Saturday, Aug 20, 2022

Rajasthan: With Eye On 2023 State Polls, Ashok Gehlot Tables Populist Budget

In a surprise move, CM Gehlot announced a pension plan for state government employees who joined on or after January 1, 2004.  

CM Ashok Gehlot at Rajasthan Assembly just before presenting 2022-23 state budget
CM Ashok Gehlot at Rajasthan Assembly just before presenting 2022-23 state budget Facebook

Keeping in mind 2023 state assembly polls, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday presented the Budget for the year 2022-23, with a special focus on health, education, tourism and social security and a separate budget on agriculture, in a first in Rajasthan. However what came as a surprise to many was the announcement of a pension plan for state government employees who joined on or after January 1, 2004.

Gehlot announced All Rajasthan Govt employees appointed on or after 1st January 2004 will be entitled to a pension scheme like earlier (older version of the scheme) from next year onward. The decision was taken after taking into consideration the insecurities of personnel about life after retirement, said Gehlot.

"Employees associated with government services should feel secure about the future, only then they can make their invaluable contribution towards good governance during the service period. Hence employees appointed on or after January 1, 2004, I propose to implement the old pension scheme," Gehlot said in the assembly.

According to the political analysts, this is Gehlot's move to appease employees. "It was in 2003 that the Congress government had lost in the state and one of the reasons believed was the prolonged agitation by government employees demanding for the restoration of the pension scheme. This time the idea is to keep everyone in the good books, including the government servants", a senior Congress leader told Outlook.

Other major announcements of the Gehlot's budget include the Rs 800 crore budget proposed for the Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme with an aim to provide 100 days of employment in urban areas on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). He also announced to make 125 days of employment in MGNREGA instead of 100 days.

He also proposed to increase the health cover under the state government's much ambitious Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme from  Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per year per family and IPD and OPD services will be free-of-cost in state-run hospitals.

Interestingly the budget saw Gehlot's answer to the demand of the opposition to reduce the electricity fee. The new budget has proposed 50 units free electricity for those using 100 units, Rs 3/per unit grant for all domestic consumers up to 150 units and Rs 2/unit grant for consumers of 150 to 300 units and above as per the slab.

Interestingly, in the first separate agriculture budget, Gehlot announced an allocation of Rs 5,000 crore for CM Krishak Saathi Yojna. Also the budget proposed Rs 2,700 crore for the Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission, under which 5 lakh farmers will be benefitted.

Reacting to the allegations of opposition on the matter of  Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) which the state government had recently cancelled due to controversies related to the paper leak case, Gehlot proposed the re-examination in July 2022.

"An anti-cheating cell will be set up in the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan police and no application fee will be charged from the old candidates ", Gehlot said in the assembly.

Interestingly in a similar move as of his predecessor, the Chief Minister announced that 1.33 crore women will get internet-enabled smartphones for 3 years under the CM Digital Service Scheme.

Keeping the recent protest of unemployed youth in mind,  more than 1 lakh youth have been appointed and recruitment is under process for about 1.25 lakh posts.

In the last focusing on the education sector 1,000 more Mahatma Gandhi English Medium Schools will be started in urban and rural areas in the coming year.