Delighted to deliver benefits, Mamata Banerjee in letter to 90% Bengal population
Late last week, the West Bengal government completed an exercise of reaching out to as many as 86.7 million beneficiaries of Khadya Sathi (food security) scheme with letters carrying the signature of chief minister Mamata Banerjee who stated she was “extremely delighted” to deliver the benefits to them.
According to the state food and supplies minister, Jyoti Priya Mallick, the exercise started in the third week of February and was completed by March 8.
Inaugurated in January 2016, the Khadya Sathi scheme that entitles an individual to 5 kg of rice/wheat per month at the rate of Rs 2 a kilo, has the biggest number of beneficiaries.
“Around 86.7 million people were benefitted by the Khadya Sathi scheme and the chief minister’s letter has reached each beneficiary. This scheme has covered more than 90% of the state’s population,” said Mallick.
Incidentally, Bengal’s population was 91.3 million according to the 2011 census.
Almost 85% of the letters are written in Bengali and the rest in Hindi, Urdu and Nepali, said officials.
The letter also said that she hoped the scheme helped raise the overall standard of living of the beneficiary and that she would continue to serve him/her further with such schemes.
Similar letters were sent to beneficiaries of more than a dozen schemes such as the old age pension scheme, Swasthya Sathi (people treated at state-run hospitals for free), Manobik (assistance for the differently-abled), Kanyashree (girl child welfare project), Sabuj Sathi (gifting cycles to school students), Rupashree (grant for wedding of daughter), Sikkhashree (scholarship scheme for SC students) and Yuvashree (financial assistance for the unemployed).
“I am a beneficiary of both Khadhya Sathi and Yuvashree. It was a pleasant surprise to get a letter from the chief minister about 10 days ago,” said Tapu Giri (29), an unemployed man of Belda in West Midnapore district.
The state government has simultaneously also explained how these welfare schemes benefit more than 90% residents of Bengal.
Officials said the idea of sending the letters probably had its roots in the Narendra Modi government’s flagship healthcare assistance scheme, Ayushman Bharat, from which the West Bengal government withdrew, after Mamata Banerjee alleged that the beneficiaries of the jointly funded (Centre 60%-state 40%) project were getting letters with pictures and signatures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Ayushman Bharat letters were written in eight languages.
Opposition parties in Bengal described the exercise as Trinamool Congress’s propaganda funded by public money.
“While the state government denied the people the benefits of the Union government’s Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme, they are spending public money for the ruling party’s political propaganda. Such a shameless step can be expected only from this government,” alleged BJP’s Bengal unit general secretary Sayantan Basu.
“The state government claims that they are unable to pay the differential dearness allowance because of lack of funds. But they have the money to waste in such fruitless exercises,” said Sujan Chakraborty, CPI(M) MLA and leader of the Left parties in the state assembly.