In poll-bound Assam, the ruling BJP has implemented various direct and indirect cash benefit schemes targeting different sections of the people in the last couple of months. As announced in the last State budget, the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government is seemingly in a hurry to implement all the flagship reward schemes in no time.
Reports show, till now a dozen schemes with an estimated budget of more than Rs 6,000 crore are rolled out by the State government leading to creating around 90 lakhs beneficiaries. With some of the prominent schemes like ‘Arunodoi, ‘Chah Bagisa Dhan Puraskar Mela’, ‘SVAYEM’, the list comprises a divergent class of beneficiary schemes.
In a latest move the Assam government has also announced to provide free electricity for up to 30 units for a two-month period from January.
The largest direct benefit transfer scheme ‘Arunodoi’ was launched to provide a monthly aid to 17 lakh marginal income families. Under the scheme, each beneficiary gets Rs 830 in their bank account every month to buy essential food items. This scheme has been running from the last three months. The main beneficiary under this scheme would be the woman of the house.
On January 20, another scheme named ‘Swami Vivekananda Assam Youth Empowerment’ or the ‘SVAYEM’ was launched to provide Rs 50,000 each to 2 lakh skilled and talented youths to start their businesses. Total budget allocation for the scheme is Rs1,000 crore. State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that this scheme will cover 1,000 youth in each constituency in the first phase.
On February 6 this year, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while visiting the State, launched the third phase of a cash benefit scheme dedicated for tea workers. A total of Rs 224 crore are allocated for the third phase of ‘Chah Bagisa Dhan Puraskar Mela’ and is set to provide financial aid of Rs 3,000 each to a total 7,46,667 tea workers.
This scheme was first launched in the financial year 2017-18. In the first phase, Rs 2,500 was credited to 6,33,411 bank accounts. In the second phase, an additional amount of Rs 2,500 was credited to 7,15,979 bank accounts of tea garden workers in 2018-19.
In the first phase, the expenditure was above Rs158 crore and in the second phase the expenditure was around Rs 179 crore.
Apart from this, 20,000 youths from the tea worker community will get Rs 25,000 each as financial aid. The budget for the same has been fixed at Rs 50 crore.
Under a special scheme, girls securing first division in the Higher Secondary Final examinations get a free scooty from the government. Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma assured that that this scheme will cover meritorious girl students of the last three years. That makes the total number of beneficiaries under this scooty distribution scheme at 37,000 and allocated a budget amount of Rs 285crore.
‘Ananda Ram Baruah Award’ is yet another existing educational scheme and the government has spent Rs 33 crore felicitating 16,944 students.
There is another existing women centric scheme, ‘Kanaklata women empowerment’, launched to provide financial aid of Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 to different self-help groups. The government has announced to extend the scheme aiming at providing Rs 25,000 each to 68,000 SHG’s and Rs 50,000 each to 88,240 SHG’s. The budget is fixed at Rs 611.20 crore.
With an aim to encourage rural women, the Sonowal Government will distribute scooties among 4,238 women under ‘Jiwika Sakhi Express’ scheme. The budget fixed for the scheme is Rs 35 crore.
Another women-centric scheme introduced by the Assam Government named ‘Aideu Handique Mahila Sanman’, provides monthly Rs 300 pension to unmarried or divorced women of 35 years and above. The budget is Rs 20 crore.
The differently-abled people from the rural area are too covered separately under the ‘divyangajan atmanirbhar scheme’. To boost self-employment drive among these people, the government will provide up to Rs 2 lakh aid to each beneficiary. The budget estimate is at Rs 500 crore for this purpose. The ‘Pragyan Bharti’ scheme implemented last year aims at providing free textbooks to the higher secondary level and Rs 1,000 each to graduate level students to procure textbooks. As announced in last year’s budget, a total of 67,531 students are covered in the scheme. Besides, the government also provides Rs 700 monthly to students as their hostel fees. This scheme has 5 lakh student beneficiaries and the government will spend around Rs 130 crore for both the schemes.
It is to be mentioned that in the wake of Coronavirus crisis, the Assam Government in the last year declared free admission from high school till post graduate level education for the academic year 2020-21, including courses like medical, engineering and polytechnic.
Another scheme, ‘Indira Miri Sarbajanin Bidhwa pension’, is in force since last April and it provides monthly pension to 1,43,318 women. Since its implementation, the annual estimate is Rs 52crore.
Alongside the new schemes, the government has provided free rice to around 58lakh people since last April and total expenditure for the state subsidy till election is estimated at around Rs 36crore.
As the last full-fledged budget of the present government, the state budget for FY 2020-21 had incorporated several new and redesigned schemes including Rs 40,000 aid in lieu of 1 tola of gold to the newly-wed brides with an annual family income of less than Rs 5 lakh.
While many, including the Opposition, are vocal against these government ‘freebies’, the ruling party choose to move ahead with a definite action plan to influence mass voters.