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Kerala: Students happy with direct cash transfer scheme, tribals remain apprehensive


Naveen Nair,CNN-IBN
Feb 05, 2013 at 04:11pm IST

Wayanad: UPA-II's game changer direct cash transfer scheme is all set to go big across the country. CNN-IBN is taking a look at how its implementation is affecting lives. In the backward districts of Kerala, students are benefitting from it in the form of scholarships, but the tribals there are still apprehensive.

For 20-year-old Saji, life hasn't been easy. Living in Wayanad, the most backward of Kerala's districts, Saji battles poverty every day. But thanks to the post-metric scholarship under the Centre's direct cash transfer scheme, his education hasn't been derailed. At the government polytechnic college in Meenangadi, Saji can now dream of a better life.

"I am from a very poor family and my father is a daily wage labourer and my mother is an asthma patient. It's very tough but at least my studies are on," Saji said.

Wayanad is one of the pilot districts where direct cash transfer was implemented. Scholarship for BPL students is a flagship effort. Gopalakrishan Bhat, District Collector, Wayanad, said, "Already we are distributing scholarship through e-payment. They already have bank accounts and payment is being done through banks for the last 2 years."

For Saji and thousands of youngsters like him, the scheme gives a rare opportunity to stand on their own legs. But for the majority of Wayanad, this is hardly any empowerment because the real issues of Wayanad lie somewhere else.

Paatta Kakku is one of the lakhs of tribals who live in Wayanad. A widow who lives alone, when she learned that soon she will get money instead of kerosene and rice, there was only one query on her lips. "How will I go to the bank to get money? I live here alone with my widower pension which I use to buy rice and kerosene. No one is there to help me and I don't know how to do it," she said.

The district administration claims such fears are unwarranted. "Once we establish the micro ATMs, people can go put their thumb impression and the Aadhar number and withdraw money," Gopalakrishan Bhat said.

But tribal activists say the scheme will backfire in many ways. Tribal activist CK Janu said, "How many tribals know how to use an ATM? In most of the tribal families, the men are into heavy drinking. Once the subsidies get converted to cash, they may spend it on alcohol."

The Centre claims direct cash transfer will revolutionise social security. While it will certainly empower young men like Saji, will its benefits really reach everyone?

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