Sops galore hours before poll schedule out
Divya Chandrababu and Joydeep Gupta
Hours before the Election Commission announced poll dates on Friday, sops ranging from reservation in jobs and admissions to wage hike to reduction in fuel prices were announced by functionaries of the election-bound states.
Most number of sops came from Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami, who is trying to beat 10 years of incumbency. The state assembly unanimously passed a bill providing 10.5% reservation for influential Vanniyar community within the existing quota of 20% for the Most Backward Classes (MBC). The move will not increase the overall 69.5% reservation in government jobs and admissions in higher education in the state.
With the announcement, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-led government met the longstanding demand of its ally, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). Soon after, a video started making rounds, showing a teary eyed former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss sharing the news with his father and PMK founder. He could be heard in the video saying that the first step towards their “40-year struggle” has been met.
Earlier in the state assembly, Palaniswami announced waiving gold loans up to six sovereigns taken from cooperative banks by the poor and farmers. An AIADMK member said it would mean waiving loans worth ₹11,306.11 crore outstanding in the state as of 31st May 2020 in the category of under-five sovereigns. Earlier, Palaniswami had waived ₹12,110-crore loans taken by 16,43 lakh farmers from cooperative banks. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin had in January promised to waive farm loans if his party was elected to power. Stalin on Friday called the move a “selfish election stunt”.
In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced an increase in daily wages of labourers working under the state’s Urban Employment Scheme. “I am pleased to announce a hike in the wages of daily wage workers under WB Urban Employment Scheme,” she tweeted.
She said unskilled workers would get a daily wage of ₹202 per day, up from ₹144, while the same for semi-skilled labourers was raised to ₹303 from ₹172.
Under the job scheme, the government introduced a new category for skilled workers, who will get a daily wage of ₹404, Banerjee said. These wages are in parity with rural workers’ enhanced pay (MNREGA unskilled & semi-skilled). The BJP, however, shot back saying that last minute sops won’t be able to save the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
“We are happy that she announced it. At least the poor people would get some benefit. But this won’t be able to save the TMC. The people of Bengal have seen the true face of the TMC in the last 10 years. The TMC government has failed to provide DA to the government employees,” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson in the state.
In Puducherry, Lieutenant Governor Tamilsai Soundararajan announced reduction of Value Added Tax on fuel by 2% providing marginal relief to people. According to a statement by Raj Niwas, it would bring down the fuel prices by ₹1.2 per litre.
In Assam, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday appointed international athlete Hima Das to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Das has been appointed under the Integrated Sports Policy of the state government.