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Have we any escape route out of this killing field?

 
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We, the mango people have so many saviours! The Aaam Aadmi party, newly launched JANSATTA Party and above all the government of Maa Mati Manush in West Bengal to be launched at national level. Have we any escape route out of this killing field?




Palash Biswas

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We, the mango people have so many saviours! The Aaam Aadmi party, newly launched JANSATTA Party and above all the government of Maa Mati Manush in West Bengal to be launched at national level. Have we any escape route out of this killing field? India will see another ‘harsh’ year in terms of economic growth in 2013 as the European situation "will remain very difficult up to end of 2014," World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu said  on Friday. Hinting at some tough measures in the coming days, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday said some “bitter medicine” is necessary to restore the health of the economy and get back to high growth path.

More effective social safety nets like Aadhaar-card based direct cash transfers scheme are being set up to reduce poverty in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.Digital biometric citizenship is the key of reforms but anti reform politics is not concerned with it at all.Why?Because no politccs in India is against exclusion, excommunication and ethnic cleansing while the nuclear statepower has launched a monoplistic corporate war against its own people.UID is a proven tool to exploit natural resources dislodging the people and violating human and civic rights, right to livelihood, right to property, right to land and right to forest. All reform bills are being passed with all party consensus despite parliamentary logjam and bargaining to stregthen corporate, builder promoter raj! Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said that he has discussed five key economic reforms legislations with BJP leaders and expects them to be passed by Parliament in the current session.The key economic reform Bill which are pending before Parliament including Banking Laws Amendment Bill, Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, Micro Finance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill.


“Some bitter medicine has to be taken this year. We have to take some bitter medicine. There is no other way...this bitter medicine is good medicine. It will restore the health of the economy and next year we can look forward to much higher growth,” he said.Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday said the government will take some more steps in the next few weeks to revive the economy and boost investment sentiments.

Whereas West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today countered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's criticism of those opposing FDI in retail, saying she was with the common man who was "outdated".

"What can we do? We are grassroot-level people, we are the representative of the people. And the common man is always backdated (outdated). I am proud to say we are with the people," she told reporters here after addressing the 85th Annual General Meeting of FICCI here, where the Prime Minister made the remarks.Mamata, whose party has vehemently opposed FDI in multi- brand retail and has quit the ruling UPA alliance on this issue, was responding to Singh's remarks terming those opposing to FDI as being outdated.

Referring to opposition to opening of the retail sector to global supermarkets, Singh said: "I am afraid that those who oppose these moves are either ignorant of global realities or are constrained by outdated ideologies.Pledging to alter the policy environment to accelerate economic growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today promised to address concerns on GAAR and taxation of the IT sector along with giving high priority to finalisation of the Direct Taxes Code and Goods and Services Tax. At the same time, he called for need to address the issues of under pricing of electricity and petroleum products to cut down the subsidy bill. Amid global slowdown impacting India as well, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the government is committed to do everything to put economy back on a high growth path of 8-9 per cent.

Stressing the need to create conditions to increase investment rate, President Pranab Mukherjee today said bringing economic growth back to 8 to 9 per cent was a "collective challenge" before government and Industry and further reforms were required to meet it.


Four years after he last addressed an annual general meeting of India’s leading industry associations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh walked into a packed Ficci auditorium this morning to muted applause.Weeks after the government won a crucial battle to bring foreign direct investment (FDI) into multi-brand retail and subsequently, continued with key reforms, including clearing the contested Land Acquisition Bill and establishing a Cabinet Committee on Investments, Singh’s presence here gained further importance.Maybe that is why, before he arrived, the three FICCI brass — Kanoria Chemicals and Industries’ Kanoria, HSBC India chief Naina Lal Kidwai and Xpro India chairman Sidharth Birla — who later joined Singh on the stage, milled about restlessly before a front row packed with corporate leaders.

Singh did not disappoint. “The steps we have taken recently are only the beginning of a process to revive our economy and take it back to its trend growth rate of eight to nine per cent,” the Prime Minister said.

“Today, we meet after a year or two of excessive pessimism at home, which in turn has hurt the growth process,” he added, “But I stand before you to reassure you that our government is committed to doing everything that is possible to alter the policy environment, accelerate economic growth and make the growth process socially and regionally more inclusive.”


When the Prime Minister finished, the applause was loud, if not deafening, but a message of cautious optimism had reached India Inc. “I think the resolve of the government to go forward, that eight-nine per cent economic growth is very much in the sights, (was) a very important message communicated by the Prime Minister,” said Kidwai, the first woman FICCI president-elect. “I think there is an overall realisation in the government that reforms have to continue, so to that extent he has given a message that the government will continue the reforms journey, which is very welcome,” Marico chairman and managing director Harsh Mariwala said. “I agree that we need to do much more but at least there is some positive movement.”

In an apparent dig on parties which oppose reforms, the Prime Minister said: “Some of the decisions we have taken were politically difficult and the naysayers and the cynics have tried to halt us in our track, but we had the courage of our conviction and the interests of our people at heart”.

"Today India is among the fastest growing countries in the world.... India's share in world GDP has doubled in the last two decades.... It became the third largest economy in the world on purchasing power parity basis this year.President Mukherjee said.


"We have, therefore, a collective challenge to reverse this deceleration in growth and raise it to 8 to 9 per cent that we had recorded for most of the years in the previous decade," President Mukherjee said.

The President said the recent global financial crisis did not affect India, as it has some of the stronger economies, is a testimony to the maturity of the country's regulation.

"Nevertheless to realise the full potential of this sector and achieve an accelerated growth and inclusion, further reforms are required in banking, pension and insurance," he said.

He said the rapid economic growth after 2003-04 was accompanied by a rise in the investment rate. But it has declined after reaching its peak in 2007-08 "and for this, we have to create the conditions required for it."

He was addressing Annual Session of the Chief Ministers' conclave organised by PHD Chamber.

Referring to the various sectors, Mukherjee said the manufacturing sector is an important tool for the creation of jobs in the country.

He lamented that the growth in the sector, which was 9.7 per cent in 2009-10 and 7.6 per cent in 2010-11, declined to 2.5 per cent in 2011-12.

"The share of manufacturing in India's GDP of around 16 per cent, which has been the level since the eighties, is much lower than the comparable economies in Asia such as Thailand, South Korea, China and Malaysia, where its share is between 25 to 34 per cent," he said.

He said India has the advantage of a demographic dividend. The average age of population in India is below 30 years and over 60 per cent is in the working age group. "This provides us with a unique advantage for driving future growth. But, it could also pose a serious challenge of creating 220 million jobs by 2025," the President said.

Underlining the need to further augment the culture of research, he said only about 6,000 patent applications were filed by Indians in 2010, which is a mere 0.30 per cent of the total applications filed in the world.

"India spends only 0.9 per cent of GDP on research and development...the share of the private sector in research and development in India is only one-fourth and there is an urgent need to increase it," Mukherjee observed.

Referring to opposition to opening of the retail sector to global supermarkets, Dr. Singh said: "I am afraid that those who oppose these moves are either ignorant of global realities or are constrained by outdated ideologies.

“For example, when I hear the debate on FDI in retail, what I hear are arguments against large scale organised retail, not against FDI in retail.”

The Centre's decision to open up the retail sector to FDI had attracted widespread criticism, with the debate on the issue being put to vote in Parliament and the government securing a majority.

The government also intends to get Parliament's approval for raising FDI cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from the current 26 per cent, besides amendment to the banking laws.

Addressing the AGM of FICCI, the Prime Minister said a year or two of excessive pessimism at home has hurt the growth process.

"But, I stand before you to reassure you that our government is committed to doing everything that is possible to alter the policy environment, to accelerate economic growth and to make the growth process socially and regionally more inclusive," he told the industry captains.

Singh said the government decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail, civil aviation and broadcasting and the bills on liberalizing foreign investment limits in banking and insurance are based on sound economic logic to insulate the country from persistent global economic slowdown.

"I am afraid that those who oppose these moves are either ignorant of global realities or are constrained by out-dated ideologies," he said, in an apparent reference to strong opposition from several political parties to reforms.

Singh said the steps the government has taken recently were only the beginning of a process to revive the economy and take it back to its trend growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent.

"We need to complete the exercise that was begun on GAAR and taxation of the IT sector. The day before yesterday, the Cabinet has approved the constitution of a Cabinet Committee on Investment. "This would help in the issue of clearances for major projects in a time bound manner. We will speed up the disinvestment process which will also revive our equity markets," he said.

Government to speed up PSU stake sale process

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government will speed up the stake sale process in public sector enterprises to help revive equity markets.

"We will speed up the disinvestment process which will also revive our equity markets," Singh said at the FICCI AGM.

So far this fiscal, the government has raised over Rs 6,900 crore by way of divesting stake in PSUs.

While the government realised Rs 125 crore by way of selling 10 per cent in NBCC, a 5.58 per cent stake sale in Hindustan CopperBSE -2.76 % (HCL) fetched Rs 808 crore to the exchequer. This week the government raised Rs 6,000 crore by selling 10 per cent stake in NMDCBSE 1.91 %.

The government plans to raise Rs 30,000 crore in the current fiscal by way of selling minority stakes in PSUs. It has already identified 10 companies, including NTPCBSE 1.39 %, Oil IndiaBSE 2.26 %, SAILBSE 2.71 % and MMTCBSE -0.74 %, for the purpose.

Revenue realisation from disinvestment is essential for the government to restrict the fiscal deficit to 5.3 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal.

The Centre's fiscal deficit touched a high of 5.9 per cent in the previous fiscal. "This was clearly unsustainable," Singh said, adding that the Finance Minister has unveiled a fiscal consolidation roadmap to bring down the deficit to 3 per cent by 2016-17.

"The government is serious about moving in this direction," Singh said.

Making a spirited appeal to India Inc to invest in West Bengal, Mamata said her government has recently approved a land allotment policy to introduce transparency and it was for the investors to "nurture the potential available in the state".

"Our (people from Bengal) talent is very good. Our talent work everywhere from NASA to bhasa... from computer to compounder. If you want to nurture it, invest in the state, don't worry," she said.

"Labour is very cheap (in Bengal). We don't allow factory to close down and strike as they earlier used to," she said, referring to the previous Left Front government resorting to strikes and lockouts.

The chief minister stated that forceful acquisition of land was not conducive for the state or for setting up of industries.

"Sometime people say acquire the land, fire the people and then build industry. Industry cannot be set up if there is disturbance...if there is goons and guns, but industry can only be set up in a peaceful manner in peaceful areas and co-exist with the common people," she said.

The West Bengal chief minister also lashed out at the previous Left Front government for the huge debt burden which her government had inherited, saying the state ranks first on this count and that it is paying more than what its earns.

Mamata also took a dig at a section in media and those who were portraying a negative image of her state.

She said "negative and destructive attitude are always highlighted by the media. I think whatever the constructive work we do must be encouraged by it".

During the last one-and-half-year rule of her government, she said, "99 per cent of our commitment have been implemented".

"A commitment is a commitment. Our commitment is our credentials, and our transparency and accountability is our asset. Whatever I say... It may not suit you, you can criticise it, I welcome it... misleading the people is a crime," she said.

The state government has taken up e-tendering and e-governance initiatives during the short period, she said.

The tax collection has also seen a jump of 35 per cent. While in the current first quarter, the GDP growth of the country is 5.5 per cent, it is 6.94 per cent in Bengal, she said.

Mamata also claimed a significant change in work culture in West Bengal noting that man-days lost has come down significantly from sixty five lakh in 2010-11 to five thousand this year.

"We have land bank, you come and invest and I will give you land whatever is available. You purchase the land, I will give you the permission," she said.

The West Bengal chief minister also lashed out at the previous Left Front government for the huge debt burden which her government had inherited, saying the state ranks first on this count and that it is paying more than what its earns.

Mamata also took a dig at a section in media and those who were portraying a negative image of her state.

She said "negative and destructive attitude are always highlighted by the media. I think whatever the constructive work we do must be encouraged by it".

During the last one-and-half-year rule of her government, she said, "99 per cent of our commitment have been implemented".

"A commitment is a commitment. Our commitment is our credentials, and our transparency and accountability is our asset. Whatever I say...It may not suit you, you can criticise it, I welcome it... misleading the people is a crime," she said.

The state government has taken up e-tendering and e-governance initiatives during the short period, she said.

The tax collection has also seen a jump of 35 per cent. While in the current first quarter, the GDP growth of the country is 5.5 per cent, it is 6.94 per cent in Bengal, she said.

Mamata also claimed a significant change in work culture in West Bengal noting that man-days lost has come down significantly from sixty five lakh in 2010-11 to five thousand this year.

"We have land bank, you come and invest and I will give you land whatever is available. You purchase the land, I will give you the permission," she said.

“The steps we have taken recently are only the beginning of the process to revive our economy and take it back to its trend growth rate of 8-9 per cent,” Dr. Singh said at the 85th Annual General Meeting of FICCI here.

He said the global economy is passing through turbulent times and “excessive pessimism” at home has hurt the country’s growth process.

“But I stand before you to reassure you that our government is committed to doing everything that is possible to alter the policy environment, accelerate economic growth and make the growth process socially and regionally more inclusive,” he told the industry captains.

The economic growth slowed to a nine year low of 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 and this year, too, the GDP growth, as per RBI’s estimates, is likely to be 5.8 per cent. In the three preceding years the 2008 global economic crisis, India was growing at a rate of more than 9 per cent.

The Prime Minister further said the government needs to take forward the steps it has taken through constitution of Cabinet Committee on Investment to revive the economy.

“We need to complete the exercise that has begun on GAAR (General Anti Avoidance Rules) and taxation of the IT sector... We will speed up the disinvestment process which will also revive our equity markets,” he added.

Liberalisation of foreign direct investment norms in sectors like multi-brand retail and aviation and cutting subsidies on petroleum products are some of the key economic reforms undertaken by the government in the recent past.

“Inflation too high”

Referring to inflation which is still high, the Prime Minister said it needs to be brought down to 5-6 per cent.

“The inflation rates in the last two years have also increased to unacceptably high levels and need to be brought down to no more than 5-6 per cent per annum," Dr. Singh added.

The Prime Minister also assured the industry that two ambitious tax reforms -- Direct Taxes Code (DTC) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) -- are high on government's priority list.

Dr. Singh said while it is a matter of satisfaction that India's per capita income level has increased, he is "pained" to see the level of social and regional inequalities that continue to exist in the country.

"The years of high growth enabled us to generate resources that have been deployed to improve the well being of our people. But we need to do more to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease from this blessed land of ours," Dr. Singh said.

He, however, said despite the challenges India continues to face, "we must recognise that poverty has declined at a pace never seen in the past 200 years".

“Subsidies bill to come down”

Dr. Singh further said that while subsidies have an important role to play in "softening the harsh edges of extreme poverty", the outgo on this front has grown in the recent years which is constraining the government in its efforts for the economic well being and empowerment of people.

"Under-pricing of energy, particularly electricity and petroleum products, has greatly affected the resources

available for investments in infrastructure and social development. The subsidy on oil alone is more than what the government spends on health and education put together.

"We need to address these issues even as we ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are protected," Singh said, adding that Aadhaar based direct cash transfer will help reduce leakages of subsidies, cut down corruption, eliminate middlemen, target beneficiaries better and speed up transfer of benefits to individuals."

The government plans to provide direct cash transfer into bank accounts of beneficiaries of 34 centrally-sponsored schemes in 51 districts from January 1 and expand it to the whole country by end of 2013.

The high subsidy bill is putting pressure on India's fiscal deficit.

"Last year, the central government's fiscal deficit touched a high of 5.9 per cent of GDP. This was clearly

unsustainable... Government is serious about moving in this (fiscal consolidation) direction. Our action in correction of distortions in energy pricing, reducing diesel and LPG subsidies was aimed to achieve this objective," Dr. Singh said.

The government has come out with a fiscal consolidation roadmap to bring it down to 3 per cent of GDP by 2016-17 financial year. The fiscal deficit is likely to touch 5.3 per cent of GDP this financial year.

Role of private sector

Stressing on the need for "compact between business, government and society", Dr. Singh said the private sector must own up its responsibility in supporting affirmative action designed to provide employment opportunities for under privileged sections, persons with disabilities and women.

He also said the private sector must play an active role in areas of research and development, education and skill development, health and rural development.

The Prime Minister informed the industry leaders that Railways are working on a Rail Tariff Authority, which will make fare setting a "more rational exercise".

Land acquisition

On land acquisition bill, he said it "should soon usher in a more fair and transparent regime for land acquisition". The Union Cabinet recently cleared the land bill.

The Prime Minister further said that the Cabinet Committee on Investment, which was cleared by the Cabinet earlier this week, would help in clearance of major projects in a time-bound manner.

Mulayam threatens to review support if quota bill is passed

MAINPURI:Terming the proposed legislation on SC/ST quota in promotion as anti-national, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Saturday said his party would review its stand on supporting the UPA government from outside, if the bill is passed.

“If voting is done on the Bill in the House, I will reconsider my party’s support to the government.... We will review party’s outside support to the government,” he said.

“The bill is anti-national and will divide the people. My party has opposed the bill inside and outside the House and will continue its opposition,” Mr Yadav said.

He said it was unfortunate that his party members who were opposing the “anti-people” bill were thrown out of the House.

Mr Yadav said that he had asked the Prime Minister why he was not “bringing out the facts about the posts that will be captured by people” due to reservation in promotion.

“For just 22 per cent people, rest of the population including general candidates, backward castes and other communities will suffer immensely creating problem in society,” he warned.

Mr Yadav claimed that if the bill was passed “then no Prime Minister will get a cabinet secretary nor any chief minister will get chief secretary of any other caste”.

The UPA has just over 250 MPs in the Lok Sabha after the TMC withdrew support from the government. The UPA is provided crucial support from outside by 21 MPs of the Samajwadi Party and 22 MPs of Mayawati—-led Bahujan Samaj Party, which is batting for the quota bill.

Economic slowdown: Sushma blames it on Govt.
Countering Prime Minister’s argument that “excessive pessimism” at home has hurt India’s growth process, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Saturday claimed that “cynicism” created by government’s lack of initiative is to be blamed for the slowdown.

Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of FICCI where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier taken a dig at parties opposing the reforms saying they were “ignorant of global realities or are constrained by out-dated ideologies,” she said it was not the Opposition but “internal differences in the government and among its allies” which were delaying key bills.

“It is not pessimism but an atmosphere of cynicism...

More than policy the right environment is important but here everyday there are scams,” Ms Swaraj said.

She maintained that the Opposition is only performing its role of the watchdog and asked the government to introspect. She said that the scams are not mere allegations levelled by the Opposition but have been unearthed by constitutional bodies like the CAG.

“The Prime Minister says the opposition does not allow Bills to be passed. I want to clarify that Bills are not being passed due to the internal differences in the government and among its allies,” the BJP leader said.

She mentioned the Pensions Bill and said that BJP had bailed out the government at the time of introduction when UPA did not have numbers in the House and the Left demanded a division of votes.

Ms. Swaraj also hit out at Dr. Singh for making an “excuse” of coalition compulsions for some of the decisions or the delay in taking them. “We also ran a coalition government which had more constituents. There were 24 parties in the NDA. Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister but he is neither the leader of his party nor of the country.”

FDI in retail not the only solution to boost economy: Nitin Gadkari

Contending that FDI in retail was not the only solution to boost the economy, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said a strong political will is required to create a climate which encourages capital investment in the country. "FDI in retail is not the only solution and economic reform. We have some reservations and that is why we have opposed it," Gadkari said, addressing industrialists at the valedictory session of 107th Annual Session of PHD Chamber in New Delhi.
Lamenting that a "strange" kind of atmosphere prevailed in the country, the BJP chief said, "We are caught in a vicious circle and we have to come out of it. Thus there is need to create a good investment climate." He said the 21st century politics is that of progress and development and called for bringing such policies that converted problems into opportunities to help make India an economic superpower.
"We need to bring a positive, development-oriented approach and fast track processes. For this we need a strong political will," he said. Talking about FDI in retail sector, the BJP chief said foreign companies will come and create pre-cooling plants, cold storage and godowns for storage facilities and wondered if the country even after 65 years of independence was not capable of creating such infrastructure like godowns.

Expressing hope that BJP will soon come to power, he urged industrialists to invest within and not invest in foreign shores.

Expressing hope that BJP will soon come to power, he urged industrialists to invest within and not invest in foreign shores as his party would bring about an industry and development-free atmosphere that will encourage investment.

Ready for debate on government decisions: Anand Sharma

Decrying "partisan" politics in policy decisions like FDI in multi-brand retail, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today said he is ready for a debate on the recent government decisions, as sought by a senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.

Addressing the Ficci annual general meeting here, Sharma said the opposition parties should stop "daily discourse", questioning government decisions and smelling a rat in every move.

He said it was in the domain of an elected government to take executive decisions which should not be dragged to Parliament and voted upon.

"...do I have to go on a daily basis to seek a certificate or endorsement of my thinking or approach or policy initiative or my decision as a minister of the Republic of India that I should be perpetually on a regular call at the doorstep of Nitin Gadkari or Prakash Karat. I can't do that and why should I?," he said.

Sharma's criticism of the opposition parties, mainly the BJP, comes in the wake of a full-fledged discussion in Parliament on the government allowing 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, under a rule which required voting in both the Houses. The opposition motions against the decision were negatived with the support of BSP and Samajwadi Party.

Earlier, addressing the same meeting, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj asked the industry bodies to hold a roundtable dialogue where government, opposition, industrialists, as well as CAG, CVC and CBI director are invited to discuss the national issues.

"A national dialogue will end this cynicism in the country," Swaraj said.

Reacting to her suggestion, Sharma said, "I am willing to debate (with) the critics and the opponents any day without notice. Decide the place, decide the forum and I will come".

Direct benefits transfer: Why direct transfer may not put money in people’s pockets

ANUMEHA YADAV

Pilot projects perform poorly in Jharkhand
If the experience in Jharkhand is anything to go by, the lives of lakhs of people living in 51 districts across the nation will be disrupted by the Aadhar-Enabled Cash Transfer (AECT) project slated to kick off in January. Beneficiaries risk not getting their payments because of several logistical, operational and technological problems that have not been solved in pilot projects in Jharkhand – a year after launch.

Jharkhand is one of the states where AECT pilots for payments of MGNREGA wages began in December 2011 in 12 blocks in four districts - Ranchi, Ramgarh, Hazaribagh, Saraikela-Kharsawan. Of these, in one block in Ramgarh district, the government has started AECT pilots in pensions (Old Age, Widows, Disability pensions), scholarships, Kisan Credit Cards, and Indira Awaas Yojana as well. But visits to two of the four “pilot” districts show that a vast majority of beneficiaries still do not have the requisite bank accounts mapped with 12-digit Aadhaar numbers. Even if they have Aadhaar-linked accounts, their “PINs,” in this instance the individual biometrics of their fingerprints, often do not work when they try to get paid via the new ATMs – their village Banking Correspondent who disburses the cash once the biometrics are matched with the UIDAI’s databases through a hand-held device/a micro-ATM.

According to the minutes of the first meeting of the executive committee on Direct Cash Transfers in the PMO on November 9, the tipping point for rolling out AECTs would be an Aadhaar penetration level of 80 percent of beneficiaries. Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh in an article in The Hindu on December 11, 2012 also emphasized the prerequisite of 80 per cent of each district’s population having an Aadhaar number and Aadhaar-enabled bank account before payments are started.

In Ramgarh district adjoining Ranchi, which had been identified for full coverage by UIDAI, Aadhaar enrolment is at less than 40 per cent of the population of over 9 lakh. The number of Aadhaar-mapped accounts is 18,883, i.e., less than two per cent of the district population. When Jharkhand was chosen for pilots to pay MGNREGA wages through AECTs last December, in an interview to the Economic Times, Assistant Director General at UIDAI’s office in Ranchi P.K. Upadhayay had said they planned to pay 174,000 MGNREGA workers through this. A year later, officials in UIDAI’s office in Ranchi admit that this figure stands at 5,000 — less than 3 per cent of the initial target. The pilots have failed to scale up and give little indication of what to expect in the rollout announced for January.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/direct-benefits-transfer-why-direct-transfer-may-not-put-money-in-peoples-pockets/article4200661.ece

Direct benefits transfer, the key Congress pitch for 2014

SMITA GUPTA

An attempt to use technology to end corruption, says Rahul

The UPA government’s plans to roll out direct benefits transfers — earlier referred to as direct cash transfers — from January 1, 2013 is being billed not merely as its centrepiece for Elections 2014 but, as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told a gathering of Congress leaders here on Friday, an attempt to use technology to end the corruption that affects the poorest of the poor. Aap ka paisa, aapke haath will be the Congress’ political slogan in the general elections, just 17 months away.

Mr. Gandhi said technology will be harnessed to ensure that leakages in the system are plugged and the money in its entirety reaches the targeted beneficiaries, not Rs. 15 out of every Rs. 100, as his father Rajiv Gandhi had said in the 1980s. This, he said, will be the biggest thing since the telecom revolution.

But in implementing the direct benefits transfer programme, the government is playing safe, staying out of the Public Distribution System, as was being feared by some State governments and NGOs. In the first phase, the scheme will address 34 benefits that are currently given in cash form such as scholarships, old age pensions, MGNREGA wages etc.

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who addressed a press conference along with party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi — said the scheme will move on within a year to subsidies given for fertilisers, kersosene and LPG. This will be far more complicated, he admitted, as it will also have to take into account the possibility of market fluctuations in the prices of these commodities.

Indeed, even as the Congress was holding its meeting to ensure greater synergy with the government, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the ministries to take up the implementation of the direct benefits transfer programme on a “war footing”, organising camps to fast pace enrolment under Aadhaar.

The primary activity of the concerned ministries in the coming weeks will be to complete enrolment of Aadhaar for all beneficiaries, ensure they have bank accounts in which the Aadhaar numbers are mentioned, and compile beneficiary databases.

“This has to be addressed on a war footing,” the PMO said in a statement, adding, “The best approach may be a Camp approach. The Planning Commission has been asked to finalise dates for a one-day meeting of the Collectors of the concerned districts (excluding Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh). Collectors will need to be given clear instructions on how to do this when they come for the meeting next week. Planning Commission will coordinate the necessary preparations for this,” the PMO said.

The Committee, chaired by the Principal Secretary in the PMO, Pulok Chatterji, discussed the core objective of how direct cash transfers of benefits in the selected 51 districts (excluding, till the end of the election process, eight districts in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat), will be implemented as per the timeline.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/direct-benefits-transfer-the-key-congress-pitch-for-2014/article4200654.ece

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