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State offers vehicle funds to jobless

The Mamata Banerjee cabinet on Tuesday cleared a proposal to offer financial help of up to Rs 1 lakh to unemployed persons aged between 20 and 45 to buy “small vehicles”. The move, many say, is aimed at encouraging people to buy taxis and small buses.

The Gati Dhara scheme was outlined by the finance minister in the budget in February. The cabinet on Tuesday announced that families with a monthly income of Rs 25,000 or less would qualify for financial support under the scheme.

“The transport department will interview applicants and draw up a list of eligible candidates. The labour department would provide the money but the scheme would be implemented by the transport department,” said transport minister Madan Mitra. “The resolution has been cleared and will come into effect immediately.”

Sources said the project was initially aimed at those planning to buy no-refusal taxis, luxury taxis or small goods vehicles. Now the scheme would extend to small buses with low-seating capacity. It is not yet clear whether autorickshaws would qualify. “We will draw up a final list of vehicles. While auto-rickshaws do come under this category, the government is not issuing fresh permits for autos in Calcutta right now. So it is unlikely it would be included in the list,” said a senior PVD official.

Nabanna sources said the move was aimed at youths in Jungle Mahal, who were finding it difficult to pool money to buy goods vehicles. During her recent trips to Bankura and Purulia, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed keenness to help youths in the Maoist-hit districts eke out a living.

“This would be of great help to those planning to buy Matadors or small eight to 12-seater buses,” said a senior official the labour department.

Bus operators said unless fares were raised, the scheme would be a non-starter. “You can get small buses for Rs 10-11 lakh. But how would one sustain unless fares are raised and an owner gets enough money to pay the EMIs?” said Tapan Bandopadhyay of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.