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Centre plan first in Sisir district

Tamluk, Sept. 11: East Midnapore is set to become the first district in the country to engage school students to go to every household and make villagers aware about the Centre’s development schemes for the poor.

“We will begin with East Midnapore. Then, the project would be taken up all over the country,” said Sisir Adhikari, the union minister of state for rural development.

Adhikari said most people living below the poverty line fail to make use of the central schemes for them, mainly because of their ignorance about the projects for which the Centre spends crores.

“We have seen most people in the rural areas are not aware of the schemes. So, we have decided to engage school students who will go door-to-door making people aware of them,” Adhikari said.

Sources in the zilla parishad said Adhikari had persuaded Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to start the project in East Midnapore, from where Adhikari hails. His constituency Contai also falls in the district.

The minister said the students, from Classes IX to XII, would be trained by the district administration before they approach the villagers. “Seminars and workshops will be held on holidays to make the children aware about the schemes,” Adhikari said.

Asked why the administration is engaging students, deputy chief of the zilla parishad Mahmud Hossain said: “School students will work as volunteers. If we take the help of unemployed youths, we will have to pay them.”

A district official elaborated on some of the schemes for people who fall in the BPL category. “There are so many schemes of the Centre. For example, if a pregnant woman belonging to the BPL category is admitted to a government hospital for delivery, she would be entitled to Rs 500 each for two babies. Three months before and after delivering a child, such women are given khichdi and an egg once daily under the Integrated Child Development Scheme. The students will inform villagers about such schemes,” he said.

Mahmud Hossain also mentioned some other schemes such as the Indira Awas Yojana, which provides houses, old-age pension of Rs 500 and widow pension of Rs 750.

Many villagers in the district, when told about the project, were elated. “I am a BPL card holder and I don’t know about the schemes. Nobody told me. People like us would be benefited by the move,” said Manoranjan Ghara, a bidi maker in Nilkuntha village of Tamluk.