By Ram Kumar Kaushik
Carrying well the image of “messiah of poor” Rajasthan chief minister is planning to launch one of his most ambitious pro poor scheme – Annapurna free food packet scheme – on August 15 to commemorate the Independence Day. The scheme is aimed at providing two square meals for more than one crore poor families covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA).
“Preparations are on to free poor people from worries to arrange food on this Independence Day. The government has already budgeted an expenditure of Rs 3,000 crore every year. The chief minister is working tirelessly to implement budget announcement. This scheme is very close to his heart. His motto has been – No one should sleep hungry,” said a senior official of chief minister's office.
According to sources, the government is working out two models for implementing this scheme. “Either a food packet containing one kilogram each of pulse, sugar and salt, one litre edible oil and spices will be distributed every month to each family through ration shops, menhgai rahat camps or direct benefit transfer (DBT) of Rs 300 every month to the bank account of each beneficiary family,” the source said.
The benefit of Annapurna food packet will be over and above the monthly entitlement of the families covered under NFSA which provides food grains of 5 kg per person for poor households, while 35 kg per family for the poorest of the poor Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) families.
“This is a game changer scheme. People may call it an election propaganda, but the scheme has the potential to really benefit the downtrodden. It falls well within the definition of welfare state,” said Prof Ram Murti Singh, a sociologist.
On the other hand the opposition BJP describes it as a “well-planned conspiracy” to promote corruption.
“If the same scheme had come in 2018, as soon as the government was formed, I would have been happy that food grains would go to a poor person's house. But with hardly three months left, it just looks like a ploy to woo voters and a well laid corruption plan to give benefits to near and dear ones,” said deputy leader of opposition Satish Poonia.
Smartphones for 40 lakh women from August 10
Apart from the Annapurna scheme, the government is all set to launch the free Indira Gandhi smartphone scheme to 40 lakh women from August 10. The government is likely to transfer a fixed amount of around Rs 7,000 to accounts of women on the purchase of smartphone. The money will also account for a free annual recharge for 20 GB data per month.
The beneficiary will have to visit nearby camps where they can buy mobiles of their choice. They are free to buy handsets costing more than the transferred amount fixed by the government. District Collectors has been made nodal officer for this project.
“They will have to pay the difference amount from their pockets. If they choose to buy handset lesser than the fixed amount then they will be free to use the excess amount for other purposes,” the official said.