05 March, 2021

Spilt Ink On Merit Cards

Trinamool’s many welfare schemes are praiseworthy. But corruption and bias in implementation have bred anger amongst people.

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Urban development minister and TMC leader Firhad Hakim hands over a Swastha Sathi card to a beneficiary in Calcutta
Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
Spilt Ink On Merit Cards

It’s a term, now old-fashioned and once reserved for the best of despots, that psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty uses to describe Mamata Banerjee’s rule: a ‘benevolent dictatorship’. Benevolent, because of her social welfare schemes, and dictatorial, because of her great reluctance to allow any space to the Opposition or critics. The Trinamool Congress supremo has repeatedly proclaimed that her government’s schemes cover a person “from birth to death”. Opponents denounce her “politics of dole”.

A brief sampling of the schemes is rev­ealing. Under the Bangla Matri Prakalpa, first-time mothers are entitled to Rs 5,000 in three instalments, while the Matri Yaan project is a government-run free ambulance service to increase the rate of institutional delivery. And Samabyathi entitles family members an assistance of Rs 2,000 for cremation.

Of numerous other schemes, Sabuj Sathi provides bicycles to schoolchildren from classes IX to XII in all government-run and -aided schools; Kanyashree gives underprivileged girl...

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