Calling for an end to the ‘freebie culture’ of the previous Ashok Gehlot government, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has decided to do away with most of Gehlot’s populist schemes introduced months ahead of the assembly polls. Apart from suspending schemes such as free tablets for students, free sarees and blankets for the poor, loan waivers to farmers, and Mukhyamantri Gramin BPL Awas Yojana, Raje has put the universal free medicine and diagnostics and pension schemes under the scanner.
Raje has repeatedly quoted Confucius’s “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day but teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”. “By stressing building infrastructure, skill development and providing jobs, we want people to stand on their feet and not be dependent on the state government to dole out freebies,” Raje told The Indian Express. “Our aim is to strengthen and provide skills to the youth so that they can get better jobs. I have said earlier too that the average Rajasthani is self-respecting and does not want to be out with a begging bowl for freebies. They want a life of dignity and that is what we will give them.”
Of the two major projects put under the scanner, the pension scheme will undergo a review of its list of beneficiaries and only those the new government deems needy will be retained. The free medicine scheme will be extended only to food security cardholders. Raje has refused to accommodate patients from neighbouring states for free medicines, questioning their right to the state’s resources. According to a government estimate, 67 per cent of the state’s population will be covered in the free medicine and diagnostics scheme. Under the new scheme, the target group will get free medicines as outdoor patients and an insurance of Rs 30,000 for minor ailments, and Rs 3 lakh for serious ailments as indoor patients in government and private hospitals.
The interest waiver had been given to farmers by Gehlot in 2012. Farmers will now be required to pay 4 per cent interest while the Centre’s 3 per cent waiver continues. Among other schemes, Re 1-per-kg wheat for BPL, state BPL and Antyodaya families will now come at Rs 2. The scheme had an earlier allocation of Rs 500 crore.
At a high-level meeting of the Chief Minister’s Advisory Council last weekend, delegates backed Raje’s proposal to end the “freebie culture”. Senior government officials said while compiling the recent state budget, it was found that the state is in serious debt. “Out of every rupee spent, 97 paise goes into paying interest on loans, salaries and pension and the remaining 3 paise on development projects. It is appalling. Every person in the state carries a debt of Rs 75,000, of which Rs 30,000 was raised by the previous government due to its flawed schemes,” said a senior official in the CM’s office.
Even as Raje proposes to weed out the freebies, her ambitious Bhamashah scheme will ensure that every BPL family that is not covered by any of the state’s social sector schemes is entitled to a one-time payment of Rs 2,000.