December 4th, 2012

Cash transfer: Govt provides clarification to EC

NEW DELHI: The Government on Monday gave an explanation to the Election Commission of India over the recently announced direct cash transfer scheme, sources in the poll panel said here on Monday.
The Government in its reply said it had not violated any election code of conduct in connection with its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme as it was announced in the budget speech by the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the sources said.
“This (direct cash transfer) is only an implementation of an announcement that has already been made,” the reply said.
The government said it believed that it has neither directly or indirectly violated the election code because the policy announcement was made way back in the budget speech by the then finance minister.
The Election Commission, which conveyed its unhappiness to the government over announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme, had sought a report on the issue by Monday evening.
The poll watchdog in a strongly worded letter to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth expressed its unhappiness over the timing of the announcement by the Centre, and said it could have been avoided in view of the Gujarat assembly polls later this month.
Senior BJP leaders, led by Lal Krishna Advani, had moved the Election Commission earlier on Friday in protest against the government’s decision to announce the direct cash transfers scheme meant to replace subsidies for below poverty line (BPL) families as well as other beneficiaries.
The BJP petitioned the Election Commission of India, and asked it to direct the government to ‘withdraw’ the announcement till the completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Advani after the meeting  said that the BJP conveyed its concern to the Election Commission that the government should not make such announcements once election dates have been declared for it will have an impact on the upcoming polls and influence the voters.
Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17 and the model code is in force in the state. Incidentally, four of the 51 districts in which the cash transfer scheme is to be implemented from January 1 fall in Gujarat.
The government earlier on November 27 furnished the outline of its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme, with finance minister P Chidambaram terming it a big ‘game changer’.
According to the government, almost Rs 3,20,000 crore cash transfer scheme will be launched in stages and cover the entire country by the end of 2013.
Earlier, asserting that the Government gave an ‘appropriate response’ to the Election Commission on the cash-for subsidy scheme, the Congress asked the BJP to clarify their stand on the flagship scheme.
Addressing reporters here, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, “The BJP should make it clear if it is for or against the scheme.” He said, “I do not want to jump the gun but the BJP should elucidate whether they are for or against the scheme which intends to provide direct cash-based subsidy to the beneficiaries through Aadhar cards.”
In this context, he reminded the BJP of the slogan that ‘jab paise bate ek sman tabhi bane Mera Bharat Mahan’ (when there is equal distribution of money or resources among people only then will India become great).
The controversy over the scheme which was recently announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and seconded by Finance Minister P Chidambaram escalated with the BJP taking strong exception about the timing of the scheme — just when election process was on for Gujarat Assembly.
The Election commission had issued a notice to the Government to give an answer on the matter.

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