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Maharashtra govt plans scheme to reward those who went to prison during Emergency

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A cabinet sub-committee has been formed to study similar schemes in other BJP-ruled states and finalise modalities and eligibility criteria.

Mumbai: Following in the footsteps its fellow BJP governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the Maharashtra government is planning a policy to reward those who went to prison during the 1975-1977 Emergency, for “preserving democracy”.

The state government is considering either giving such people from Maharashtra a one-time monetary reward or a monthly payment, and has formed a cabinet sub-committee to finalise the modalities and the eligibility criteria to accurately identify the benefits.

A senior state government official, who did not wish to be named, said: “The proposal originated at the level of the BJP high command, and is being strongly pushed. The state general administration department even put it up before the cabinet last month, but the finance department had objections as there is no clarity yet on the total financial burden of the scheme on the state exchequer.

“We still don’t know the exact number of people who might benefit from such a scheme, so the proposal has not been passed yet.”

Details of the proposal

As per the proposal that the general administration department took to the cabinet last month, the state government proposed to pay about Rs 6,000 per month to all those who were behind bars during the Emergency as a pension for the rest of their lives, government sources said.

The government is now contemplating having two categories of individuals for the payouts – those who went to prison for a month or less, and those who spent longer behind bars.

To identify the exact number of beneficiaries, the government plans to appoint a committee in every district, comprising the district collector, the superintendent of police, and the jail superintendent to dig out the prison records.

A state government source said: “The government is also considering whether it should give all the other benefits that are given to freedom fighters, such as concessions in education, travel allowance and so on.”

As per a state government resolution dated 14 February, the cabinet sub-committee appointed to formalise the scheme will study the policies of the governments of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh while drafting one for Maharashtra, and will also give it an apt name.

The committee, which will be chaired by state revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, will also consist of ministers for finance, agriculture, food and civil supplies, ministers of state for Home and general administration, and senior bureaucrats from these departments.

Congress opposes

Reacting to the government’s decision, Sachin Sawant, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson, said: “The government is diminishing the significance of freedom fighters by comparing them to those who went to prison during the Emergency. This is completely a politically-motivated decision.

“Moreover, considering Maharashtra’s financial condition right now, it is completely wrong to bring in such policies.”

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