Chandigarh: Describing Scheduled Caste community as the backbone of the state, the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that the Shiromani Akali Dal has always been a votary of their rights in accordance with the philosophy of great Sikh Gurus and thus the party has taken historic initiatives for their overall welfare during its past decade long regime.
Addressing a ‘Dalit Chetna Rally’ here at grain market, the Chief Minister said that the Sikh Gurus have always repudiated discrimination on account of casteism and Shiromani Akali Dal has ever upheld the great philosophy of Sikh Gurus. He said that SAD had been consistently worked day in day out to safeguard the rights of the Scheduled Castes. Listing several pro-poor initiatives taken by his government for the welfare of unprivileged sections of the society, the Chief Minister said that Punjab was the first state in the country, which started Atta-Dal scheme and so far Wheat and Pulses worth Rs.3415 crore have been distributed amongst the beneficiaries under this scheme.
At present, 1.13 crore people were covered under this scheme and with the addition of seven lac more families, the total number of people covered under this scheme would go up to 1.41 crore, which would nearly cover half of state’s population. Likewise, financial grant given under the Shagun scheme to Scheduled Castes, Muslim and Christian communities besides economically poor for the marriage of their daughters had been enhanced from Rs.5,100 to Rs.15,000. Similarly, Old age pension had also been doubled from Rs.250 to Rs.500 per month.
The Chief Minister further said that Scheduled Caste families had been provided with free domestic electricity up to 200 units at a cost of Rs.900 crore. “Had these schemes not started by the state government, the entire burden on this count would have made the lives of these hapless families far more miserable”, rued Badal. He also mentioned that the utensils being used for the social functions and marriages etc. of Scheduled Caste were also provided free of cost by the state government.
Badal also said that for the first time the state government had given compensation to the tune of Rs.64 crore to the farm labour besides cotton growers in lieu of substantial damage caused to cotton crop due to pest attack in Malwa belt. He further said that under the Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojana 21.90 lac families having blue cards have been given the facility of this scheme. This facility has already been extended to nearly 2.32 lac construction workers. Under this ambitious health insurance scheme, all the beneficiaries including economically poor, farmers, traders and construction workers have been provided a health insurance cover of Rs.50,000 and an insurance of Rs.5 lac in case of accidental death or incapacitation of head of family.
The Chief Minister also listed major achievements in the field of education. He said that poor students studying in government schools were getting scholarships and SC students from Class 1 to 10 were provided with free books. He said more than four lac girl students from government schools studying in class 11 and 12 had been given free cycles to have hassle free access to their schools from their homes in order to complete their school education.
Apart from this, seven meritorious schools have been established across the state to impart quality education to the students free of cost. On the health front, the state government was already providing free treatment to the cancer patients in the government hospitals since 2011 and a financial grant of Rs.1.50 lac was being given to each such patient under this scheme besides providing over 100 cancer medicines at subsidized rates. He said till now 32,000 persons inflicted with cancer have been treated at a cost of Rs. 400 crore. Likewise, treatment and diagnostic facilities were being provided to the persons suffering from Hepatitis-C free of cost in all the government hospitals. The Chief Minister reiterated his firm commitment to further ameliorate the lot of disadvantaged sections of society as a guiding principle of Shiromani Akali Dal.
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