HYDERABAD: In a major setback to the ruling TRS, the Election Commission of India (EC) on Monday halted Dalit Bandhu scheme in by-poll bound Huzurabad Assembly constituency until the election is over.
In a letter addressed to the Telangana state chief electoral officer Shashank Goel, EC's principal secretary Avinash Kumar stated, “The commission has deliberated the Dalit Bandhu scheme in poll-bound Huzurabad constituency and directed that DBT (direct benefit transfer) covering the scheme shall be deferred in the constituency in all its forms till the completion of bypoll."
However, the EC's orders barring Dalit Bandhu at this stage led to a debate in political circles about what purpose it would serve as the state government already transferred Dalit Bandhu amount of Rs 10 lakh each to over 17,000 Dalit families so far out of total 20,000 Dalit families in Huzurabad.
Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao announced the Dalit Bandhu scheme in July and selected poll-bound Huzurabad to implement Dalit Bandhu as a pilot programme to cover all Dalit families on a saturation mode. He formally launched the scheme in Huzurabad on August 16 and distributed cheques to a select 15 beneficiaries on the occasion.
These beneficiaries already received SMS to their mobile phones from banks informing them about the amount credited in their bank accounts. The amount could not be credited in the bank accounts of remaining 3,000 beneficiaries due to various reasons like the delay in opening bank accounts due to lack of certain details and required certificates.
The Forum for Good Governance (FGC) has written to EC on July 29 requesting to direct the Telangana state government to postpone the Dalit Bandu till the bypoll is over. But the EC did not respond.
FGC secretary M. Padmanabha Reddy told this newspaper, "The EC has not acted properly on this issue. What is the purpose of stopping this scheme now when the government already transferred amounts to beneficiaries. It's meaningless. The amount is lying in bank accounts of beneficiaries. The selection of business units by beneficiaries on which they want to invest is going on at present. Even if the EC does not stop this scheme, it will take at least three weeks for beneficiaries to select their business units and claim the benefit and by that time the bypoll will be anyway over."
The state government released Rs 2,000 crore in August to Huzurabad to credit the amount in the accounts of 20,000 beneficiaries. The amount was initially transferred to the account of Karimnagar district collector, who later ensured that banks opened separate Dalit Bandhu accounts.
The amount was transferred to these accounts but beneficiaries cannot withdraw the amount as these accounts are frozen. The amount has been lying in their accounts since then. The beneficiaries have to come up with some business plan on what they intend to do with that amount, submit it to officials and only after the officials approve, the amount can be utilised. The beneficiaries are not allowed to withdraw the amount on their own but the officials will directly transfer the amount to meet their business expenses like buying a car to run cab services, tractor for agriculture purposes, setting up dairy units, shops etc.
Opposition parties are accusing the ruling party leaders in Huzurabad of threatening Dalit voters that they should ensure victory of the TRS in the bypoll if they want to claim the Dalit Bandhu amount lying in bank accounts and if the TRS loses, they would lose the benefit....