Adding pressure on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over its Direct Cash Transfers scheme, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday met the Election Commission in order to lodge a protest over the decision taken by the Centre.
Questioning the timing of the announcement of the scheme before the upcoming Assembly polls in Gujarat, senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley met the Election Commission and demanded its withdrawal.
The BJP told the Election Commission that the timing of the announcement has violated the election code of conduct that is currently in place in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Urging Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath to take a proper decision on the matter, the BJP delegation gave a memorandum to him.
The memorandum said: "We request the Commission to direct the government to withdraw the announcement and defer it to an appropriate time after the completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh."
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Advani said: "We have discussed the issue. It was a good discussion."
"The Election Commission has given us assurance that all the issues raised by us will be taken care of before taking a proper decision in this matter," he said.
Advani said: "The cash transfer scheme that was announced a few days ago should be for the entire country. But they should have excluded the states where elections are due to be held."
"In case you make an announcement earlier then the party in power at the Centre can benefit," he said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has written to various ministries and departments to take up immediate tasks in operationalising on priority the Direct Cash Transfers for delivery of services to beneficiaries of social entitlements.
This move follows the first meeting of the National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers (DCT) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Nov 26.
In a letter addressed to nine secretaries of the Union Government, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chatterjee has underlined the importance of the programme and augmenting the Government's implementation capacity to undertake this task.
"I would request you to get down to the immediate task of operationalising Direct Cash Transfers in the identified schemes in your Department. The emphasis should be on having a seamless and trouble free rollout of the programme, first in 51 districts and subsequently as per the agreed rollout plan," wrote Chatterjee.
"Concerns relating to availability of banking infrastructure for making this work and the financial and accounting procedures required would be addressed by the Financial Inclusion and Technology Committees. The main issue which you need to focus on is ensuring that you have a complete list of beneficiaries in digitized form seeded with Aadhaar numbers for your schemes.
"Digitisation of beneficiaries' database is critical for rolling out Direct Cash Transfers and maximum effort on this needs to be put in at the state and district levels. You will be provided necessary assistance for this by Unique Identification Authority of India and the Department of Information Technology," he said.
The implementation Committees in each ministry have been directed to meet on a weekly basis to complete the task of digitization.
In a separate letter to the UIDAI Chairman, the PMO has asked the Technology Committee, headed by the UIDAI chairman, to consider providing dedicated individuals to each of the nine implementing ministries to assist them in their work on digitizing databases.
The Technology Committee is addressing the issues of rapid penetration of Aadhaar numbers to beneficiaries, ensuring that the Aadhaar Payment Bridge is made operational and complete convergence of banking system with Aadhaar.
In another letter to the Department of Financial Services, whose Secretary heads the Financial Inclusion Committee, the PMO has requested to hold a meeting immediately to oversee opening of bank accounts by the beneficiaries with ease, seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers and ensuring that the Business Correspondents' operations are made suitably flexible so they are easily accessible to beneficiaries wherever necessary.
The Department has been also asked to design an incentive package for the Business Correspondents who will dispense cash directly to beneficiaries.
The Department will also need to resolve issues of utilizing the existing Post Offices network to undertake Direct Cash Transfers.