Punjab cabinet approves hike in Ashirwad scheme assistance

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Chandigarh, Apr 28 (PTI) The Punjab cabinet on Wednesday approved a hike in financial assistance under the Ashirwad scheme from Rs 21,000 to Rs 51,000 per beneficiary. The Congress, before coming to power in 2017, had promised to raise the Ashirwad scheme assistance to Rs 51,000. The latest increase comes into effect from July 1, 2021, an official spokesperson said after a virtual meeting of the council of ministers, chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here. This is the second hike in the scheme amount by the present government, which had earlier enhanced the assistance from Rs 15,000 to Rs 21,000 soon after it took over in 2017, while renaming the Shagun scheme as Ashirwad scheme. The latest increase will benefit 60,000 beneficiaries, putting an additional burden of Rs 180 crore on the state exchequer, said the spokesperson. Under the Ashirwad scheme, financial assistance is provided for the wedding of Scheduled Caste (SC), Christian, Backward Class women, daughters of widows of any caste and SC widows. To avail the benefit, the annual income of the family from all sources should not exceed Rs 32,790, said the spokesperson.

The parents/guardians of the girl should be domiciled in Punjab and the financial assistance under this scheme is limited to two girls only from one family. Meanwhile, the chief minister directed all procurement agencies to ensure prompt lifting and timely payment to farmers through the newly introduced Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system during the ongoing Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2021-22. Reviewing the wheat procurement progress at the virtual meeting with his cabinet, the chief minister also ordered strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols amid the current surge.

He urged all those farmers, 'arthiyas', labourers, employees of procurement agencies and other stakeholders above the age of 45 visiting the grain markets to get themselves vaccinated at the COVID vaccination camps in all 154 market committees across the state.

On inquiring about the availability of gunny bags, Singh was informed that the issue had been sorted out and there was no shortage.

He expressed satisfaction at the smooth procurement amid the challenges faced by the state due to the ongoing farmers' agitation against the farm laws passed by the Centre, the initial hostility of the arthiyas towards DBT, scarcity of labour, shortage of bales, as well as heavy and quick early arrivals. In another decision, the cabinet decided to regularise all telecom towers installed unauthorisedly between December 5, 2013 and December 7, 2020. The move is aimed at further strengthening the telecommunication infrastructure in the state as part of its focus on e-governance and e-commerce, said the spokesperson. The regularisation would be subject to the fulfilment of conditions contained in the telecom guidelines along with one-time payment of Rs 20,000, the spokesperson added. PTI CHS VSD ABM ABM