New Delhi. This could be the fastest implementation of any budget proposal as the government is ready with a plan to replace subsidies with direct cash transfers within three days of its announcement. An influential think-tank close to the Congress political leadership is finalizing the contours of a new welfare scheme under which money bags amounting to Rs. 100,000 crores per annum will be air dropped every month over the vast rural hinterland by flying aerial sorties.
The scheme is the brain child of a leading economist cum journalist turned politician who is very close to the Congress high command. Explaining why the scheme can be the most effective poverty elimination scheme designed yet and a game-changer in the electoral arena, he said, “This does away with the problem of identifying the eligible BPL households, which could otherwise take several months under the AADDHAR program of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).”
The economist claimed that direct cash transfers by dropping money bags from the sky was “self-selecting” as it automatically excluded many “non-deserving” segments of society.
“The salaried classes with day jobs are constrained from going out in search for money bags. Well-heeled members of the leisure class have better things to do with their time. Many economists who believe that it is futile to look for a one rupee coin on the sidewalk because it would already have been taken can also be eliminated from the consideration set. That leaves only the labor class that has to toil away to earn subsistence wages. A few hours of physical labor in search of money bags will now yield economic rewards and help this lot live a life out of poverty,” he explained.
A social activist involved with scheme design told this reporter, “The poor rural farmer/laborer used to look up to the skies for a normal monsoon. Going forward, he will look to the skies for showering wealth on him. He will literally hold his head high going forward.”
The scheme has the support of the influential National Advisory Council that, amongst other things, advises Smt. Sonia Gandhi on issues concerning social welfare, though there are some voices of concern. “The modalities of implementation have to be fine-tuned. For instance, will the aerial drops happen during the day or at night? Nocturnal drops will disproportionately benefit the 20 something partying class – which is usually active at night – and lead to socially regressive outcomes. Also, the intensity of air drops should be proportional to the degree of poverty prevalent in the region. We only have poverty head count ratios at the State levels but not at the district and block levels. So it is better that the implementation of the scheme be preceded by block level poverty estimation surveys. The quantum of money transferred through such a channel also needs to be inflation indexed for which appropriate legislation needs to be passed. Also, in some very backward regions with a low degree of monetization of economic transactions, the transfers need to be in kind and not in cash,” a member of the NAC told this reporter.
A party insider revealed that the scheme has caught the fancy of the party high command and also Rahul Gandhi who is keen that the scheme be launched by the first quarter of the new fiscal. If it comes down to an eye ball to eye ball confrontation between the PM and the Congress President, the PM may well have to blink and give in to its implementation.
According to a party insider, the scheme will be called the Moti Lal Nehru Lakshmi Barsaat Yojana. The party high command had sternly rejected the idea of naming it after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi since there are already 500 extant schemes named after any one of them.