It’s raining freebies: Shinde govt announces ₹513-crore Diwali gift for ration card holders | Mumbai news

Diwali has come early for nearly 17 million ration card holders in Maharashtra. Starting Tuesday, they can buy a packet of one-litre oil and one kg each of sooji (semolina), chana dal, and sugar for just 100 in all fair price shops and this offer is valid for 30 days.

This is the latest in a string of populist measures the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis duo has announced in their three months in power. The state cabinet’s decision is likely to cost the exchequer 513 crore.

The government recently announced a bonus to BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) employees, a special package of 750 crore to farmers, and on Tuesday declared to provide a 500 sqft home at 15 lakh to police personnel in redeveloped BDD chawls.

Leaders from the ruling camps said the decisions were taken keeping the elections in mind.

“These measures will help us differentiate us from the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led government, which kept blaming the pandemic for the dip in revenues. We expect these announcements will help turn the atmosphere to our favour,” a leader from the Shinde faction said.

Soon after the government was sworn in on June 30, the government announced to reduce the price of petrol and diesel by 5 and 3 a liter respectively, which resulted in an annual financial burden of 6,000 crore. Then in July, an incentive of up to 50,000 was declared for 13.87 lakh farmers who had been regularly paying their loans. This is expected to cost the state exchequer 5,722 crore.

A bonus of 22,500 to 93,000 to BMC employees, 29,000 BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) workers, and thousands of teachers and health workers is another attempt to influence voters ahead of municipal elections in Mumbai, Thane and other MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region) cities. “We will look into all the issues the BMC workers are facing on a priority basis, but they should work for the welfare of Mumbai,” chief minister Eknath Shinde said last week after the announcement.

Last week, a cabinet sub-committee headed by the CM announced a special package of 755 crore covering five lakh farmers who did not meet the criteria for compensation given for the crop losses due to rain. This was in addition to 3,954 crore disbursed to 30 lakh farmers as per the standing norms of losses due to a natural calamity.

Mumbai-based political analyst Hemant Desai said the government’s objective is to change its image.

“The state government is desperate to change its image of a ‘khoke sarkar’ [government formed out of deal] and has been announcing schemes and freebies. The announcement of the food items ahead of Diwali resembles a scheme of the Shiv Sena-BJP government in 1990s, and is in the backdrop of the rising inflation. The measures are also aimed to target voters for the forthcoming elections,” he said.


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