The Punjab government has been distributing rickshaws, spray pumps, welding kits, and even tyre puncture kits and rehris (push carts) to BPL members of the Dalit community across various districts.
In Attari and Verka alone, such items worth Rs 2 crore have been distributed to nearly 2,100 beneficiaries over a month.
Attari assembly constituency, in which Attari block falls, is represented by Akali cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, who holds the SC/BC welfare portfolio, besides the portfolio of animal husbandry. Ranike is also the president of SC wing of SAD. Verka falls in Amritsar East constituency represented by Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the legislator who resigned from BJP earlier this month. She had previously alleged that the government had neglected her constituency.
Both Attari and Verka are SC population dominated blocks. Attari Assembly segment is reserved. The municipal ward of Verka is also reserved.
Ranike said the items were being given to members of marginalised castes to help them earn a living.
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“The scheme is being run by NGOs and is funded by the centre. When I learnt that it carried out similar exercise in other districts I decided my area should also benefit. Even if small percentage gets the means to earn a living through such schemes, it is always good,” Ranike said.
According to Schedule Caste Sub Plan director Chaman Lal Wasan the NGOs assisted in “identification and distribution” process after the cases were forwarded to the department by district level scrutinising committees headed by Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development). Lal said in some places, only ADC (D) implemented the scheme.
According to Wasan, “loose funds” are available under centrally sponsored schemes for scheduled castes which can be used to select items based on the needs of beneficiaries area wise.
In Gurdaspur, according to Assistant Project Officer (Monitoring) Nirmal Singh, more than Rs 1.5 crore worth items had been distributed among beneficiaries over last six months. “The idea is to enable SC and below poverty line people earn a living. They are being helped in kind instead of cash,” he said.
“I was a panchayat member for several years. Since 2013, my wife is sarpanch. This is for the first time that such items are being distributed in the villages,” said Surjeet Singh, Mahawa village in Attari.
Surjeet said that Ranike distributed the spray pumps to the beneficiaries and rest were distributed by others. “We had submitted forms a few months ago. More than 20 different sets of items have been distributed in out villager in last few days,” said Surjeet.
Rajatal village sarpanch Balkar Singh says two rickshaws, four rehris, four spray pumps, four tyre puncture kits and one tricycle were distributed in the village, and other beneficiaries were awaiting theirs.
Amritsar District Welfare Officer Sanjeev Kumar, who is the member secretary of district scrutinising committee, said items were distributed in Attari and Verka block in “nearly one month’s time”. “The beneficiaries starts earning without any investment.,” he added.
Besides this, he said, eligible persons were being trained in skills like plumbing, and to work in call centres
Wasan said the funds which were being used were the ones received in 2015-16 financial year. He added that the department had received another Rs 16.5 crore from centre in the current fiscal as first instalment.
Sanjay Bhartiya, head of Saraswati Vidyarthi Mandir, one of the NGOs roped in for the exercise said after carrying out the exercise in places like Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Nawanshahr, Attari and Verka, the identification process was on in places like Majitha and Ajnala in Amritsar district. Sanjay said in Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Nawanshahr, mainly rickshaws and rehris were distributed and the number of beneficiaries in these districts were some 300 beneficiaries each.
*Loan waiver, ticket concessions…
The state on Tuesday announced a slew of measures for the Dalit community in its attempt to woo them ahead of the state Assembly polls due next year.
In a meeting on Tuesday, the state Cabinet decided to begin a special recruitment drive to clear the backlog of vacant reserved categories posts of SCs, backward classes and physically challenged persons.
In another move, it waived off Rs 11 crore in loans owed by the dependents of 1,653 deceased Dalits. The loans were raised from Punjab Scheduled Castes and Land Development Finance Corporation.
For the Ramdassiya community, which constitutes a sizeable chunk of the Dalit population in Punjab, particularly in Doaba region, Union Minister for Food Processing Industry Harsimrat Kaur Badal managed to get 50 per cent concession from Railways for pilgrims attending birthday celebrations of Guru Ravidas in Varanasi from January 25 to February 25, 2017. The Ministry of Railways has agreed to grant 50 per cent concession in basic fares of second/sleeper class to persons with earnings/emoluments of not more than Rs 5,000 per month travelling from Ambala, Jalandhar, Bathinda and Pune to Varanasi and back during January 25, 2017 to February 25, 2017, to attend the birthday celebrations of Guru Ravidas being organised by Shri Guru Ravidas Janam Sthan Public Charitable Trust, Jalandhar. (ENS)