In a bid to woo tribals, who constitute 21.09 per cent of the state’s population, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has come out with a scheme to lend them support on traditional occasions.
Customs often include throwing a feast on the occasion of a child birth and also ‘mrityubhoj’ — a gathering organised after a death in the family.
Called the Mukhyamantri Assistance Scheme, the programme aims to help beneficiaries avoid borrowing from local moneylenders for organising these gatherings. The scheme will be implemented in 89 tribal blocks across 20 districts, where the tribal population is 80.67 lakh. As many as 47 of the 230 Assembly constituencies in the state are reserved for tribals.
According to the scheme’s rules, released on Monday, in case of a childbirth, a beneficiary family will receive either 50 kg wheat or rice depending on the block. Beneficiaries in 28 blocks across Mandla, Dindori, Balaghat, Shahdol, Anuppur and Umaria districts will be provided rice, while those in 61 tribal blocks across Alirajpur, Jhabua, Badwani, Dhar, Khargone, Khandwa, Burhanpur, Ratlam, Hoshangabad, Betul, Sidhi, Seoni, Chhindwara and Sheopur will get wheat.
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The quantum of grain given will double where there’s a death in the beneficiary family.
Also, a one-time payment of Rs 25,000 will be made to every village for buying utensils to cook food and store water for these occasions. The gram panchayat will buy the utensils from an empanelled vendor. The chief executive officer of the block panchayat will identify one village head, who will provide it to villagers, according to their need.
The grain will be provided to a family only for the birth of the first two children.
Government employees of levels class-3 and above will not be eligible for the scheme.
Former tribal affairs minister and BJP MLA Vijay Shah said the scheme was an attempt to bribe tribal voters. “If someone is needy, the government should help irrespective of whether he or she belongs to the general or reserved category… Tribals take pride in their customs. It is not appropriate to bribe them,” said Shah, himself a tribal leader.
However, Ajay Shah of the Congress said, “Though 50-kg or 100-kg grain does not amount to much, it will provide partial relief,” he said, adding that the government won’t exploit the scheme by making elected representatives attend such events.