Need to review many welfare schemes, Montek reminds govt

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

New Delhi,  Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a former Deputy Chairman of the now- defunct Planning Commission, on Monday said that many welfare schemes of the government needed to be reviewed to assess their reach and efficacy.

“We need to review many welfare schemes we have put in place supposedly to help the poor, but which don’t have the effect that they should,” Ahluwalia said while talking to IANS.

Be it the earlier United Progressive Alliance or the present National Democratic Alliance, all governments and all political parties of significance go gaga over the welfare schemes but their extent needs to be determined, he pointed out.

Asked for specifics, he said: “Today, to say that two third of the Indian population be covered by providing, maybe, half of their food grain needs every month… or less than half, at less than 10 per cent of the market price, just doesn’t make any sense.”

So what’s the solution? “I mean, we have suggested in many documents that our country has moved to the cash-transfer system. You identify the poor, give them some cash to help them buy whatever they need,” he explained.

He said that “massively subsidising” food grains while “not subsidising” milk or vegetables, as was prevalent, created distortion in the pattern of consumption.

In his book “Backstage: The Story behind India’s High Growth Years”, Ahluwalia questioned the stock of food grains maintained by the Centre and its alleged refusal to part with some to ease inflation.

He said that he stood by whatever he had written in his book, adding that stockpiling of food grains in the NDA era is “far more”.

As for the Indian economy’s slowdown, the former top policy-maker said that the first thing the Finance Ministry under the stewardship of Nirmala Sitharaman should do is to acknowledge that there’s a problem.

He pointed to the 5-trillion-dollar economy, doubling of farmers income, and other “impractical” goals of the government in the current economic scheme of things.

The government should “go beyond declaration of intent” and act, Ahluwalia asserted.