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Rays of transparency in murky politics

Post independence, the definition of politics has gradually changed to one that describes it as an irresistible profession for those seeking power and prosperity. We see people from different backgrounds — mostly controversial and even criminal — assuming political centre stage with a no-holds-barred attitude. Resultantly, the quality of governance has declined so much that except scams and chaos, hardly anything is witnessed in the name of governance.

But this scenario may change with a few new initiatives, that have the potential to usher in a kind of revolution. To begin with, two ongoing programmes are proving beneficial for the state, as they have been able to save huge amounts of money going into the hands of the wrong people.

In six districts where the central government’s direct benefit transfer (DBT) is on, financial assistance has been transferred through bank accounts, with UID details attached to them. If officials are to be believed, a few lakh beneficiaries existing prior to the launch of the scheme have not come forward to report any complaints regarding the denial of benefits to those in genuine need.

The initial results of direct cash transfer system in Mumbai, Nandurbar, Amravati, Pune and Wardha were so encouraging that the central government has now decided to add six more districts to the list and those are Aurangabad, Gondia, Latur, Jalgaon, Jalna and Ratnagiri.

Besides LPG, the cash benefits are being transferred for social schemes such as Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and the post-matriculation scholarship for SC and OBC students. Initial reports showed that the number of beneficiaries came down considerably, implying that government funds were earlier being leaked to the ineligible or the fraudulent.

With the introduction of e-governance, more skeletons are likely to tumble out. For instance, in Aurangabad, it has been revealed that approximately 5,000 beneficiaries under ‘Dilasa’ programme could not be traced when it was decided to dole out cash assistance through bank accounts linked with UID cards. Now demands are being made to probe the disbursement of funds in the past. The scam may go up to Rs 7 crore.

At Wardha, some 10 per cent of school students have been revealed to be ‘ghost’ students, after enrolment was done through UID. A number of benefits were usurped by unscrupulous elements earlier, right from fee reimbursement to scholarships.

Similarly, the state saved Rs 2,000 crore on public works from the Rs 40,000 crore worth of contracts awarded through e-tendering system since last year.

Today any tender beyond the cost of Rs 10 lakh has to be processed through e-tendering. In the earlier system, the field of government works was open to a select few, leading to a monopoly bleeding the state coffers. Now, all those eligible can participate in the bidding process with competitive rates.

For example, in the drought-hit district of Jalna, the district administration saved Rs 6 crore while appointing agencies for water supply through tankers.

Similarly the municipal council of the town saved Rs 15 lakh while appointing an agency under the Suvarnajayanti urban employment scheme meant for unemployed youth below poverty line. The Beed district administration saved Rs 4.5 lakh while awarding the job of printing of electoral rolls.

These few success stories are certainly a beginning to save the taxpayer’s money guzzled by graft. With the e-tendering system, departments such as PWD and water resources, haunted by scams and controversies related to construction of roads, flyovers, dams and canals, could save a few thousand crores.

The government can utilise the money thus saved for other public projects. Last year, the state spending was Rs 1.72 lakh crore and the figure is expected to be anywhere around 1.90 lakh crore next year, as per government data. Of this, hardly 50,000 crore goes towards development projects. The rest goes towards repayment of debt, interest and running the administration.

One can hope that the savings through e-governance will increase the state spending on development works. Hence people who were part of the rotten system earlier will have minimum participation in implementation of schemes and government works. It is said at least 30 per cent of ‘ghost’ beneficiaries would be exposed if the state decides to create a complete database of its 11 crore people, based on name, address, place of residence and UID card. 

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY 

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