Direct cash transfers: The scheme that blocked kerosene

Oct 04 2013, 16:18 IST
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SummaryThe pilot for cash transfer was launched in Kotkasim in December 2011.

A frail Gori Sahaab, 90, instructs his son to pour mustard oil into a tiny diya in his one-room house. He once used a kerosene lamp but has stopped buying that fuel. His son says he is a “victim” of the direct cash/benefits transfer scheme.

Gori is one of many villagers in Kotkasim in Rajasthan’s Alwar district who have not received their due under the cash subsidy scheme for kerosense.

The pilot for cash transfer was launched in Kotkasim in December 2011. The Centre went on to launch the DBT scheme in 43 districts across the country this January 1, and expanded the rollout to 121 districts by July 1.

In Rajasthan, the scheme was launched in three districts in the first phase — Alwar, Ajmer and Udaipur. DBT is mostly being used for scholarships and maternity benefits but the government recently launched cash transfers for kerosene in some pilot blocks in the latter two districts, despite having been unable to remove glitches in Alwar.

The government feels the “visibility” of DBT is maximum where cash subsidy is involved, as the minutes of a recent high-level meeting at the national level on DBT mention. However, far from being an electoral game-changer as promoted by the Congress with its slogan “Aapka Paisa Aapke Haath”, the scheme has made people more angry with the Centre than ever for disrupting the existing system.

In Kotkasim, villagers have replaced kerosene with other fuel substitutes. While earlier consumers could buy up to 3 litres per ration card from fair-price shops at subsidy, under Direct Cash Transfer, they have to buy at the prevailing market rate and the difference between the market and subsidised rates is supposed to be transferred to their accounts in advance, starting with a three-month advance. Villagers say they get their subsidy months after purchasing kerosene, and most have been unable to organise enough money to buy the fuel at the full market price. Many others don’t even have bank accounts.

To withdraw the subsidy, the account holder has to be physically present, making it nearly impossible for the disabled living kilometres from banks. "I can barely walk around in the village, how do I go all the way to the bank, spending Rs 100? The previous system was so much more convenient,” says Santara Devi, 75.

The last entries for cash subsidy on the passbooks of Gori Sahaab, Santara Devi, Ram Chand and several others in

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