Income for all, free ration delivery in TMC manifesto
Minimum income guarantee for all families in West Bengal, hike in financial assistance for farmers, free doorstep delivery of ration, and inclusion of more communities in the other backward classes (OBC) list were the highlights of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) assembly election manifesto released by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday.
Banerjee said the manifesto contained 10 promises ranging from strengthening the economy to creating jobs, from improving farmers’ welfare, health and education indices to providing housing to all. “This is not a political manifesto. This is a developmental manifesto. This is a manifesto of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Banerjee said, sitting on a wheelchair, at her Kalighat residence.
The chief minister claimed that her government had reduced poverty by 40% in the state and topped the country in providing jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. She said the development focus will help her party return to power for a third straight term, and that the manifesto was vetted by the Election Commission. Eight-phase polls in the state kick off on March 27.
Under the minimum income guarantee scheme, the state government will provide a monthly assistance to the senior-most female member of a family. Families under the general category will get ₹500 every month. Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBC families will get a monthly dole of ₹1,000, she added.
The manifesto promised credit cards through which a student could avail a loan up to ₹10 lakh at 4% interest. Buoyed by the success of the Duare Sarkar (government at doorsteps) scheme where camps were set to deliver benefits of 11 state-run welfare schemes, the party pledged to introduce Duare Ration to provide free ration at doorsteps.
Crucially, she promised to examine if more communities could be classified OBC in the state. “We will appoint a special task force to examine and propose OBC status to all the communities which are not recognised as OBCs like Mahishya, Tili, Tamul and Sahas. We will also ask the government of India to grant ST status to Mahatos,” the TMC chief said.
The announcement came a day after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief JP Nadda made a similar pledge in an election rally. The BJP is looking to dislodge the TMC on the back of its impressive Lok Sabha poll performance.
Banerjee said if returned to power, her government will reduce unemployment by half, generate 500,000 jobs every year, give farmers assistance of ₹10,000 annually, and set up one million new MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprise) and 2,000 new big industrial units over the next five years. She pledged to expand subsidised food programme under the Maa canteen scheme and build 2.5 million houses, if re-elected to power.
The CM also mounted attack on the BJP and appealed to left-leaning people to not “waste” their vote and support her party. “The BJP is a high-loaded virus. It is playing a dirty game. Khela Hobe (game on) and the BJP would get its first jolt from Jangalmahal when the game starts from March 27,” she said.
The BJP criticised the manifesto and said the TMC lacked vision. “The TMC manifesto proves why a double engine government is needed in West Bengal. Most of the announcements are central projects. Just their names have been changed. These would not materialise without the Centre’s help. There is no proper measure to increase employment. This government has no road map and it only depends on announcements without any base,” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson. Experts said the TMC had chosen a populist model earlier adopted by political parties in Delhi and Tamil Nadu.