NEW DELHI: During the last general election the Modi government talked about its 70 million free Ujjwala domestic gas connections and reaped handsome political dividends.
Realising that the poor and farmers are a sensitive political constituent, the NDA government at the Centre seems to be building on the base of beneficiaries.
The government claims that its mass healthcare scheme, Ayushman Bharat, has already benefited over 3.55 million people through hospital admissions, nearly 45% of which were in the last four months.
According to the health ministry, the objective of Ayushman Bharat is to reduce the financial burden on vulnerable groups. Rolled out in September 2018, the government says it has already authorised ₹5,600 crore for it.
Similarly, the Union cabinet late last month approved the creation of a buffer stock of 4 million tonnes of sugar at an estimated cost of ₹1,674 crore. The step, the government claims, is aimed at increasing wholesale prices of sugar and improving cash flow to sugar mills, which, in turn, will help mill owners clear the dues of farmers.
The move may help farmers of poll-bound Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, where elections are due later this year. Maharashtra and Haryana are among the top sugarcane producing states in the country.
"The decision will lead to improvement in the liquidity of sugar mills, reduction in sugar inventories, stabilization in sugar prices by alleviating price sentiments in the domestic sugar market and, thereby, facilitate timely clearance of cane price dues of farmers," according to a cabinet statement dated 24 July.
Building on what some describe as pro-poor policy making, the union labour secretary last week said it is in favour of enrolling up to 150 million workers in the PM pension scheme, in which 3.6 million people have already enrolled. The aim, labour secretary Hiralal Samariya said, is to bring more people inside the social security net.
The secretary said the pension scheme will benefit a large pool of people who earn less but form a large part of the labour market and asserted that of the total enrollment in the PM pension scheme, between 50 million and 60 million beneficiaries will be construction workers.
The government had announced the scheme in the February 2019 interim budget, promising to provide pension of ₹3,000 per month. Individuals subscribing to the PM-SYM are required to make a monthly contribution till the age of 60 years, to receive an assured pension of ₹3,000 every month.
The monthly contribution varies according to age: an 18-year-old starts out by paying ₹55 per month, which moves up to ₹80 at the age of 25, and ₹105, ₹150 and ₹200 for those aged 30, 35 and 40, respectively. A matching amount will be paid by the government into the pension fund.