Mah Govt extends largesse to weaker sections, minorities

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Mumbai, Jul 9 (UNI) With an eye on next year's assembly elections, the Maharashtra government today extended largesse to weaker sections of society, farmers and the minorities in the state.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting here, presided over by chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the government decided to almost double the benefits given to weaker sections of society.

The government gives a fixed monthly allowance to destitute and landless labourers, widows and old people without any family support under ''Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Scheme'', ''Indira Gandhi Landless Labourers'' and ''Shravanbal Seva Yojana''.

The amount has been increased to Rs 500 from Rs 250 and to Rs 500 from Rs 300 respectively.

To cover greater number of people under the schemes, the yearly eligibility income limit has been increased to Rs 21,000 from Rs 15,000 which would result in the exchequer being burdened by Rs 300 cr per year. The new rates of monthly cash benefits would come into force from August one.

The government has also decided to implement the national programme of mid-day meals in schools for benefit of students of sixth to eight standard. They will be provided meals, assuring 700 calories and 20 gms proteins. An expenditure of Rs 242.70 crore will be made for the scheme, under which the state's share will be Rs 49.99 crore.

Farmers, whose agricultural production has been hampered due to the low rainfall, will be provided with incentives and added facilties by the government.

Moreover, the farmers' lands will not be forcibly taken over by state cooperatives for non-payment of loans nor will the electricity be disconnected for non-payment of bills, it was officially stated.

Students belonging to the minority community will be provided free education till class ten by the government.

The students will have to secure at least 50 per cent marks in each class to be eligible for the scheme and annual income of their parents will have to be less than Rs one lakh. However, only two children from each family can avail of the benefit.

Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsis and Buddhists were eligible for the scheme, entailing an expenditure of Rs 27,232 crore, out of which 75 per cent will be borne by the Centre, the sources added.

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