Mamata Banerjee wants Ayushman Bharat, Kisan Samman Nidhi schemes in Bengal but with riders
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had written to the Centre on September 9 that she was open to implementation of the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme for farmers as well as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana healthcare scheme if the funds were transferred directly to her government for disbursement.
Banerjee also said the Centre would have to bear 100 per cent cost of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
This was the first time the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief expressed her willingness to start these schemes although she had been at the receiving end of attacks by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014 for not implementing the Centre’s social welfare projects.
The letters Banerjee wrote to Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar were released on social media by the state government on Tuesday afternoon while the BJP was heightening its campaign, accusing her of depriving millions of farmers of the Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme against the backdrop of her opposition to the farmers’ bills passed by Parliament on Sunday.
The PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme is funded entirely by the Centre but in case of Ayushman Bharat, states have to bear 40 per cent of the contribution towards premium. Only the states in the North-East and three Himalayan states have to bear 10 per cent of this cost.
“On different occasions, it is heard that the state government in Bengal is not implementing the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi launched by the Central government. It may please be appreciated that the state government has already introduced way before the Krishak Bandhu scheme to provide financial assistance to farmers including sharecroppers,” Banerjee wrote to Tomar on September 9.
“Under this scheme, every farmer/sharecropper receives Rs 5000 from the government. The scheme also envisages death benefit of Rs 2 lakh in case of unfortunate death of any farmer in the age group of 18 to 60. More than 70 lakh farmers are being covered under the Krishak Bandhu scheme in Bengal,” she wrote, adding that the scheme also offers crop insurance and the premium is borne entirely by the government.
Saying that the state’s scheme leads to a huge expenditure, Banerjee wrote, “We will be happy to provide benefits to the farmers under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme and in that case the Central government may transfer the requisite fund direct to the state government for further disbursement with full responsibility to the beneficiaries through the state government machinery.”
In a similar letter to Dr Harsh Vardhan, Banerjee said the state government provides 100 per cent free treatment, medicines and diagnostic tests for all in government hospitals and also provides an annual cover of Rs 5 lakh under the Swasthya Sathi scheme for treatment of critical diseases such as cancer, heart disease etc. at private hospitals. “More than 7.5 crore people in Bengal are covered under Swasthya Sathi,” she wrote.
“Ayushman Bharat scheme may be extended by the Government of India with entire 100 per cent expenditure for the scheme. In such a case the entire funding for the scheme may be routed through the state government,“ wrote Banerjee.
Reacting to the letters, the Bengal BJP alleged that Banerjee was trying to find a way to raise funds for the crucial assembly polls to be held next year.
“The chief minister has asked for direct transfer of funds so that the money can go her party’s election fund. We have seen now Central funds meant for providing relief to people affected by cyclone Amphan in May was misappropriated. The cut-money (bribe or commission) culture is an integral part of the ruling party,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.
Even governor Jagdeep Dhankhar wrote a letter to the chief minister on Monday, saying if timely steps had been taken by the state government over 70 lakh farmers would have received Rs 8,400 crore under the Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme. “Each of the over 70 lakh farmers would have so far got Rs 12,000 directly in the bank accounts without any intermediary,” wrote the governor on Monday. The letter was released to the media by the Raj Bhawan on Tuesday when Banerjee’s party hit the streets of Kolkata in protest against the farmers’ bills.
After Banerjee’s letters to the two Union ministers were released to the media Dhankhar called a press conference at Raj Bhawan on Tuesday evening where he criticized the state government. Funds for Central welfare schemes go directly to the beneficiaries and not routed through the state, he said.