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Monday, July 04, 2022

A lesson in governance

Orunodoi scheme empowers women, can become part of best practices in development policy.

May 19, 2022 6:13:56 pm
Orunodoi is the largest-ever Direct Bank Transfer scheme in the history of Assam, says Silchar MP Rajdeep Roy (Twitter @himantabiswa)

Written by Rajdeep Roy

Facts and ground realities define development in Assam, not perception management curated by metro-based PR agencies (no offence meant). And, for a change, the facts from the last year are positive. Emerging from the shadow of the pandemic like the rest of the country, Assam quickly embarked on the path to development.

Despite being a ruling alliance politician, I will spare you the development data – all based on hard facts that our Information and Public Relations Department has so diligently compiled on the eve of the completion of one year of our current BJP-led alliance government in Assam. Nevertheless, I can’t restrain myself from sharing with you what has emerged as a best practice in the development arena —- how our home-grown, innovative Orunodoi initiative is transforming the lives of Assam’s women.

Literally, Orun-odoi means the rising sun and indeed, in Assam, the initiative has been a ray of hope for all women in their quest for empowerment.

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Cut to Joya Roy, 42, a resident of Rangirkhari area of my constituency, whose world came crashing down after her daily wage earner husband, Binoy Roy, died following a heart attack in 2017. He was 48. Joya had to fend for herself and her two daughters. All that she was skilled at was a little bit of sewing and embroidery.

No, Joya never came to me. Instead, it was Orunodoi that came to her rescue. “I went to our municipal ward commissioner and after the necessary formalities, I was covered under the Orunodoi scheme. I get Rs 1,000/month and I supplement that with whatever I get from my stitching. It is not enough but yes, we can scrape through,” Joya said during an interaction last month.

But what’s the big deal about Orunodoi, you may ask. Firstly, it is the largest-ever Direct Bank Transfer scheme in the history of Assam, pitching in with Rs 830 and more to marginalised households monthly for purchasing essential commodities like pulses, sugar, nutritional items and medicines.

Consider these statistics. About 19 lakh-plus households, including Joya’s, are covered and 90 lakh people benefitted at a cost of Rs 2,800 crore under the scheme. Rooted in practicality, the scheme is designed keeping in mind that women are the primary caretakers of the household and, therefore, the cash benefit should be transferred to the bank accounts of women beneficiaries.

The scheme was launched during the tenure of the erstwhile Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP alliance government. But it must be acknowledged that it was the brainchild of current Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced the scheme as the state’s then finance minister during his Budget Speech in 2020-21. The results were visible then, and with the passage of time, more so now. Orunodoi’s USP is that it prioritises women who are widowed, divorced, unmarried, separated or specially-abled and with annual incomes of less than Rs 2 lakh. In short, it is economic empowerment, financial literacy and nutritional support all rolled into a single scheme.

A best practice has no political colour —- that is how it should be. The Himanta Biswa Sarma government and its predecessors have been successful in bringing all the deserving people under the scheme’s ambit. A best practice also can be emulated —- in fact, it needs to be, in the best interests of our people. As I write this, I hope to invoke some interest amongst governments in our country towards Oronodoi. Trust me, it merits attention.

Another visible impact during Sarma’s year-long stint as chief minister has been the war against drugs and uprooting of terror syndicates.

He has taken the drug lords and their powerful cartels head on, with 2,834 narcotics-related cases registered, 48,00 arrests made and drugs worth Rs 550 crore seized in the last year. The few in the clandestine narcotics trade who tried to give the police the slip ended up either injured or killed in resultant police actions. Alongside, 10 alleged terrorists – including one of foreign origin – were nabbed and hopefully, such activities have been effectively nipped in the bud. Significantly, there wasn’t a murmur of protest from any quarter, clearly indicating that peace has takers across religions.

That these developments have been taken note of is evident from the fact that the Assam police is set to be decorated with the President’s colours, a highly sought-after commendation in security circles, so far awarded to only nine state police departments since Independence.

With a glorious year behind him, and a daily agenda of chasing near-impossible deadlines that stretches into the wee hours of the morning, Himanta Biswa Sarma is a man possessed by and obsessed with development. He has also raised the delivery barometer for politicians of all hues in Assam. I am sure we will not let him down.

(The writer is the BJP MP from Silchar, Assam)

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