Dalit outreach with doles

Patna: From 15kg foodgrain per child per month to money grants for studies and competitive exams, chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday rained doles on Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Extremely Backward Castes (EBC), Other Backward Castes (OBC) and the minorities.

The decisions were taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Nitish at his secretariat. The largest chunk of the welfare schemes targeting children and youth has been reserved for SCs and STs.

"The state government has decided to provide 15kg of foodgrain per month - rice and wheat - to every student staying in the hostels meant for SCs, STs, EBCs, OBCs and the minority communities. The government will bear all expenditure on this," chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said.

At present, there are 111 government hostels for SC and ST students, 33 for EBCs and OBCs, and 33 for the minority communities. Altogether 12,000 students reside in them.

The decision is significant because till now these students had to bring ration from home which was cooked in the hostel mess. Moreover, people covered under the Food Security Act get only five kg foodgrain per person per month.

"Our government has also decided to provide 'hostel grant' of Rs 1,000 per month to every SC and ST hostel inmate," Anjani said.

The Nitish government also decided to provide Rs 50,000 to SC and ST students who qualify in the civil services preliminary examination conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) and Rs 1 lakh to those who clear the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) civil services prelims.

"Boys and girls belonging to SC and ST categories qualify in UPSC and BPSC prelims and need financial support to prepare for the mains examinations - buy books, take admission in coaching institutes. The money under this ambitious programme will be directly transferred to the bank accounts of such students," chief secretary Anjani added.

According to government figures, around 1,500 SC and ST students qualified in the last BPSC civil services prelims while 200 SC and ST aspirants from Bihar cleared the UPSC civil services prelims.

Political experts believe the doles are an attempt by Nitish to woo Dalits, backward castes and Muslims prior to the Lok Sabha polls. It is also an effort to take the sting out of the allegations on the NDA, especially the BJP, of being anti-Dalit.

The NDA received a double whammy with the exit of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and former Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary, who said the alliance was anti-Dalit.


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