The DMK government in Tamil Nadu has announced the implementation of its much-awaited poll promise — monthly assistance of ₹1,000 to women heads of families from 15 September — and triggered a controversy.
Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, popularly known as PTR, announced in his Budget speech on Monday, 20 March, that the scheme will be launched on the birth anniversary of the late Chief Minister and Dravidian stalwart, CN Annadurai.
The Budget has earmarked ₹7,000 crore for the scheme.
“Women heads of families who have been affected adversely by the steep increase in cooking gas price by the Union government and the overall price rise will greatly benefit from this scheme,” the minister said.
Adding that the operational guidelines on the eligibility to avail of the benefits will be released soon, the minister said that the scheme will be a game-changer in the socio-economic life of women in the state.
Speaking on the state’s finances, PTR also said: “Despite the inclusion of an amount of ₹7,000 crore for the Magalir Urimai Thogai scheme — one of the biggest cash transfer schemes implemented by any state government in the history of this country — the revenue deficit of the state has been contained at 1.32 percent of the GSDP, much below the 2017-18 level.”
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Not all to benefit?
On 7 March 2021, during an election rally, DMK president MK Stalin announced that ₹1,000 will be given to all women heads of families if the party is voted to power.
Further, the DMK in its manifesto termed the amount a “right” of women and categorised the promise under “Social Justice”.
But the Budget announcement, “…women heads of ‘eligible’ households…”, has triggered a debate.
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Opposition leaders condemn DMK
AIADMK interim general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami said that the DMK is cheating the people.
“On what basis are the eligibility criteria being fixed? After getting votes from the people, the DMK is now cheating them,” he alleged.
Former chief minister O Panneerselvam said that the announcement of providing ₹1,000 only to “eligible” women is disappointing.
“The DMK should provide the amount to all the women heads of families as promised and reducing the number of beneficiaries is not acceptable,” he said.
BJP state president K Annamalai took to Twitter and stated that the DMK should give the amount to all 2.2 crore ration cardholders without deviating from the original announcement.
29000 ரூபாயாக வழங்க வேண்டும் என திமுக அரசை வலியுறுத்துகிறேன்.
அதோடு தகுதியுடைய மகளிருக்கே ஆயிரம் ரூபாய் வழங்கப்படும் என்று மடைமாற்றாமல்,தமிழகத்தில் உள்ள 2.2 கோடி குடும்ப அட்டைதாரர்களுக்கும் மாதம் ஆயிரம் ரூபாய் வழங்க வேண்டும் என்றும் @BJP4Tamilnadu சார்பாக வலியுறுத்துகிறேன்.(2/2)
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) March 20, 2023
AMMK party general secretary TTV Dhinakaran also accused the DMK government of cheating the people.
Wait and see, says DMK
A source in the DMK told South First that considering the financial situation, it is hard to provide the amount to all ration cardholders.
“Hence in the first phase, women holding Priority Household (PHH), Below Poverty Line (BPL), single women and single women parent ration cards will be included in the scheme,” the source said.
“Further, families with two gas connections will not be eligible for the amount. Last month, Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, had explained the financial situation to the chief minister and the latter is yet to approve the eligibility criteria. Let’s wait for the chief minister’s decision,” he said.
Since the total allocation is ₹7,000 crore, only 58,33,300 ration cardholders could be given ₹1,000 for 12 months.
However, Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji said that the scheme will commence on 15 September, and the allotted amount is for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, till the next Budget.