The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) attempt to offer direct cash transfer to its school students for various supplies has been derailed once again after the ruling Shiv Sena and other parties rejected the proposal. The civic administration has proposed to start a pilot project of providing direct cash transfers to the bank accounts of BMC school students, instead of some of the items.
The proposal was tabled at a meeting, attended by BMC’s top bureaucrats and top elected representatives across parties. According to the proposal, initially, four articles — tiffin box, crayons, water bottle and compass box — could be replaced by cash for one academic year. Currently, the BMC provides all its school students 27 items, including school bags, uniforms, shoes, tiffin box and umbrella, in a bid to encourage poor children to enrol and continue studying in school.
However, the ruling Shiv Sena as well as the Congress and NCP opposed the move, contending that this would not be successful as there was a possibility that parents would use the sum for some other purpose.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Congress leader Ravi Raja said, “We are not against the direct cash transfer scheme, but the question is how the BMC will ensure that money will be utilised for purchasing school items. Most of the school students come from poor background. So, if cash is given to them, there are chances that parents will misuse it.”
He added, “This is a very complicated issue and the civic body must first create a mechanism to evaluate all possibilities.” Shiv Sena leader Yashvant Jadhav echoed the same thoughts on the proposal.
Earlier, in 2015, Municipal Commissioner, Ajoy Mehta, had mooted a proposal to disburse Rs 2,300 each to 3.46 lakh students in civic schools instead of 27 items. The proposal was rejected after leaders from all political parties opposed it.
However, Samajwadi Party leader Rais Shaikh supported the proposal and said a pilot project could be explored first.
“This is actually a good idea and a pilot project for four articles should be allowed. I do not know why Sena and Congress are afraid of direct cash system. There are some issues but they can be resolved after the system is implemented.”
A senior civic official from the BMC’s Education Department said, “The direct cash transfer will ensure that there is no delay in delivering school items to school students. Also, the corruption in contracts and tenders will be eliminated as students and their parents will get direct money and they can buy school articles.”