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Gehlot announces slew of sops for the common man

Special Correspondent
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Minimum wages revised; new facilities for farmers

Bharatiya Janata Party workers taking out a rally against the Gehlot Government in Jaipur on Thursday.--Photo: Rohit Jain Paras
Bharatiya Janata Party workers taking out a rally against the Gehlot Government in Jaipur on Thursday.--Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday made a slew of announcements for the benefit of common people – revising minimum wages, increasing scholarships, creating new facilities for farmers and offering free health care services – to mark the completion of four years of his Government in Rajasthan. He described his tenure as “Chaar Saal Bemisaal” (four exceptional years).

In a prudent move, Mr. Gehlot chose his “Meet the Press” programme at Pink City Press Club here for offering the new sops. He said he was doing this because making the announcements in the next Budget would be treated as an attempt to impress the electorate before the Assembly polls scheduled for 2013-end.

“I don’t want the people to suffer [just] because 2013 would be an election year. This is the right moment to announce new decisions,” he said and affirmed that his Government’s flagship schemes were being praised all over the country, including in Gujarat.

Mr. Gehlot said the Opposition parties had been unable to find any loophole in governance or shortcoming in the budgetary announcements during the past four years.

The Chief Minister, however, steered clear of the controversial issues such as resentment among Gujjars over reservation, his Cabinet colleague Mahipal Maderna arrested in Bhanwari Devi murder case, police firing on the Gopalgarh mosque and the law and order situation not improving after the introduction of commissionerate system.

He said the establishment of an oil refinery in western Rajasthan would depend on viability for crude oil firms and ONGC even as the “State’s package is ready”. While the State Government had already announced the supply of three subsidised LPG cylinders to consumers on its own, he hoped that the issue of cap on the number of cylinders would be resolved soon.

Among the announcements made on the occasion, the significant ones were devoted to labourers and farmers. Mr. Gehlot said the revised minimum wages from the New Year’s Day would be Rs.166 a day for unskilled labourers, Rs.176 for semi-skilled labourers, Rs.186 for skilled labourers and Rs.236 for highly skilled workers.

The Kisan Seva Kendras and village knowledge centres being constructed with the help of NABARD would be built at all village panchayat headquarters. The State Warehousing Corporation will enhance storage capacity in villages in several stages and take up works at a cost of Rs.300 crore in the first phase to create 8 lakh tonne capacity.

Mr. Gehlot announced an increase in the income ceiling for parents for eligibility of students to get scholarships in different categories. The minority students in prestigious higher and technical institutions would also get a new scholarship of Rs.1,000 a month.

He pointed out that the free medicine supply scheme, launched on October 2 last year, had immensely benefited the patients visiting the Government hospitals and announced launching of a new scheme for free diagnostic tests from the World Health Day on April 7 next year.

Journalists accredited to the State Government would get financial assistance of Rs.5,000 a month after crossing the age of 62 years if they have worked with a daily or weekly publication for a minimum of 20 years. “This decision recognises the excellent services rendered by journalists,” said Mr. Gehlot.

Other announcements pertained to supply of nutritious food to children, infrastructure development, drinking water supply, construction of check dams, construction and widening of roads, establishment of mobile veterinary units in tehsils and increase in financial assistance to the widows of soldiers killed in wars.

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