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As elections approach, a spate of welfare schemes in poll-bound states

Govts in Telangana, MP and Rajasthan are not leaving any stone unturned to temper anti-incumbency as they get closer to polls

Photo: ANI

Photo: ANI

Archis Mohan New Delhi

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On Sunday, the Telangana government notified financial assistance of Rs one lakh to each household of religious minorities in the state. The state government had earlier announced the scheme for Backward Castes, which it has now extended to minorities.

With 75 days left before the Election Commission enforces the model code of conduct, state governments of four of the five poll-bound states have announced a spate of welfare schemes in the last few weeks.

In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, state governments have either announced or transferred social security allowances to put money in people's pockets as a salve for price rise and promised more if voters were to return the incumbent political parties to power.

According to the 2011 Census, minorities at 5.5 million comprised 14.24 per cent of Telangana's population. Muslims are the biggest minority group in Telangana – 12.68 per cent of its total population of 35.1 million (2011), and at least half of those live in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation area that has 24 Assembly seats across the districts of Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Medak.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is hoping to beat the nearly 10-year anti-incumbency and lead his party, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), to a third successive win in India's youngest state on the back of his welfare schemes for the Scheduled Castes, OBCs and minorities. The BRS is wary of losing some of its support base amongst the minorities after Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra.

According to the scheme, rural households earning less than Rs 1.5 lakh a year and urban ones earning less than Rs 2 lakh will get Rs one lakh, which the state government will fully subsidise. Recently, the state government increased the pension for the specially-abled by Rs 1,000 to Rs 4,016 monthly. It also hiked its health insurance coverage, Aarogyasri, from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. The Telangana government attributed the state's poverty reduction to its welfare schemes and improving irrigation, helping increase agriculture productivity. The Niti Aayog said last week that poverty in the state decreased from 13.18 per cent in 2015-16 to 5.88 per cent in 2019-21.

In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel last week announced a four per cent increase in the dearness allowance for the protesting state government employees, on the heels of a five per cent recent increase promised earlier, benefitting half a million employees at Rs 2,000 crore cost to the exchequer. The CM said the salary of 37,000 contractual workers will increase by 27 per cent and cost the state government Rs 350 crore. The government announced emoluments and wage increases for 1,650 guest teachers, patwaris, police constables, etc.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is busy convincing voters to keep the faith and reject the opposition Congress's "five guarantees''. In June, Chouhan transferred Rs 1000 to 12.5 million beneficiaries, women between 21 and 60, under the "Ladli Behna" scheme, promising to increase the monthly allowance to Rs 3,000 if he returns in December. He also raised the assistance for Aanganwadi workers from Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000.

In Rajasthan, in the Assembly's monsoon session, the last before the November-December polls, the Ashok Gehlot government piloted the passage of the Rajasthan Minimum Income Guarantee Bill on Friday. The legislation promises an extra 25 days of work over the 100 days of employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and 125 days of work in urban areas under the Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme. The government will pay an unemployment allowance if it fails to provide work for that many days. It could be challenging since Rajasthan's average MNREGA workdays have never surpassed 56 days. Another legislation has promised a Rs 1,000 monthly pension to the elderly, specially-abled, widows and single women with a 15 per cent annual increase. The government has budgeted Rs 12,000 crore for paying pensions.

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First Published: Jul 24 2023 | 8:17 AM IST

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