With less than six months left for the state election, the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal on Tuesday launched a massive outreach programme to ensure its existing flagship welfare programmes reach every household. Christened 'Duare Sarkar" (government at the doorstep) the programme will cover 11 sectors including job generation, health, women empowerment, community development and education of girls among others.
The flagship two-month outreach programme, which will continue till January 30, will not only ensure that benefits of the welfare schemes reach the people but also lend an ear to grievances related to the programmes. The opposition BJP, however, slammed the state government for "conducting an election campaign using public money".
Elections to the 294-member state assembly are due in April-May next year. At least 20,000 camps have been set up in all the panchayats and municipal wards in the state to ensure that people can avail the benefits of the schemes. The camps will function from schools, colleges, community halls, panchayat offices, municipal war offices in the presence of the representatives of the state government.
The programme, which has a catchy slogan - 'Jar jekhane darker, Asche apnar duare sarkar' (the government will be at your doorsteps wherever you need it), will be conducted for two months in four phases. The first phase of the programme will be held from December 1-11, the second from December 15-24, the third from January 2-12 and the last from January 18-30.
The camps will be functional from 10 am to 4 pm every day. "GoWB's initiative #DuareSarkar brings govt services at people's doorstep! Happy to see that the camps have started in full swing. I urge people to get their grievances redressed & avail other services at these camps," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted.
A brainchild of TMC's poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who was hired by the party to design its campaign for the 2021 assembly polls, the programme aims to ensure that every citizen of the state is a beneficiary of at least of one scheme. "This is a revolutionary step taken by our government to ensure that no one is left out. All those who are eligible for the schemes will get the benefits. For example, the Swastha Sathi (health scheme) will cover the entire population of the state," Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim said inaugurating a ward office here.
The 'Swasthya Sathi' scheme promises everyone in the state a health cover of up to Rs five lakh and aims to promote women empowerment. The cards for the scheme will be issued to the female guardian of the family.
The other schemes include globally acclaimed 'Kanyashree', a cash transfer programme aimed at retaining girls in schools and prevent their early marriage, 'Khadya Sathi' which aims at ensuring food security for 90 per cent of the population and 'Sikhashree', a one-time grant to SC and ST students studying in classes 5-8 to reduce their dropout rates. 'Rupashree', a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 to poor families during their daughter's marriage, 'Jai Johar' for the betterment of STs, 'Taposili Bandhu' pension scheme for SCs and 'Aikyashree' scholarship programme for students from minority communities are the others.
"Duare Sarkar is an innovative programme not found anywhere in the world. It is a great initiative of Mamata Banerjee," Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said. The opposition parties, however, hit out at the state government for "failing" to deliver as per the schemes and questioned its ability to redress people's grievances.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh alleged that the TMC government kicked off its election campaign using public money. "They are using public money for the election campaign. If after 10 years the state government has to launch a campaign to ensure everybody gets the benefits, then the TMC leaders should be ashamed of themselves," Ghosh said.
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the state government rolled out the 'Duare Sarkar' initiative as the panchayat department has failed to deliver. Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya questioned whether the government would be able to redress people's grievances.
"I will ask only one question. You are going to all the households but will you redress their grievances? Will you be able to redress them?" Bhattacharya said. Hakim responding to the allegations, said Ghosh should first answer about the amount of public money spent by the BJP-led government at the Centre on its publicity campaign.
"The Congress and CPI(M) have joined hands with the BJP in West Bengal. The Left Front did not do anything during their 34-year-long rule in the state. Now, when we are doing something, they are trying to spread canards against us," he added.