Guwahati, Sept. 19: The ruling Congress in Assam has got a much-needed leg up ahead of the rural polls, thanks to the Union panchayat and rural development ministry.
The ministry’s decision last evening to waive the criteria for allotting Indira Awas Yojana houses to temporary tea garden workers and those living in forest area under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recongnition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is being seen within the government and the party as a development which would work to the Congress’s advantage in the rural polls likely in February.
Assam PCC spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora welcomed the waivers just as fulfilment of “long-pending” demands but party sources said these would have a “positive” impact in the tea and tribal belts and had come at the right time for a beleaguered Dispur grappling with one crisis after another since July.
The waivers will benefit 39,000 people residing in forest land and an estimated 4.5 lakh temporary tea garden workers associated with registered tea companies. These workers can now get an IAY house, which costs around Rs 48,500 each, simply by submitting an NOC from the management.
The ministry has also decided to go only by the identity numbers allotted to BPL beneficiaries while allotting the houses. “Going by ID number and permanent wait list, which is basically a first-come-first-served policy, was not working. Sticking to ID number will benefit over a lakh BPL beneficiaries,” a source said.
Dispur is also bullish because the ministry had earlier agreed to fund around 600km of roads under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts at a cost of around Rs 300 crore. “These will definitely fan a feel-good factor ahead of the panchayat polls. It is a huge boost in these trying times for Dispur and the Congress, which can tom-tom these waivers as a huge achievement to woo voters,” an official said.
Assam panchayat and rural development minister Rakibul Hussain and DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, a tea community leader, are understood to have been actively involved in the discussions with Union P&RD minister Jairam Ramesh in Delhi last evening.
Hussain, too, did not wish to link the “good news” with panchayat elections. “Our government and party are committed to poor people and are always working towards raising their living standard and purchasing power. We believe in development politics practised by our chief minister Tarun Gogoi. If our welfare measures help us in any way we will welcome it,” Hussain told The Telegraph.
He said they would launch a survey to find out the number of temporary tea workers, reflecting Dispur’s mind to cash in on the developments.