Mamata Banerjee government’s “Lakshmir Bhandar” scheme to help 1.6 crore beneficiaries

News Desk: The Mamata Banerjee government has estimated that 1.6 crore beneficiaries will be included in the “Lakshmir Bhandar (Lakshmi’s treasure)” scheme which promises Rs 1,000 to women heads of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families and Rs 500 to those in general categories a month.

The scheme had been promised by chief minister Mamata Banerjee before recent Assembly elections.

Top government officials held a meeting recently to work out the modalities of the dole.

“Work to implement the scheme will start on the ground from July 1. The first thing we have to do is to register the beneficiaries of the scheme. It has been assessed that the scheme will have a total of 1.6 crore beneficiaries,” said a senior government official.

The government has primarily estimated that Rs 11,000 will have to be spent from the state exchequer annually to run the scheme.

“The scheme will help 1.6 crore families across the state during the Covid-19 pandemic when opportunities to earn livelihood have shrunk, particularly in rural areas. But it will certainly leave a heavy burden on the exchequer at a time when the state’s own revenue generation has suffered a hit,” said another official.

The state government, sources said, was planning to fix an eligibility criterion, which is likely to be based on a person’s family income, to keep the number of beneficiaries under control.

“The financial condition does not allow the state to make the scheme universal like Sabuj Sathi or old age pension. We just cannot bring all 2.5 crore families in the state under the scheme as it will push the financial burden to over Rs 20,000 crore annually,” said an official

Sources also said during a recent meeting to ensure the smooth implementation of the scheme, chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi had hinted that the government was considering the insertion of an eligibility criterion for women to avail themselves of the monthly doles.

The state government might be forced to cut down allotment of some departments to raise funds for the scheme, the sources said. “It is not possible to cut down departmental allocations heavily. So, the state is looking to arrange for funds for the scheme from some other sources too,” said a source.

According to officials, the government already has a database of some eligible beneficiaries, which can be readily used to launch the scheme.

“For example, the state has detailed data of 33 lakh women beneficiaries of the social security scheme (Samajik Suraksha Yojana). These beneficiaries can be brought under the direct benefit transfer scheme immediately. For the remaining families, the government could seek applications,” said a source.

The sources said the scheme would definitely boost the rural economy as a large portion of the Rs 11,000 crore would be pumped into the beneficiaries’ respective areas every year.