Ashok Gehlot’s ‘Mehangai Rahat’ camps: ‘Good, but too late’, say beneficiaries
AS SHE looks over the long queue of people around her and glances at the nearby digital monitor with squinted eyes, 39-year-old Chandana Devi realises she will have to wait for her turn for some more time.
Devi, along with her sister Bhavna, is sitting at the edge of the sprawling campus of the District Collectorate in Jaipur, where a Mehangai Rahat (inflation relief) camp has been set up by the Rajasthan government. By 12 noon, the monitor shows that more than 400 persons have already registered for Friday’s camp.
“We are here because we heard the government will provide LPG gas cylinders at Rs 500. If this happens, it will be a great help. At present, we spend Rs 1,100 on a cylinder,” says Devi, who works as a house help in Jaipur, and has been waiting for hours at the ground.
Devi takes out a diary from a bag full of documents to show that she is a beneficiary of the Ujjwala Yojana of the Centre. The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government promised subsidised LPG cylinders at Rs 500 for all Ujjwala beneficiaries in its last Budget before the elections.
In front of the two women, beneficiaries continuously shuffle in and out of the pink tent under which the camp is being held. Men and women walk past the multiple posters and standees of Gehlot — similar posters promoting the Mehangai Rahat camps can be seen all across Jaipur, in front of government buildings and pasted on the back of buses. The beneficiaries show their Jan Aadhaar cards, issued by the state government, to officials, who then determine the person’s eligibility for the flagship schemes to which the camps are meant to “connect the public”.
Gehlot inaugurated the Mehangai Rahat camps on Monday, with an appeal to people to vote back the Congress. Over 2,500 such camps will run across the state till June 30, and are envisaged to help labharthis (beneficiaries) avail of the Gehlot government’s 10 flagship welfare schemes upon registration.
Harinarayan Kumawat, 64, a retired government employee, says: “This initiative has been started only because of the coming elections. But the government should have done it earlier. It’s quite late now. I am here to avail the electricity subsidy of 100 units. I already get the subsidised 50 units the Congress government announced before.”
Sitting beside Kumawat is 58-year-old Govind Sahay, who irons clothes for a living. He complains that he has been sitting for two hours for his turn.
“Kuch nahin hoga (Nothing will work),” Sahay says, when asked about the chances of the Congress’s return to power in Rajasthan. The state has consistently voted out incumbent governments every five years since 1998.
Sitting in another corner, Raju Nayak, a 57-year-old labourer from Nahri Ka Naka, though, believes the welfare schemes will help the Congress. He is here for the electricity and gas cylinder benefits.
“If the public gets the benefits, people will vote for the Congress. When a new government comes in, the first thing they do is cease existing schemes of the previous government… Everyone is troubled by inflation. These days it is hard to even get regular work. I want the schemes to continue even after the elections. That is why, people might vote for the Congress,” says Nayak.
The 10 schemes which beneficiaries can avail of via the inflation relief camps are gas cylinders for Rs 500; 100 units of electricity free per month for domestic consumers; 2,000 units of electricity free per month for agricultural consumers; Annapurna Food Packets for NFSA beneficiaries; additional employment of 25 days under the MNREGS along with additional employment of 100 days for special groups; opportunity to work for 125 days a year under the Indira Gandhi Shahari Rozgar Guarantee Yojana; minimum pension of Rs 1,000 per month and increase of 15% every year under the Social Security Pension Scheme; increased limit of Rs 25 lakh under the Mukhyamantri Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana; increased amount of Rs 10 lakh for accidental insurance; and insurance cover of Rs 40,000 per cattle for two milch cattle under the Mukhyamantri Kamdhenu Pashu Bima Yojana.
On Thursday, the CM claimed more than 17 lakh families have already benefited from the Mehangai Rahat camps, and that more than 78 lakh people now hold ‘Mukhyamantri Guarantee’ cards.
For most beneficiaries at the camp on Friday, free electricity up to 100 units and gas cylinders for Rs 500 are the two main attractions.
“Electricity bill and gas cylinder cost are issues which affect every household. If the government gives us relief, then we will definitely support it,” says Haseena, another beneficiary.
Others are more circumspect, saying benefits are good, but they will decide their voting choice just before the elections.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead as he walks out of the tent after completing his registration, Kanhaiya Lal, 64, shows his two Mukhyamantri Guarantee cards – for free electricity up to 100 units, his “primary interest”, and insurance under the Mukhyamantri Chiranjeevi Yojana.
Asked who he would vote for in the elections, Lal smiles, adding: “Jaisi hawa rahegi, waise dekhenge (We will see which way the wind is blowing, then decide).”