Subsidised weddings in state government's poll-sop kitty

Jan 21, 2014, 08:19 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

The cabinet approved a decision to finance primary cooperative credit societies, so they can assist women of ‘marriageable age’ in the families of depositors

Dented by the Aam Aadmi Party’s unconventional politics and pop-up populism in Delhi, Congress is now trying to do some influence peddling of its own. The party that holds the reins of the Maharashtra government with ally NCP, has decided to provide Rs 6 crore to depositors of primary cooperative credit societies to aid women of ‘marriageable age’.

Sources say Prithviraj Chavan kept his NCP cabinet colleagues in the dark about the agenda of yesterday’s meeting, so the alliance partner could not claim credit for the sops. File pic
Sources say Prithviraj Chavan kept his NCP cabinet colleagues in the dark about the agenda of yesterday’s meeting, so the alliance partner could not claim credit for the sops. File pic

The Democratic Front government appears to be on its toes, as within a span of two weeks the state cabinet has had a series of meetings, and taken close to two dozen decisions. Even then the Prithviraj Chavan-led cabinet was not satisfied and, ignoring severe financial constraints, it decided to offer Rs 7,272 crore as concessions in power tariff to consumers of various categories.

Most surprisingly, the subject of power subsidy was not on the cabinet agenda when it was finalised on Saturday and Sunday. Both deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who is in-charge of the energy department, and industries minister Narayan Rane, who headed a cabinet sub-committee to reduce power tariff, were under the impression that the proposal was not going to figure in yesterday’s cabinet convocation.

While briefing his party ministers in a separate gathering on Monday morning, Pawar informed them that the CM had told him the proposal was not going to come up during the meeting, and no one should raise any queries. On the other hand, Rane, who is unwell, decided to skip the cabinet meeting after learning that the subject of power tariff was not on the agenda.

But Chavan surprised his cabinet colleagues, particularly those from NCP, by asking Ajoy Mehta, managing director of MahaVitaran, and in-charge secretary of energy department, to make a presentation. And the decision was taken even as it was argued that the exchequer would have to bear an additional burden of Rs 600 crore.

Even if there were financial constraints, the government could take a loan to pay this amount to MahaVitaran, the cabinet argued. The state can avail a loan of up to 26 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), and currently the amount of already-acquired loan, which is approximately Rs 2.70 lakh crore, accounts for about 17 per cent, the cabinet was said to be informed.

According to sources, the finance department officials raised several queries over the financial management. But the 20 per cent relief in power bills offered to industrial, domestic, commercial and agricultural consumers will be offered for 10 months – that is up to October this year, when the state will get a new government.

The interest-free loan of Rs 6 crore offered to 70 primary co-operative credit societies across four districts of the state is clearly another poll sop. The amount is being made available exclusively for the repayment of deposits to families where a woman has reached ‘marriageable age’.

The decision was taken despite some strong observations by the state finance department, including that marriage of girls was a sentimental issue for the parents and the government should not concern itself with it. Even the state chief secretary is said to have opposed the decision, but it was approved anyway. According to sources, the decision will currently benefit one woman from Kolhapur, 1,658 from Jalgaon, 39 from Wardha and four from Thane.

Power play
While a part of Powai and suburbs such as Bhandup and Mulund, falling under the state power utility MahaVitaran, will get the benefit of the government decision to slash tariffs by 20%, the rest of Mumbai is yet to be given any relief. The issue figured in the state cabinet meeting yesterday, when Congress ministers Naseem Khan and Suresh Shetty demanded staying the subject till a proposal on Mumbai was introduced for similar benefits.

The cabinet can take up a proposal for Mumbai and rest of the state for the next cabinet meeting, argued the ministers, sources said. It would not be appropriate if a part of Powai enjoys cut in power tariff and the rest of the people in the same area, who get supply from Reliance Energy and Tata Power, pay as per the rates currently applicable, said Khan, who is also suburban district guardian minister. The cabinet has postponed the issue, as the state will have to pay a certain amount if it wants reduced power tariff for Mumbaikars, sources from Mantralaya said.

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