More than a year and a half ago, the Narendra Modi-led Central government had snubbed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Centre had rejected her government's request to display its Kanyashree scheme on the state's tableau at the main 2015 Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
But this year, Mamata has decided to showcase her pet schemes in Kolkata, by inviting the beneficiaries of the schemes to take part in the Independence Day function at Red Road on Monday.
The move is the first of its kind in Bengal, and through it, the state government wants to show the people of the state that its schemes are working.
Three of Mamata's pet schemes will be showcased in this way - Kanyashree, Sabuj Sathi and Khadya Sathi. The beneficiaries will wear badges bearing the name of the scheme they have availed, and march on Red Road.
Moreover, around 300 school children of different state-run schools have also been invited for the programme.
Kanyashree Prakalpa: This is a conditional cash transfer scheme launched by the West Bengal government in 2013, to improve the status and well-being of the girl child in the state.
In its first one and a half years, the focus of the scheme had been on ensuring efficiency in the implementation mechanism, capacity-building of all implementers, and coverage of all eligible beneficiaries. Around 22 lakh girl children are already availing the benefits of the scheme.
The scheme has earned recognition from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, as well as UNICEF and UNESCO.
The programme was initiated to help prevent girls from being married off at a young age by encouraging them to get educated.
Incidentally, since the implementation of the scheme in October 2013, the attendance rate in schools has improved from 72% in 2011-12 to 75% in 2013-14, an assessment by UNICEF revealed.
Moreover, while 73 cases of child marriage were identified by schools in 2012-13, in the current academic year, only 54 cases have been reported.
Through this scheme, the government extends two kinds of benefits: under Kanyashree I, every girl student enrolled between Class VIII to Class XII is provided Rs 750 every year, while under Kanyashree II, a one time grant of Rs 25,000 is given to a student when she attains 18 years of age.
Mamata had once said of the scheme: "I am proud of Kanyashree. Girls can now dream because of this scheme."
Sabuj Sathi: The West Bengal government introduced this scheme in June 2015. Through this scheme, it provides bicycles to around 40 lakh girl students studying between Classes VIII and X.
Khadya Sathi: On 27 January 2016, Mamata launched this scheme. Thanks to the scheme, about seven crore 49 lakh people, almost 80% of the state's population, are to get rice and wheat at Rs 2 per kg. A family can get a maximum of 35 kg of food grains per month at subsidised rates.
Potential recipients include 33 lakh people of the Jangalmahal region, 12 lakh drought-affected people of the Purulia district, 11.24 lakh people tea garden workers and their families, 3.11 lakh Cyclone Aila-affected people, 3,569 people of Singur who lost their land, 1,700 homeless people in Kolkata and the people living in the hill region of Darjeeling.
Reactions to the move
Ratna Roy, 13, a resident of Gosaba in the South 24 Parganas district, is thankful to the government for helping her gain an education through the Kanyashree scheme.
"We stay in a thatched house at a village in Gosaba, and our family does not have the money to bear my educational expenses. But after this scheme was introduced, I can go to school and complete my education," she told Catch.
Meanwhile, West Midnapore resident Piyush Maity, 40, is thankful for the Khadya Sathi scheme. "We never dreamt that we could get rice for Rs 2 per kg. But after the Khadya Sathi scheme was launched, we are availing the benefits of the scheme. We have been invited on Monday at the Red Road programme, and we will surely join in," he said.
A senior minister of the Trinamool Congress government told Catch: "By promoting these schemes, Mamata wants to win the hearts of the masses. She wants to try and highlight the positive aspects of the schemes, as they have benefitted many downtrodden people."
However, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha lashed out at the the state government, saying: "Mamata should focus on bringing industries to the state, rather than highlighting the projects of the state government."
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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