Ahead of the state's local self-government polls beginning in November, including the city's civic elections in January, the Congress released a 105-point programme for the welfare of the weaker sections in society.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan made the announcement at a rally, organised by the Vilas Rupwate-led state-level organisation for the welfare of devdasis and destitute, held at Chunabhatti's Somaiyya ground on Sunday.
The political message was loud and clear: the party's ally, Nationalist Congress Party, had held a similar rally at the same venue a couple of months ago.
Rupwate, a Dalit social worker from the city, joined the Congress recently.
Though the practice of marrying young girls off to village deities and then exploiting them sexually has been banned across the country, it has not been totally stamped out. And once these women, called devdasis, grow old they are reduced to begging. The pension they get from the government is not enough.
The CM, however, said the pension for devdasis would increase. Henceforth, they will get a pension of around Rs 1,200 a month (from the previous Rs 600).
A grant of Rs 25,000-50,000 will be given to them for their daughters' wedding. Chavan also instituted an award in the name of the late social activist, Latatai Sakat, to encourage individuals and institutions to help uplift devdasis.
Chavan said many of the 105 schemes and plans had got the Cabinet's nod. Some others were amendments to existing schemes and would get the Cabinet's approval soon, Chavan promised.
Co-operation minister Harshavardhan Patil announced that his department would reserve 3% job quota for the physically challenged people.