Amid freebies debate, NDA government in Puducherry announces free laptops for students in Budget

As Puducherry gives free laptops, revives free cycles scheme, Opposition says it exposes BJP duplicity over "freebies".

ByShilpa Nair

Published Aug 24, 2022 | 10:21 AM Updated Aug 24, 2022 | 12:59 PM

Puducherry budget

Even as the BJP-led Union government advises states and other political parties to shun the “freebies culture” — or, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it, the “revdi culture” — the NDA government in Puducherry announced free laptops for high-school students.

Chief Minister and NR Congress chief N Rangaswamy, during the presentation of the Union territory’s budget for the financial year 2022-23 on Monday, 22 August, said the laptops would be distributed in a phased manner to Class 11 and 12 students in government and government-aided schools.

Rangaswamy also stated that his government proposed to re-implement the free bicycle distribution scheme for students in Class 9 in both government and government-aided schools.

Further, the NR Congress-led NDA government decided to provide financial assistance of ₹1,000 per month to women who head families living below the poverty line and are aged 21 to 55 years.

The ₹10,696-crore budget was approved by the Union government before it was presented in the Puducherry Legislative Assembly.

Opposition slams NDA freebies

The free laptops scheme, the re-implementing of the free bicycle scheme, and providing ₹1,000 as financial assistance to women heads of BPL families have been questioned by Opposition parties.

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy told South First that the budget presented by the NDA government in the Union territory has exposed the “drama of the BJP”.

“BJP’s double standards start from the Centre. Prime Minister Modi has announced so many schemes. Those are also ‘freebies’. But suddenly they become saints and say that ‘freebies’ must be stopped,“ he said.

Expounding on the BJP’s duplicity, Narayanasamy said: “When BJP-ruled states announce schemes and gives ‘freebies’, it is okay. It is acceptable. But when Opposition-ruled states do it, they are criticised.”

Expressing similar sentiments, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Dr Palanivel Thiaga Rajan posted newspaper clippings of the Puducherry government’s budget announcements on Twitter and wondered if there was one rule for the BJP, another for other political parties?

“One rule for govt, other for Opposition? Or, one rule for BJP, other for all other parties? Or do as I (Centre) say, not as I do?” he asked trying to highlight the double standards of the BJP on the “freebies” debate.

Other key announcements in the budget

One of the other key announcements by Rangaswamy was the decision to extend the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (health insurance scheme) to eligible “above poverty line” families from the current year, which earlier covered only “below poverty line” families.

The applications submitted for old age pension would also be granted from the forthcoming month, the chief minister said in the Assembly.

As for incentives for differently-abled persons, the government has enhanced the transport allowance from ₹100 to ₹300 per month.

“The incentive for marriage between a differently-abled person and a normal person has also been increased from ₹25,000 to ₹1 lakh. For marriages between two differently-abled persons, the incentive has been hiked from ₹50,000 to ₹2 lakh,” the government said.

The chief minister also emphasised on the need to improve health care services in the Union territory. A sum of ₹1,036.51 crore has been allocated to health department in the current financial year.

In order to upgrade the standard of education in all government schools, the Rangaswamy declared that all existing class rooms will be converted into “smart classes”.

For fishermen, communication equipment like transponders will be fixed in all the registered mechanised boats in Puducherry for their safety and security.

Under the MLA-Local Area Development Scheme, the government has proposed to grant Rs 2 crore to each MLA to undertake basic infrastructural work during the current financial year.