Rural and semi-urban Assam continued to burn over an allegedly lopsided list of BPL beneficiaries under an election-oriented food security scheme. Scheduled to be launched in October, the six-month scheme is designed to end before Assembly elections in 2011.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in March this year had announced a Rs 150 crore scheme for providing food security to 13 lakh BPL families in the state. Later named Mukhya Mantrir Anna Suraksha Yojana (CM’s Food Security Scheme), it entailed 10 kg of rice per family per month at Rs 6 per kg.
The process of selecting the beneficiaries began a couple of months ago. According to the guideline, the beneficiaries were to be selected by the Gram Sabhas across the state. The government, mysteriously, transferred the responsibility to a panel of block-level social workers who were allegedly Congress workers. All hell broke loose after the list was pasted outside the office of each block development officer (BDO) on September 4.
“Almost all the beneficiaries are Congress workers, and a large chunk of them are not below poverty line,” said Asom Gana Parishad legislator Alka Desai Sarma, also a rural and women’s rights activist.
On Wednesday, protestors ransacked at least three BDO offices in central and northeastern Assam. At least 30 people have been injured in resultant violence.
In Sivasagar town (370 km east of Guwahati) for instance, more than 500 of 812 beneficiaries under Ward No. 13 were found to be economically well off. Apart from affluent traders, the list included government employees with an average take-home of Rs 50,000.
Gogoi’s pet Assembly constituency Titabor in central Assam also had its share of “goof-ups”. In areas under Ward No 4 of Dhekorgorha-Komargaon Panchayat, the beneficiaries included government schoolteachers, pensioners and affluent farmers owning at least two cars. Engineers and lawyers also found their way into the lists elsewhere.
“Such a massive exercise is bound to have some cases of oversight,” said acting CM Bhumidhar Barman. “We are trying to rectify the errors.”