Amarinder to focus on 'neglected' sections

CHANDIGARH Aug 26: After elaborate discussions with experts and bureaucrats, the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has evolved a five-pronged strategy to bring about a paradigm shift not only in the political articulations of the ruling party but the normal execution of governance. A "vision paper'' for various tiers of the administration is being formulated to implement the programmes while the State would break new ground in unorthodox system of functioning.

According to official sources, Capt. Amarinder Singh's strategy, which is expected to begin delivering results by the end of this year, revolves round a single pivot of targeting those sections of the populace in the State which had been "ignored or deliberately neglected'' by the previous Akali-BJP alliance Government.

Various departments have been issued directions to work out independent plans to address the problems related to uplift of Scheduled Castes and backwards classes, welfare and empowerment of women, economic sustenance of the small and marginal farming community, urban renewal and rural development.

On the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Chief Minister announced yet another package worth Rs.500 crores for the Scheduled Castes and backward classes, which would provide sanitation facilities to 10 lakh families identified on the basis of their poor economic conditions.

The State Government has already introduced a scheme to allot five-marla plots to homeless families of the Scheduled Castes. It further plans to start an "Ashirwad Scheme'', where Rs 5100 would be given at the time of the marriage of the SC girls. The State is already running the Kanya Jagriti Yojna for the education of the SC girls.

For small farmers, Capt. Amarinder Singh has planned to create a special fund, from which loans could be advanced to facilitate them in generating non-farm income and ultimately wean them away from the non-viable farming practices. It is being planned that a soft loan of Rs 60,000 be advanced for the purpose. The process has been initiated to identify agro-based zones for income generation in the rural areas, with a focus to encourage tiny or cottage processing and packaging units.

Another area under focus has been the devolution of powers to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), where efforts have been put to ensure that the usual verbiage related to empowerment of the local bodies is translated into action. Punjab may perhaps be the first State in the country, which has stressed on functional literacy and capacity building of the elected representatives, especially women, of the PRIs.

The State Rural Development department has planned a schedule to train all the 90,000 Panches and Sarpanches of over 12,000 panchayats. In these training modules to be executed at the block level, spanning the next six months, the representatives at the grass roots would be educated about the nature of their jobs, their roles, functioning, rights, privileges and duties. They would be instructed about the procedures, maintaining accounts and carrying out welfare activities.

Punjab is set to be the first State in yet another field of conducting a resources and assets census for the village panchayats. This is expected to go a long way identifying income avenues for the panchayats, which could indulge in welfare activities at the local level.

To stem the further decay, the State Government plans to focus special exercises for the 69 urban towns. While urban infrastructure would be revamped, attention would be on the uplift of the unorganised shopkeepers and hawkers.

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