In a first,students of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) schools may receive debit cards to buy necessary school items. The proposal was mooted by Shiv Sena corporator and standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale and Samajwadi Party member Rais Shaikh as an alternative to the controversial direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme for civic school students.
We are consulting banks and vendors to see how we can structure it, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte told Newsline.
According to the proposal,BMC will shortlist authorised vendors to supply school items at factory outlet rates. The list of prices for these goods will be published and bills will be cross-checked before being reimbursed.
Shewale said,The corporation is not ready for DCT scheme. The Centre has not been able to implement it and the pilot project in Rajasthan was a failure. With this proposal,however,we can avoid the disadvantages of DCT scheme.
Our major concern is that cash given to families for educating children could be used for other purposes. Families may buy poor quality items at lesser rates, said Shaikh.
At present,about 4.5 lakh students are enrolled in the BMCs 1,167 primary and secondary schools. The corporation spends nearly Rs 200 crore a year on free uniforms,shoes and books in municipal schools.
Recently,amid opposition from the ruling Shiv Sena,the civic body approved a proposal to transfer cash directly to students to purchase school items at subsidised rates. We will have to create a system with banks to allow the debit cards to work like gift vouchers, said Kunte.
We are looking at carrying this out through big nationalised banks. They will have the resources to create a mechanism wherein only the required amount is spent. For example,Rs 200 will be allotted for purchasing shoes at Bata; the card wont allow transaction for a higher amount at that outlet, said Shaikh.
He added that the scheme will allow BMC to give supply orders to retail brands.
MNS corporator and standing committee member Sandip Deshpande,however,alleged that BMC favoured certain contractors over other firms while awarding work-orders.
A case on the issue is pending in Bombay High Court. This has led to a delay of about four months in supply of the items to school children.