Stating that the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme was against Federalism and intended to bypass democratically elected state governments, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Saturday asked the Centre not to operationalise the scheme in Tamil Nadu in its current form. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which was released to the media, the CM said the three districts of Ariyalur, Pudukottai and Tiruchirapalli were proposed to be included in the second phase of DBT, which would be operational from July 1.
According to the CM, the Tamil Nadu government had already adopted the mechanism of direct cash transfer through bank accounts for beneficiaries under schemes that involve conditional cash transfers such as scholarships and maternal benefits.
“However, we have serious reservations about the DBT model adopted by the Government of India and now sought to be superimposed upon us,” she said in the strongly-worded letter.
Jayalalithaa said the state was also opposed to any move to transfer in cash the subsidy element under PDS and other commodities such as kerosene, LPG and fertiliser. In such instances, it was access to and timely availability of commodities that was critical. It was not an administratively sound practice for the Centre to bypass the state governments altogether in transferring the cash benefit to bank.
Having the field machinery of the state government carrying out the entire process of identification and verification, while the releases are done directly by the Government of India, will result in divorcing authority from responsibility and accountability. “This model also violates a basic tenet of sound administration, which is that authority, responsibility and accountability have to be fused together at the same level in order to ensure effectiveness and efficiency,” the CM pointed out.
Also, Jayalalithaa said that the Union Planning Commission had virtually no consultation with the state governments before issuing guidelines on certain conceptual and operational issues under the scheme. “Are the State Governments expected to look on as mere bystanders, far removed from the process of administering the scheme, after having placed their entire field machinery at the disposal of the Government of India?” the CM asked in the letter. She also listed a number of issues relating to scheme identified for implementation in the second phase, including in those schemes where the State and the Centre shared costs. Further, schemes like the Indira Gandhi Matritva Suraksha Yojana replicated schemes in the State, such as Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy Scheme, which provided higher benefits and wider coverage. “In such circumstances, it would be administratively prudent to leave the implementation to the State, as is being done now, instead of trying to run a parallel and inadequate scheme directly by the Government of India in the name of DBT,” she pointed out.
The Chief Minister said if the intention of the Centre was to introduce DBT for better delivery, the funds had to be routed through the State government, which was already progressively switching over to the bank mode of disbursement for all its beneficiary-oriented schemes.