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GANDHINAGAR/ NEW DELHI: Amid indications that the Election Commission may declare the dates for Gujarat polls on Wednesday, the state government announced a fresh raft of sops and schemes.
Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel announced several measures aimed at placating individual constituencies as well as amplifying BJP’s development plank. The announcements — 50% hike in incentive-based payments to 43,000 ASHA health workers, benefits for contract workers, relief for farmers using drip irrigation, and clearing the second phase of Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro at a cost of Rs 6,700 crore — came even as signs loomed that the EC may announce two-phase polls in the state for the second or third week of December.
The declaration of dates will immediately bring the model code of conduct into force, preventing BJP from using its status as the incumbent to woo the electorate at the exchequer’s cost. The much-awaited announcement will come 13 days after the EC declared the dates for Himachal Pradesh polls, and will close the window which has been used by the state government to announce projects worth over Rs 11,000 crore and close to two dozen measures for various groups. The delay in release of Gujarat dates led the opposition to criticise the EC and to claim that it betrayed BJP’s nerves.
Benefits announced since October 12, when Himachal dates were declared, include 0% interest loan for farmers, toll waiver, salary hike for teachers and municipality employees, Diwali bonus for class IV employees as well as withdrawal of cases against 326 Patidars registered during the Patel quota stir.
On Tuesday, deputy CM Patel announced 50% hike in incentive-based payments to ASHA workers, the 43,000 strong army of foot-soldiers of the state health system, who have been agitating for better pay for nearly six months now. “Government will also give free sarees and dresses to all ASHA workers,” Patel said.
Later in the evening, the state government cleared the second phase of the ambitious Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro rail project worth Rs 6,700 crore. The proposal will now be sent to the Centre for approval.
Patel also declared that the government will reimburse the 18% GST charged on drip irrigation equipment. This will add a burden of Rs 77.64 crore on the exchequer, he said. The state also announced benefit schemes for contract workers employed on fixed pay for 11 months in different government jobs. “These employees will get additional benefits like 11 additional casual leaves, maximum 90 days of maternity leave with pay for women workers after completion of one year for maximum two children, TA/DA up to Rs 250 as per slabs and Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia on accidental or natural death during duty payable to the next of kin,” Patel said.