If national job guarantee scheme for the rural sector did the electoral trick for UPA 1, finance minister P Chidambaram expects the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) can replicate the same for the UPA 2 in the upcoming general elections.
This was an apparent intention behind Chidambaram’s announcement of complete roll out of DBT ahead of the next polls. Started on January 1, 2013, in 20 select districts on pilot basis for seven Central government schemes, Chidambaram assured of complete roll-out of DBT across India before 2014 polls.
Reetika Khera, an economist with IIT, Delhi, said the roll-out would be unrealistic if the government decides to transfer annual subsidies worth Rs. 2,00,000 crore through DBT. Transferring scholarships and pensions can happen, she added.
Chidambaram in his speech presented a pictorial image of DBT glee by saying that it has brought “smiles on the faces of dalit girls and the tribal boys who received their scholarships” and “pregnant mothers who are assured that the government cares for mother and the child”.
Meeting the target will not be easy as Chidambaram admitted the scheme has made a “modest” beginning. In the 20 pilot districts, only half of the beneficiaries have their Aadhaar numbers seeded with bank accounts, a must for transferring money via UID payment bridge. The government is making no effort to hide its electoral ambition behind DBT. The government intends to transfer at least Rs. 1500 billion crore directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries, mostly poor.