Cong hopes to fill poll bank with cash schemeParty to focus on big-ticket states, including Rajasthan
Diptosh Majumdar New Delhi, Dec2,2012, DNA
There is a game-plan within a game-plan. As meetings are held daily in the suddenly hyperactive Prime Minister’s Office in South Block, and finishing touches given to the “direct cash transfer” scheme, it is apparent that the government is leaving nothing to chance. And there is a realisation that the Congress fortunes will change dramatically if the government and the party together concentrate on the four politically significant states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Yes, the government will make a definite effort to impress upon the electorate in all states that it is the real “aam admi” party, and that is why this cash transfer scheme to be launched at the beginning of 2013, has been conceived. But the party believes that if they concentrate their energies on four specific target states, they would have accomplished a great deal. After all, the number of seats up for grabs in these states adds up to 143. Maharashtra alone accounts for 48 followed by Andhra Pradesh with 42.
These states have been identified because, in each of these provinces, the Congress has a primary organisational architecture. For example, the Congress is capable of doing well in Rajasthan with its 25 parliamentary seats under
chief minister Ashok Gehlot, but there is a prevailing sense of helplessness among party workers because the party has lost ground due to anti-incumbency sentiments. A focussed political campaign along with a flawless implementation of the cash transfer scheme can renew contact with the voters. To begin with, the Rajasthan districts to benefit from the programme are Ajmer, Udaipur and Alwar.
Similarly, Karnataka politics is in a mess with former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa leaving the BJP.
In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena would rely on a sympathy wave following the death of Balasaheb Thackeray, but the Congress believes its impact will be restricted to a few pockets, and the MNS will still be a key neutralising factor.
Finally, in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress is launching the scheme in the five districts of Hyderabad, Anantpur, Chittoor, East Godavari and Rangareddy.
Sowmya Sivakumar Jaipur
The gung-ho optimism about ‘direct cash transfers,” the UPA’s chief springboard for the next polls, may have a darker side. Sarpanches of Kotkasim block, Alwar district – where the country’s pilot project for direct cash transfers (DCT) of kerosene subsidies has run since the last 9 months – want the project to be scrapped, if it continues to be shoddily implemented.
“We have collectively written to the collector stating that we are receiving numerous complaints from people. The system will work only if advance subsidies are deposited on time. Three months’ advance subsidies were supposed to be deposited in December itself when the scheme started. But it came late, only once for 2-3 months.
Some have bought kerosene at market price, but haven’t received any subsidy amount yet,” chorus sarpanches from Kotkasim. “There are 1000 ration cards in the panchayat, but only about 200-300 have opened accounts. There are at least 100 families in the panchayat who actually need kerosene but have stopped consuming it as they have not been able to afford buying at the market price without the subsidy in hand in advance,” said Kaphtan Singh Chowdhry, sarpanchpati of Ghikaka panchayat in the block.
The much touted reduction in offtake – from 84,000 litres in Kotkasim block before the scheme was launched, to 12,000 litres now – is in fact a combination of plugging diversions and sharp drop in consumption, but the latter not all out of choice.
“Bank accounts have been opened in the name of the mukhiya (household head) who, in many cases, are too old to go the bank a few kilometers away and stand in the queue for Rs33-36 (the subsidy amount per litre). In such cases, someone in the family has to accompany him. In interior villages, where there are no banks even in a 5km radius, this will mean wasting a whole day’s time and wage for availing the subsidy,” said Pooja Yadav, sarpanch of Teovas panchayat.
This has been reiterated in a recent study done by freelance researchers Bharat Bhatti and Madhulika Khanna in Kotkasim, under the guidance of right to food economists Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera. “The poorest households seem to be the worst hit under the new system. For them, going to the bank to collect the subsidy means losing a day’s wages and also transport costs. For some, these costs exceed the subsidy…many households are yet to receive any subsidy, despite shelling out Rs 500 to open a (supposedly “zero-balance”) bank account,” it noted, concluding all this has led to curtailment of consumption.
Ramcharan Meena, district supplies officer (DSO) of Alwar said, “we have conveyed these practical difficulties to the government. They are now talking of introducing mobile ATMs in rural areas which will facilitate easier cash withdrawal. This is only a pilot and we will improve based on its learnings,” he said.
Pleases e ethe video by Reetiak Khera