Lakshmir Bhandar scheme: Cash aid applicants set to cross estimate
The Mamata Banerjee government will have to spend much more than what it had planned earlier under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme as the huge rush in the first four days of Duare Sarkar camps hints that the number of beneficiaries will cross the initial estimate of 1.6 crore.
The scheme offers Rs 500 each to general caste women and Rs 1,000 each to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women every month.
“In the first four days of Duare Sarkar camps, which were made operational on August 16, the number of applicants under Lakshmir Bhandar reached 41 lakh. It seems more than 2 crore prospective beneficiaries would register their names by mid-September when the camps wind up,” said a senior government official.
The issue had come up during an administrative review meeting convened by the chief minister on Wednesday where top government officials apprised Mamata Banerjee of the ground reports.
“The chief secretary said during the meeting that the state might have to spend more than Rs 16,000 crore under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme. This makes the scheme biggest direct benefit transfer scheme in the state. The chief secretary had earlier said during video conferences with officials that a sum of Rs 11,000 crore could be required for the project,” said a source.
Sources said the primary estimate on the number of beneficiaries went awry as the top brass of the government had initially considered the number of Swasthya Sathi cards issued in the state.
“But later on, when the camps started, reports started coming up that a number of families have split and they don’t have Swasthya Sathi cards. As these families were not in consideration while primary estimate was made, the number of beneficiaries would definitely go higher than what had been estimated earlier,” said a source.
Another official said the number of beneficiaries could not be estimated accurately as the ground reports suggest that many of the families who did not queue up for Swasthya Sathi cards now show interest in getting the benefits of Lakshmir Bhandar.
The top brass of the government were worried over arranging the huge funds required to run the scheme.
“It seems the government is set to cut the allotment for development projects. During the meeting on Wednesday, the departments were told that they had to follow austerity measures strictly,” said a source.
According to sources, shouldering the burden of Rs 16,000 crore annually is a Herculean task for the struggling state coffers. “The main problem is that our revenue generation has dipped because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Till July, the state could generate only about Rs 2,500 crore a month compared to its usual revenue generation of Rs 5,000 crore a month,” said a source.
Although finance department officials were hopeful that the situation would improve from August as majority of the Covid-19-related restrictions were relaxed and festive season is coming up.
“But still, it would not be good enough to shoulder the huge burden of the scheme. It remains to be seen how the state manages the situation from September when the scheme would be launched,” said a source.