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Voila, clothes for a tenner in poll year

Ranchi, Dec. 3: The months before elections come loaded with goodies for the electorate — the more the merrier.

Chief minister Hemant Soren is taking off from where his predecessor Arjun Munda left. Under Hemant, state food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department has proposed a Rs 176 crore scheme this fiscal of distributing saris and dhotis at Rs 10 each to some 35 lakh Jharkhand families who live below poverty line.

This ambitious state-sponsored sartorial subsidy for its poorest citizens, almost a year before Assembly elections if Hemant’s coalition government sails through without hiccups, may ring a bell.

In 2011, Hemant’s predecessor Arjun Munda had started Mukhya Mantri Dal-Bhaat Yojana to dish out a hot midday meal for the BPL population at Rs 5 per plate. Subsidised food centres were opened across all 24 districts.

Hemant made the sari-dhoti subsidy announcement last week during his trip to Chaibasa, district headquarters of West Singhbhum and Kolhan’s commissionary headquarters.

During the last two days, he reiterated the provisions of the sari-dhoti scheme at public meetings in Dumka, Deoghar and Sahebganj — considered JMM bastion.

According to provisions, saris and dhotis will be provided to the beneficiaries of each BPL family twice a year through public distribution system (PDS) centres and 4,500 panchayats in the state. The food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department has sent a proposal to the state finance department.

It needs to be seen if Hemant’s largesse burns a hole in the finance department’s pocket. “We have sent a Rs 176-crore proposal to the state finance department. Once finance department clears the proposal, it would be sent to the cabinet for final approval. We are hopeful decks will clear smoothly for the noble scheme,” food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department secretary Pradeep Kumar told The Telegraph.

Finance secretary A.P. Singh said they were looking into the proposal. “The financial implications on the state’s budget in the current fiscal 2013-14 are being worked out. We will soon take a decision,” he said.

Funds provision is likely to be made through a supplementary budget during the winter session of the state Assembly between December 13 and 20. Then, the department will invite tenders to purchase saris and dhotis.

In Jharkhand, the original list of BPL families put the figure at 24 lakh. A couple of years ago, 11.44 lakh families were added to the list after a fresh survey.