The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Election ahead, CPM bonanza wagon rolls

Calcutta, Jan. 2: Barely a week after Jyoti Basu announced that the freeze on recruitment in government offices had been lifted, the CPM today unwrapped a big, fat box of pre-poll freebies.

The government, the CPM leadership announced, would distribute 1.53 crore ration cards among below poverty line (BPL) families across Bengal in the next two months.

The decision was taken by the state CPM secretariat, which had summoned all party ministers, including chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, to place their performance reports.

At the end of the meeting, state party secretary Anil Biswas said ration cards for new-borns and other children would also be distributed during this period.

Several thousand children are born in the state every day.

Government officials, according to the party, will go door to door to ensure that all children had ration cards.

Biswas said: 'There are reports that children do not get ration cards for months. We will have to visit households in the next two months to deliver ration cards.'

The BPL cards will have to be distributed on a war footing. 'The Supreme Court has vacated the stay on the distribution of such cards only for eight weeks,' Biswas said.

Food department officials, however, said the hurry was necessitated more by a recent central directive asking the state government to complete the distribution of BPL and Antyodaya Anna Yojna cards by February 15.

'The Centre has threatened to withdraw subsidy for the scheme if the deadline is not met,' a senior official said.

The government has so far issued BPL cards among 1.27 crore people out of 2.8 crore.

The CPM today also announced that all soiled ration cards would be replaced by March.

'We have 8.15 crore ration card holders across the state. A drive will be carried out within the next two months to replace soiled cards,' Biswas added.

Addressing a rally of the CPM government employees union on December 28, Basu had said that over 80,000 posts were vacant across Bengal.

At least 50,000 people are likely to be recruited now that the bar on fresh appointments has gone. Among them would be about 30,000 schoolteachers, who form a key CPM constituency.

The CPM meeting also decided that 6.5 lakh labourers working in unorganised sectors would be brought under the provident fund scheme in the next two months.

Observers said the CPM's drive is also aimed at silencing Opposition parties, which had been making noises about the non-distribution of BPL cards and distribution of fake ones.

The move would also help the ruling Left Front gain the support of a vast section of rural people in the run-up to the Assembly elections, they added.

Basu had earlier said that there was nothing wrong with a recruitment drive ahead of polls. Biswas said the same.

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