The Trinamool Congress releases its election manifesto, promises minimum basic income to 1.6 crore families, increased financial assistance to farmers and a credit card scheme for students

Published : March 18, 2021 12:23 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee releases her party’s election manifesto at her residence, in Kolkata on March 17. Photo: Ashok Bhaumik/PTI

The Trinamool Congress’ election manifesto, released by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on March 17, revealed an intensification of Trinamool’s dole politics in the face of its toughest electoral battle until now. From providing a “minimum basic income” to 1.6 crore families to increasing the financial assistance to farmers and issuing a new credit card scheme for students, the Trinamool’s manifesto is an attempt to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) promise, if it comes to power, of ushering in a “Sonar Bangla” (golden Bengal) and “Sabka Vikas” (development for all).

Under the “minimum basic income” scheme, a total of 1.6 crore families will be given a monthly cash transfer of Rs.500 for families in general category and Rs.1,000 for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families. For families in the general category, the support will be provided to all households except those having at least one tax-paying member and those owning more than two hectares land. The amount will be transferred directly into the bank account of the woman in the family. The budget outlay for the scheme would be around Rs.12,900 crore a year. A new facility will be introduced under the State’s Khadhya Sathi scheme by which free ration will be delivered to 1.5 crore households every month.

The manifesto has also announced that the State government would increase its payment from Rs.6,000 an acre a year to Rs.10,000 an acre a year to 68.38 lakh small and marginal farmers under the Krishak Bandhu Scheme. According to the State government, there are 71.23 lakh farmer families in West Bengal, of which 96 per cent are small and marginal farmers. Political observers see this announcement as a reaction to the BJP’s persistent claim that the State government has been denying the people the benefits of Central government schemes, particularly the Kisan Samman Nidhi, for petty political gains. The State government has been insisting that its own schemes were more beneficial for the people and that the money for the Kisan Samman Nidhi should be disbursed through the State government.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged that in West Bengal, out of 1.5-1.75 crore households, only nine lakh had pipe-water facilities in their houses, and that too after “the Centre pushed hard to implement the project”. In her election manifesto, Mamata Banerjee announced that an additional 25 lakh low-cost houses will be built under the Bangla Awas Yojana and that each house will have tap drinking water and an improved drainage system. An additional five lakh low-cost houses will also be built under the Bangla Bari Scheme in urban areas to reduce slum population from 7 per cent to 3.65 per cent.

With an eye on young voters, the Trinamool announced a student credit card scheme to “make Bengal’s youth self-reliant”. Under this scheme, students will be eligible to receive credit up to Rs.10 lakh at a subsidised rate of interest of 4 per cent. The card will provide money to students on demand at their convenience and is expected to benefit over 1.5 crore students. Claiming that five lakh new jobs will be created to reduce the unemployment figure in the State by 50 per cent, Mamata Banerjee said: “We will create as many as 10 lakh new MSMEs [Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises] annually. We promise to add 2,000 big industrial units to the existing base of 10,000 units in the next five years.”

She also announced that a Special Task Force would be set up to examine and propose Other Backward Classes (OBC) status to all the communities, including Mahisyas, Tili, Tamul and Sahas, who were in the Mandal Commission’s recommended list of OBCs, but have so far not been recognised as OBC.

Listing her past achievements, Mamata Banerjee claimed that her government has delivered “110 per cent of what it had promised” and earned international recognition for its projects and schemes. She said: “Over the last decade, we have strengthened our economy, and our State budget has increased by three times to 2.55 lakh crore while the average income of the people has more than doubled…. I promise that in the next five years we will become the fifth largest economy in the country, with a GDP of Rs 12.5 lakh crore and an annual per capita income of more than Rs 2.5 lakh. Simultaneously in the next five years, we will uplift an additional 35 lakh people from extreme poverty.”