With the Centre asking states to submit digitised lists of beneficiaries,for direct online payments from Delhi,by November 30,Punjab has written to the Union government refusing to link SC welfare schemes to UPAs Direct Benefits Transfer scheme. The scholarships for SC,OBC and minorities,both pre-matric and post-matric,have been linked to the DBT since January 1,this year.
The Punjab government,through a letter written by its Chief secretary Rakesh Singh,has expressed its unwillingness to bring SC welfare schemes under the DBT scheme. The letter says that the scheme undermines the federal structure of the transfer of funds,as it does not involve the state. Punjab has also stated that it is not enthused by the idea of direct transfer of funds from the Centre to the beneficiaries.
The DBT scheme for scholarships has so far been rolled out in five Punjab districts and till last week,nearly 50,000 students have registered for the scholarships. Chief secretary Rakesh Singh said it was a consultative process and that Punjab has conveyed its views through the letter. We have told them that under the Centre-state formula for transfer of funds,they should first come to the state and not directly to beneficiaries. We are committed to DBT but since it is the state that is identifying beneficiaries,it should get the funds for disbursal to them, he said.
The Union government has,however,responded by asking Punjab to clarify its stand,citing two contradictory letters,one supporting and the other opposing DBT.
The state has written to the Centre that it is unwilling to link the SC and BC welfare schemes under DBT and would continue with the old system of disbursing scholarships. Some other states too have refused to do so. As of now,online payment of scholarships are being made from the Department of Welfares head office in Chandigarh. The deadline for submitting the digitised lists of beneficiaries to the union ministry is November 30. After that the online payments will be made directly from Delhi, Punjab Department of Welfare for SC and OBC director Prithi Chand said.
The direct online payment from New Delhi is precisely the political reason why Punjab is opposed to linking the welfare schemes to DBT. The Chief Ministers of other opposition-ruled states,Raman Singh of Chattisgarh and Tamil Nadus Jayalalitha,have also refused to accept DBT. Slamming the move,Jayalalitha had met the Planning Commission in June terming the implementation of DBT as executive overreach by the Centre.
With a sizeable SC population of 29 per cent,SC/OBC scholarships form a major chunk of Parkash Singh Badal governments welfare schemes for SCs as the scholarship amount was disbursed through cheques. According to Anurag Aggarwal,secretary,Department of Welfare of SC and OBC,the state has a major share in these schemes. In case of post-matric scholarships for SC students,the committed liability of the state calculated on the basis of the terminal year of the last five-year-plan is nearly Rs 60.79 crore for each of the five years for the 12th Five Year Plan.