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HomerajasthanGehlot's guarantee galore for Rajasthan

Gehlot's guarantee galore for Rajasthan

Jaipur: Rajasthan seems to be reeling under guarantee galore.In a bid to return to power and break the jinx of revolving door policy every five years, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today announced five more guarantees, in addition to the two already declared two days back.

Gehlot promised Godhan guarantee ie the government will purchase cow dung at Rs 2 per kilo from cattle owners to produce biofuel; free laptop and tablet guarantee for first year students in government colleges, which will give them the opportunity to put them at par with students from affluent families in private colleges; Chiranjeevi free insurance for upto Rs 15 lakh for families affected by natural calamities.

Congress is also promising the guarantee of English medium education for every student, especially those studying in the government’s Mahatma Gandhi English Medium Schools, so that they increase their chances of employability in the globalised world and Old Pension Scheme guarantee for state government employees.

He had earlier promised Rs 10,000 annually to every female head of the family under the Gruha Laxmi Guarantee Scheme to financially empower women.

Another guarantee promised is the Rs 500 subsidised cylinder to more than one crore families in Rajasthan. The guarantee aims to weed out use of wood/fossil fuels for cooking and ensure last mile delivery to every family in the state.

Apart from the guarantees, Gehlot had earlier launched many flagship schemes targeted at the poor namely the Right to Health Act, Mukhyamantri Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme of Rs 25 lakh, Old Pension Scheme, Minimum Guarantee Income Bill for entire Adult population, free electricity,

There is, however, huge scepticism over the guarantees that are being doled out just before the elections. Many say it is only a ploy to garner votes and would hardly enhance the social security of the poor.

Reetika Khera, Economics professor, IIT Delhi toldDeccan Herald,“If the state has fiscal space, increasing spending on healthcare is a more pressing need than cash transfers to women. Health is on the state list and most Indian states spend too little on health.”

There is an ongoing debate over whether giving people cash is the best tool to fight against poverty. One of the problems in cash transfer is the difficulty in identifying the real needy.

Nikhil Dey, social activist associated with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, toldDH: “Direct cash transfer for people in need is important for families facing unemployment and the pinch of inflation. Rajasthan has in the last year enacted a legislation which had guaranteed 125 days of wage employment at minimum wages to those who demand work, in rural or urban areas, and a minimum pension of Rs 1000 to those who can’t. Both these are cash transfers. One is guaranteed wage work and the other is a pension guarantee. Perhaps a better way would have been to enhance these amounts every year as they have a better logical framework. But there are many issues of selection and targeting.”

Onselection criteria of people in need, Nikhil said: “It is a big problem of how to select the right people. Self-selection is one way to counter it. You work for eight hours and you get your wages, like in MGNERGA. Or you make the scheme universal. Like the Public Distribution System is universal. That way the poor people do not get left out, even if a few rich people take undue advantage. In case of conditional cash transfer, one has to target BPL list, whether you have pucca houses or not and who exactly is the female head of a family whether daughter-in law or mother-in-law. Poor women do deserve cash transfers but whether she is deserving or not is a big issue. Cash transfer is actually a misnomer, it should be wage fare, part of the social security programme.”

Nikhil, who has been associated with MGNREGA, said MGNREGA has made a difference to the lives of women as 75 per cent of the workforce is women, because the money directly goes into their account and they are not ready to give it up as they have earned it themselves.”

He further said most governments try to prove that pension is a kind of dole. “It is not, it is part of social security and one has paid taxes throughout his or her work life. It is a rightful entitlement.”

“So instead of direct cash transfer, enhance pension and work wages,” advised Nikhil.“As soon as there is a selection criterion, corruption creeps in. Somebody bribes to be on that list and the deserving is kicked out. However, cash transfer is much better than nothing at all. And wages and pension are the best way to enhance social security instead of just cash transfers. Cash transfers, however, increase food spending while also improving education and health outcomes.”

Economists say cash transfers to women go a long way in bringing financial empowerment to 50 per cent of our population, positively impacting women’s health, education and reducing gender violence.

Activists also say it is also necessary that cash transfers be indexed to inflation at that time but as of now there is no law on indexing. It can only be a policy and the question is how long is indexing going to last as policy. Nikhil said Rajasthan has a credible Old Pension Scheme, the pension almost doubles when the dearness allowance increases twice a year.

He emphasised:“MGNERGA has been a smart move and has proved itself despite some flaws. It has been creating assets even if it is a narrow village road or tank, it has empowered people, especially women and is best in terms of design.”

About the grievance part of cash transfers, Nikhil rued that none of the major parties was interested in getting the Accountability law passed despite two Budget announcements in Rajasthan.

The direct cash transfers through UID was first started by the UPA government in 2012 from Rajasthan.

In 2021, Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal promised Rs 1,000 per month cash transfer to every woman above 18 in Punjab. AAP won in Punjab, courtesy its social welfare narrative.

During Covid, multiple governments also resorted to cash transfers ranging from the US to Namibia.

(Published 27 October 2023, 14:07 IST)

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