Ratan Pal, a migrant labourer, received his Job Card within six hours of application, thanks to the ‘Duare Sarkar’, a mega outreach programme launched by the West Bengal government to deliver its welfare schemes at the doorstep of citizens.
Pal, a resident of Banshihari block in South Dinajpur district, applied for the card on December 15 to get enrolled for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). A delighted Pal said over the phone that he had never thought his application would be processed on the same day.
Pal was not the only one to be taken aback by the swiftness of the government’s delivery mechanism. Nineteen-year-old Sumi Murmu, a native of Chakbaliram village in the same district, received a hearing aid device within three hours of application.
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Similarly, Rafeeza Begum of Bamangola block of Malda district received her Swastha Sathi Card, a health insurance benefit of ₹5 lakh, for her family on the spot at a doorstep government camp.
Since the launch of the programme on December 1, over 1.20 crore people attended the camps organised across the state to get benefits of the state government’s 11 schemes, including its much-talked about Swastha Sathi (health scheme).
The health scheme, billed as a better alternative to Centre’s Ayushman Bharat, is particularly drawing huge crowd, prompting even the BJP members in some panchayats to distribute the cards.
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It provides insurance health cover for secondary and tertiary care up to ₹5 lakh per annum per family. Unlike Ayushman Bharat, which is a targeted scheme for the poor, Swastha Sathi covers the entire population of the state.
The state government is going to spend approximately ₹2,000 crore annually for the scheme. The West Bengal government did not join the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme.
Government officials said of the over 5.78 people who came to get benefits of the government schemes at the 730 camps set up on Monday (December 21), majority came to receive the Swastha Sathi Card.
Seeing the popularity of the scheme, even BJP-ruled panchayats are actively participating in the programme. Pradhan of BJP-ruled Mohula gram panchayat in Murshidabad district, Anup Saha said it was a “good initiative” that would benefit people and hence he and his party workers were helping the government to implement it, rising above party politics.
The ‘Duare Sarkar’ programme was rolled out on December 1 and will continue till January 31. In the first phase camps were held from December 1-11. The second phase that started on December 15 will continue till January 4. The third phase will be held from January 2-12 and fourth from January 18-30.
The camps will cover every gram panchayat and municipality ward at least once in each round.
The beleaguered TMC is under severe attack from the opposition parties for alleged widespread corruption in the delivery of welfare schemes. Even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had publicly berated her party members more than once for taking “cut money (bribe)” from the supposed beneficiaries of welfare schemes.
The ‘Duare Sarkar’ initiative is an attempt to offset damages caused by the corruption allegations, the TMC leaders admit in private. If anything, the response is encouraging and the party now hopes to translate the crowd at the camps into votes.
Several TMC MLAs, including former minister and popular leader Suvendu Adhikari, joined the BJP, apparently taking it as a sinking ship. The ruling TMC is now hoping the ‘government at the doorstep’ initiative would keep it afloat in the 2021 assembly elections.
“I assure all that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the people of Bengal are able to get the benefits of Govt services that they are eligible for, right at their doorstep!,” chief minister Mamata tweeted a couple of days ago.
The BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh, however, described the ‘Duare Sarkar’ programme as a “publicity exercise” by the TMC ahead of the assembly polls.