earlier, keeping LPG also out of its ambit for now.
Among the reasons why the launch was scaled down were all beneficiaries not having bank account to receive cash and inadequate Aadhaar enrolment.
The government had originally identified 51 districts across 16 states to be covered by the programme under which cash subsidy benefit will directly go to the bank account of beneficiaries with mandatory requirement of Aadhaar number.
Subsequently, four districts each of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat were exempted from the roll out tomorrow because of Assembly elections.
The States to be covered in the initial phase are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab and UTs of Puducherry, Chandigarh and Daman and Diu.
This will be extended to 11 more districts from February 1 in states including Kerala, Haryana, Sikkim, Goa, Maharashtra and Jharkhand and 12 more districts in states including Tripura from March 1.
Despite the government's assurances and euphoria, there are several examples to show how the scheme may fail to click. For example, the scheme launched in Kot Kasim, in Rajasthan in 2011 faced failure with payments yet to reach those it was meant for.
Many also fear that this scheme too could throw up stories similar to MNREGA which has failed to deliver what it has promised. And if this scheme is successful, the credit could go to state government's rather than to the UPA. In which case it may not be the game-changer for the Congress in the next Lok Sabha election.
With Additional Inputs From PTI