No poll code violation, govt tells EC

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SummaryThe poll body had sought a report from Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth on why it should not be hauled up for making the announcement at a time when the poll process in Gujarat is underway.

Saying that the recently announced direct cash transfer scheme is the “logical next step” in the ongoing better targeting of subsidies, the Centre has rejected the contention that there has been any violation of the model code of conduct by its announcement on the subject.

In an exhaustive letter to the Election Commission (EC) on Monday afternoon by the Planning Commission — the nodal body that oversees the direct cash transfers — its secretary Sindhushree Khullar details the justification as to why the government is not on the wrong.

The poll body had sought a report from Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth on why it should not be hauled up for making the announcement at a time when the poll process in Gujarat is underway. “It is submitted that no announcement of any financial grant or a new promise in the nature of a financial benefit has been announced after the coming into force of the model code of conduct on October 3, 2012,” says Khullar’s letter to the EC.

In the process, though, the Planning Commission note clears several notions about the scheme which Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh projected as “game changer” last month.

For starters, it argues that none of the eligible beneficiaries will receive any additional entitlement that he or she is already receiving under identified schemes. There will also be no increase in the number of beneficiaries under the various schemes of the Centre where cash transfers are proposed to be introduced, it says.

Most importantly, the cash transfer scheme will be introduced with effect from January 1, 2013 by which time the election process in Gujarat will already be completed, it says. “Accordingly, the announcement by the government is not in breach of para VII of the model code of conduct,” it says.

The government contended that the Aadhaar programme has been devised with the direct cash transfer scheme being integral to it. “It was envisaged that Aadhaar platform will be used in the various existing schemes of the government to reach the benefits to eligible beneficiaries more efficiently,” the letter says.

The EC discussed the issue but deferred a decision, according to sources. An appropriate response is likely to be sent either on Tuesday or the day after, the sources said.

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