With the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections likely to kick in soon, the BJP government in Maharashtra on Tuesday announced a bouquet of sops for the voters in the state.
The state Cabinet approved 22 decisions, which included some populist measures. Among these was a proposal to extend Seventh Pay Commission benefits to the academic staff of government and aided educational institutions, granting Rs 2,584 crore in 2018-19 alone for the purpose.
“This will directly benefit 26,741 teachers and other academic staff in these institutions,” said Higher and Technical Education Minister Vinod Tawde. Dr Balaji Kendre, president of University of Mumbai Academic Staff Association welcomed the decision.
With the central government already announcing that it would reimburse 50 per cent of total additional expenditure to be incurred by these institutes for the payment of arrears on account of the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, the state government on Tuesday also announced that all arrears up to January 1, 2016, would be taken into account.
The government has said that the move will help educational institutions attract and retain faculty to improve education standards. Teachers across the state have been agitating for an extension of the Seventh Pay Commission benefits to them. On December 27, 2018, the state government had announced the implementation of the pay commission recommendation for state employees; the total burden of which is estimated to be around Rs 52,655 crore on the state exchequer.
Further, to pacify the unrest among the Dhangar (shepherd) community in the state, the government announced that the government-run Solapur University will be renamed as Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Holkar Solapur University. While the BJP had run an election campaign in 2014 promising the community reservations under the Scheduled Tribes category, the government has so far failed to deliver on this promise.
Meanwhile, in a contentious move, the government decided to grant financial assistance to 15 sugar cooperatives in western and north Maharashtra as well as Marathwada, which have run into “financial trouble on account of persistent drought spells”. While the extent of financial assistance is yet to be announced, the government said that the recommendations made in this regard by a committee under Principal Secretary Rajagopal Devara had been accepted. Most of these sugar cooperatives are controlled by politicians.
Pushing for crop diversification, the government also approved the much-delayed proposal of setting up “citrus estates” in Nagpur, Amravati and Akola districts. While oranges are cultivated on 1.5 lakh hectares of farm lands in the Vidarbha belt, the productivity per acre is very low. Replicating the model employed in Punjab, the government has allocated Rs 15 crore in its spend plan for 2018-19 to set up these citrus estates, which would provide farm implements, grading, waxing and other facilities under a single roof.
In another decision, the government announced a plan to set up six skill centres — Mumbai, Pune, Miraj, Solapur, Akola and Nanded — to train staff in emergency medical services. Reaching out to senior citizens, the state also announced a monthly allowance of Rs 1,500 for private foster homes for women working under the social justice department.
Ahead of the elections, the BJP has been promoting rental housing schemes in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. On Tuesday, the government announced that those availing rental homes under the scheme would just have a pay Rs 100 towards stamp duty.
A grant of Rs 415 crore was approved for Isha Foundation’s pilot project of beautification and plantation along a 60 km stretch around Yavatmal’s Waghadi river. The government also approved a new thermal power plant in Nagpur’s Koradi, while allocating Rs 563 crore for the modernisation of another plant.