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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Maharashtra polls: Shiv Sena promises ₹10 meal, ₹1 health tests, power bill reduction

cities Updated: Oct 13, 2019 01:31 IST
Eeshanpriya MS
Eeshanpriya MS

Meals for ₹10 cooked by women self-help groups; health tests at ₹1; direct cash transfers of ₹10,000 for farmers from weaker sections; scholarships for 15 lakh graduates under Yuva Sarkar Fellowship; better roads in the state under Chief Minister Shahar Sadak Yojana — these are among the many sops promised by the Shiv Sena in its manifesto for the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Responding to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s announcements, the Opposition has asked him whether the ₹10-meal scheme would be like the party’s flop zunka bhakar scheme, when it was in power in 1995-99.

Thackeray released the party’s manifesto at his residence Matoshree in Bandra, accompanied by his son and Sena leader, Aaditya Thackeray.

In its manifesto, the Sena has also promised to reduce electricity charges for up to 300 units by 30% and stabilise prices of fertilizers and seeds over the next five years to increase farm produce.

For the youth, apart from the Yuva Sarkar Fellowship scholarship, the Sena has promised 2,500 school buses for students from villages and towns, and job reservation in the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) for those under 35 years of age.

The Sena has also promised to create a fund to maintain footpaths under municipal corporations and start electric buses in all cities, such as in Mumbai, and set up pilgrimage centres. This would help in organising religious tours to prominent places of worship, such as Ayodhya.

Opposition leaders, however, reminded Thackeray of the controversial zunka bhakar scheme when the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was in power between 1995 and 1999. Under the scheme, individuals were given stalls to sell zunka bhakar, a Maharashtrian meal of gram flour and jowar, for ₹1 with cash subsidy by the state.

Following complaints that the scheme was being misused to grab land at key places and that the subsidy was being usurped without selling subsidised food, it was discontinued. “Hope they remember how land was grabbed in the name of zunka bhakar stalls,” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, while addressing a rally at Barshi, Solapur. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar, too, referred to the zunka bhakar fiasco while criticising the Sena manifesto.

Meanwhile, for Mumbai, the Sena has promised concretisation of the eastern and western express highways with state funds; development of public open spaces; and following up with the Centre with a comprehensive plan for development of the eastern waterfront.

The Sena has also listed better roads in cities in the state in its manifesto, by proposing Chief Minister Shahar Sadak Yojana, along the lines of the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana.

“Under the state’s funds for roads, we will create this scheme. There is no money left with urban local bodies anymore after the goods and services tax (GST) was introduced, and they need aid…50,000km of roads will be made into all-weather roads under this scheme,” said Aaditya.

However, citizen activists in Mumbai pointed to the state of roads in Mumbai, where the cash-rich civic body is ruled by the Sena.

Senior city-based transport and road expert, Ashok Datar, questioned the Sena’s credibility in maintaining quality of roads. “The state of Mumbai’s roads is a template for Sena’s work on maintaining roads. If the party was really committed to building all-weather roads, Mumbai’s condition would not be so bad. Sena has ruled the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation [BMC] for so many years, it had many chances to maintain good roads in the city. However, now that the party has set their priority to maintain road infrastructure in their manifesto, we can hold them accountable after a couple of years for bad roads,” said Datar.

While the Sena’s manifesto also speaks of planting mangroves in Mumbai and the creation of urban forests, the Aarey Colony cause which the party has taken up against the construction of a car shed for Metro-3 found no mention. Defending the same, Aaditya said, “This is the manifesto for the entire state. There is a separate issue-based manifesto for cities, and areas which will be published soon. The Sena remains committed to saving Aarey.”

The manifesto also announced special scholarships for Class 10 and Class 12 students, who score more than 80% in Marathi language. When asked about the NCP and Congress taking up the ‘Bhoomiputra’ or son-of-the-soil issue in their respective manifestos, an agenda Sena has touted for many years, Thackeray said, “Sena spoke about this 50 years ago and was criticised for being sectarian and exclusive. Now these other parties have nothing left to give to their voters and so they are using the Bhoomiputra card to woo them [ahead of the elections].”

First Published: Oct 13, 2019 01:31 IST

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