Cash for sarees and blankets, pensions and freebies Election Year Congress SOPS
Playing his second innings as the Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot has learnt from experiences. In the 2003 poll, Gehlot annoyed the large workforce of the government employees by reducing the retirement age and denying them bonus. Gehlot and the Congress had to face the wrath of the people as the employees played a key role in the ouster of the government.
Gehlot in his first innings as Chief Minister had said that he would not allow the misuse of the fund and would be serving the government as a custodian. But leaving his ideals and sermons behind, the Chief Minister has rolled out a number of populist schemes and direct cash transfer in an attempt to stop the BJP’s move to regain power after five years.
Gehlot, who has taken out Congress Sandesh Yatra and is touring the state, is never short of breath to explain and trumpet the various welfare schemes of the government. The cash handouts for pensions, saris, blankets, laptops and tablets total Rs.3,000 crore, despite a stretched state exchequer whose total debt and liability stood at Rs.1.71 lakh crore at the end of the financial year on March 31.
In March this year, Gehlot presented a budget that was purely an election year-eve budget, but Gehlot is now giving the sudden push for it by distributing cash so as to neutralise the success of Vasundhara Raje’s ongoing Suraj Sankalp Yatra. Gehlot, in fact tried to negate Raje by starting a rival state-wide Sandesh Yatra to publicise both his past achievements and election-year schemes.
He openly tells people that the government is ready to give the masses everything that they want. In a bid to provide relief from inflation, Gehlot announced plans to make wheat and sugar cheaper for BPL families. BPL families will get wheat at Re 1 per kg, instead of Rs 2 per kg and sugar at Rs 10 per kg instead of Rs 13.50 per kg earlier.
In a rally, addressing the Muslims, Gehlot had said that “Jo mangoge woh milega”. In his yatra sojourn, he could be heard reciting “Aap batayein ki hum kya karen ki aap hamein vote dein”. The state government has also gone on a media blitzkrieg, with documentaries, ads in print and TV and hoardings across the state.
The media is thriving on Rs 30-crore special budget earmarked by the state government. Apparently with an eye on polls later this year, Rajasthan government in Budget 2013-14 unveiled a series of populist measures like wheat at Re 1 per kg, free sarees and blanket to poor and proposed doing away with land tax.
He announced proposal to give two sarees for women and one blanket for men of BPL families, and also to those who are getting benefits similar to the BPL, for free.
Under the welfare scheme 40 lakh families were to be given two sarees each and the male members of the BPL families were to get a blanket each.
The various cooperative weavers’ organisation were tapped for procuring the sarees and blankets, but it was found that procuring such a large number of sarees and blankets in a limited time was difficult.
Then distribution was a big problem as distributing the sarees and blankets to 40 lakh families was not an easy task and would have resulted in large-scale corruption before the election.
“After he (Gehlot) couldn’t provide basic amenities like power, education, roads and water, he’s offering people cash. This is the worst kind of governance,” said former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
The state government has just three months in hand to offer the freebies as after that the moral code of conduct would be enforceable in the month of October before the December election.
Thus the finance department thought it fit to disburse Rs 600 crore by which 40 lakh families will receive a Rs 1500 cheque each.
“The BPL families have bank accounts as the money for the MNREGA is credited into this account. The state government would thus credit their accounts as reimbursement for sarees and blankets,” said Khadi Minister Babu Lal Nagar.
BPL pati-ents get free treatment in government hospitals for various ailments and also get Rs 1 lakh as financial assistance if they get treatment in some identified private hospitals. The government provide Rs 1 lakh from Chief Minister’s relief fund to APL patients with annual income of Rs 1 lakh for treatment of cancer, kidney and heart ailments.
Under free medical testing scheme, initially in medical colleges, district hospitals and satellite hospitals, tests like ECG, X-ray, sonography and other tests were made free. The scheme will have its second phase from July 1 under which all the 428 Community Health Centres (CHCs) will be covered. In the third phase of the scheme from Independence Day, the facility of free testing will be made available for free in all the 1, 649 city dispensaries.
“I as a medico can say that the free medicine scheme and also the free medical check-ups scheme have done wonders and increased the popularity of the Congress in public eyes. This alone will help us get votes of the poor,” claimed Dr Chandrabhan, PCC chief.
Public healthcare is in a shambles due to shortage of doctors and paramedics. Of a sanctioned force of 9,700 doctors, there are 2,700 vacancies. Almost half of the specialist posts in community health centres are vacant. The state needs to employ 24,000 additional paramedic staff this year.
There are already reports of widespread pilferage of free medicines. In a private diagnostic centre in Dausa different medicines of the Chief Minister’s free medicine scheme were recovered. The state anti-corruption bureau caught two senior doctors red-handed in two major hospitals: One while taking money from a cancer patient; another while taking money to open stitches.
The government will also give laptops to accredited journalists, increase the amount of mediclaim policy from present Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and reduc the age limit for monthly assistance amount of Rs 5,000 for eligible accredited journalists from present 62 years to 60 years.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur