Addressing a rally in Bidar, Karnataka, on October 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the National Democratic Alliance had started the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, which aims to transfer subsidies directly to beneficiaries through their bank accounts.
After claiming that National Democratic Alliance government had started the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, he went on to state that leakage of over Rs 57,000 crore that earlier used to end up in the hands of middlemen has been plugged because of the scheme.
While there’s no doubt that India for long has suffered from the sort of leakages that Modi mentioned in his speech, was the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme started by the National Democratic Alliance as he claimed?
As it turns out, the roll-out of Direct Benefit Transfer scheme started in 2013 and was announced in the Union Budget of India in February 2013.
In a Press Information Bureau release in February 2013, it was announced that the scheme would be retrospectively effective from January 1, 2013. The release stated, “The Government of India has decided to introduce a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme with effect from 1 January, 2013. To begin with, benefits under 26 schemes will directly be transferred into the bank accounts of beneficiaries in 43 identified districts across respective states and Union territories (UT).”
In fact, two tweets posted on August 31, 2017, by the Office of Prime Minister of India themselves are a testimony of the fact that Direct Benefit Transfer scheme started in the 2013-2014 financial year under the United Progressive Alliance government.
In the first tweet, while illustrating the growth of Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme, it is shown that Rs 7,367.7 crores were transferred to beneficiaries via Direct Benefit Transfers in the 2013-2014 financial year.
In the second tweet, it is shown that 10.71 crore beneficiaries became part of the scheme in the financial year 2013-2014. According to the tweets, the number of beneficiaries grew to 41.63 crores in the 2016-17 financial year and they received Rs 74,607.55 crores.
It must also be mentioned that as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi was very critical of Aadhar, which forms the backbone of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme. Aadhaar is the 12-digit unique identification number that the Bharatiya Janata party government is pressuring all Indian residents to obtain.
Further, Union Minister Ananth Kumar in April 2014 had gone to the extent of stating that the BJP would scrap Aadhaar if it won the election that year.
While it cannot be denied that the Direct Benefit Transfer has grown considerably under the BJP, there’s plenty of evidence that it existed before it came to power.
This article first appeared on Alt News.