Over the last six months, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced scheme after scheme, sop after sop, seeking to woo diverse sections in his attempt at a record fourth victory in the assembly elections coinciding with the Lok Sabha polls. These come from a seemingly confident chief minister who represents a party that registered a series of victories in the civic polls over these six months.
There have been financial aid for anganwadi and construction workers, an insurance cover for farmers, a transport scheme for 12 tribal districts as well as a Rs 12 crore scheme for conservation of tribal places of worship, not to mention housing for journalists.
More announcements have come over the last few days with the model code of conduct expected any moment. Naveen Monday announced a Rs 230.55 crore scheme for women in self-help groups and one of Rs 24.49 crore for youths. On Sunday, he had hiked dearness allowance of state government employees, a week after his cabinet had cleared higher medical reimbursement for them.
The Congress and the BJP say the sops show Naveen is getting panicky. “He was not as panicky during the 2009 assembly polls, when the major sop he announced was Rs-2-a kg rice for BPL families. Now, with the number of rebels growing in his party, he is trying to cling to power through these schemes,” says Prasad Harichandan, Congress chief whip in the assembly.
And state BJP president K V Singh Deo says, “Naveen is unnerved by the Shah Commission recommendation for a CBI probe into the mining scam. He apprehends a lot of his partymen would desert the BJD and revolt after they are denied tickets.”
For the BJD, Health Minister Damodar Rout says, “As long as poll dates have not been announced, nothing can stop a chief minister from announcing schemes. Besides, Orissa does not depend on central funds for these schemes.”
A look at what Naveen has announced for various sections:
For govt employees
* 10% hike in dearness allowance, announced Sunday, after union cabinet okayed a similar hike.
* Medical reimbursement, announced days ago, at rates matching those of the Central Government Health Services.
* A hike in honorarium, announced last week, for anganwadi and mini anganwadi workers with retrospective effect from December 2013.
* Rs 20,000 aid, up from Rs 10,000, to each of 2.6 lakh construction workers for the marriage of their daughters.
* Rs 1 lakh housing loan assistance at 2% a year to construction workers.
* 2% forest development tax on kendu leaves, down from 16%, the reduction since January, for 9 lakh kendu leaf pluckers in 18 of 30 districts. Pluckers will now gain Rs 100 crore every year.
* 13 Bhubaneswar journalists chosen last month by the general administration department for government quarters. Selected reporters of English news agencies to those of Oriya dailies.
* Plans on to provide mediclaim and accident insurance to all accredited journalists.
* 1,180 routes for buses across 118 blocks in 12 districts under Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana, announced February 22. Bus operators exempted from road tax and route permit tax, given 5% interest waiver on loans to buy the buses. Scheme will also enable tribals, the party’s primary votebank, to reach poll booths.
* Rs 12 crore package, Rs 60,000 each for 2,000 sacred groves, for the conservation and development of such places of worship of tribal people, who constitute 23% of the population.
* Rs 30,000 a year health insurance for 60 lakh farmers under Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana, started October. Minimum premium per annum is Rs 30 per person; the scheme covers the farmer, his spouse and three dependants.
* Rs 230.55 crore, announced Monday, for 6 lakh women in self-help groups towards interest subvention on loans over the next three years.
For the youth
* Rs 24.49 crore, announced Monday, including a grant of Rs 15.86 crore for micro enterprises.
* Rs 1,500 monthly stipend under Biju Yuva Sashaktikaran Yojana, launched last year, for internship of 5,000 youths at district and subdistrict-level offices.
* 15,000 meritorious students in plus-two getting fee laptops under Biju Yuva Shashaktikaran Yojana.
For the destitute
* Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000, announced in August, as financial assistance to the poor and the destitute for cremation of their dead, as well as for that of unclaimed bodies. The money comes from the chief minister’s relief fund.
*Rs 200 each to widows, the elderly and the disabled as winter assistance to buy blankets, and Rs 100 for around 37 lakh people for buying umbrellas. The umbrella scheme was launched last year for pensioners in rural areas, and has since been expanded to urban areas and the other groups.