Kolkata: Women are the big focus area for the BJP in the manifesto it released Sunday for the eight-phase West Bengal assembly elections, which start 27 March.
The party has promised financial assistance to girls, especially those from the weaker sections of society, and announced 33 per cent reservation for women in state government jobs. Free education from “KG to PG (postgraduate)”, free public transport, and free healthcare are among the other initiatives announced for women.
The schemes announced for girl children of families from the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and other weaker sections, total up to a cash assistance of Rs 3.72 lakh per beneficiary.
The manifesto, launched by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Kolkata, seeks to counter the ruling Trinamool Congress’ campaign that seeks to project the BJP as an anti-women party of outsiders. An estimated 49 per cent of the voters in Bengal’s election this year are women.
The BJP has vowed to make its schemes “cut-money-free”, reiterating its allegation that members of the Trinamool Congress extort money from beneficiaries under state schemes.
If the BJP is voted to office, Shah said, all the benefits under the schemes would reach the beneficiaries through direct cash transfers.
The Trinamool Congress manifesto for the 2021 polls also seeks to highlight its women-empowerment schemes like ‘Kanyashree’ as major successes, and vows to expand their scope.
Many schemes for women
In a scheme that seeks to rival ‘Kanyashree’, under which a girl child gets Rs 25,000 once she is in Class 8, the BJP has promised Rs 22,000, to be offered in four instalments at different points during her schooling.
Targeting another Mamata scheme, ‘Rupashree’, which promises Rs 25,000 to a girl’s family when she turns 18, the BJP has announced a Rs 2 lakh grant for unmarried girls who have completed their higher secondary education (Class 12).
The cash assistance will be offered under a scheme titled ‘Balika Ayog’, said Shah.
Another scheme — ‘Gharer Lokkhi Yojana’ — promises a fixed deposit of Rs 1 lakh to adult women from the SC, ST, OBC and other economically weaker sections at the time of their marriage. A proposed ‘Balika Alo Yojana’ promises the issuance of a Rs 50,000 bond to each family from the SC, ST, OBC and other weaker sections on the birth of a girl child.
Sops for farmers & fishermen
The BJP has promised annual cash aid of Rs 10,000 for farmers — Rs 6,000 under the central government’s PM Kisan scheme and Rs 4,000 from the state government. The Trinamool Congress manifesto has also increased the state government’s cash aid for farmers to Rs 10,000 per year, from Rs 6,000.
Eying the coastal Purba Medinipur district, known as Mamata Banerjee’s den, the BJP has offered an annual financial assistance of Rs 6,000 for fishermen. Bordered by the Bay of Bengal, the district has more fishermen than any other part of the state. Nandigram, from where Mamata Banerjee is contesting, is located in the district.
Many villages under her MP nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s constituency, Diamond Harbour, are also located by the confluence of the river and the sea.
The party has promised three AIIMS hospitals, a Rs 22,000 crore fund for the development of capital Kolkata, Rs 11,000 crore for a Sonar Bangla project (aimed at a push for culture, among other things), and to name the new Kolkata-Siliguri expressway after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)