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Riot relief before Gujarat election

New Delhi, Sept. 20: The Centre has sent additional riot relief to Gujarat weeks before the Assembly polls, with checks and deadlines to ensure the state distributes it correctly and fast.

The Narendra Modi government has been set two tasks. One, it must open bank accounts in the names of riot victims who haven’t any and pay the money only through account payee cheques.

Two, it must finish doling out the Rs 70.55 crore among the 3,717 claimants and send the utilisation certificates to Delhi within 45 days.

During earlier relief distributions, many victims had accused the Narendra Modi government of giving them less than 1 per cent of the sum due to them, officials in Delhi explained.

Gujarat BJP leaders quickly accused the Centre of playing electoral politics.

“There is absolutely no reason why after five years the government had to release the money now,” Ahmedabad MP Harin Pathak said. “The package is timed for the polls.”

The BJP’s problem is that the Congress will be able to claim credit for releasing the money while the state government will have to do the hard work of settling the claims, risking accusations and disaffection over any bungling.

The cabinet decision to provide additional relief to Gujarat riot victims had come in March this year. The Union home ministry sent the letter to Gujarat on September 12, which means the state must get back to it with utilisation certificates by October 27.

The polls are expected in November.

“It will be the state’s responsibility to open a savings bank account for those who do not have a bank account in their names,” a home ministry official said in Delhi. The claims will be verified by the local administration or any other state government agency.

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