As the Yogi Adityanath government 2.0 is set to assume office early next week, all eyes are on a roadmap it may unveil to implement the promises in the election manifesto.
According to officials, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has already started consultations with the top bureaucracy, including chief secretary Durga Shanker Mishra, on how to go about implementing the welfare schemes promised.
Among the chief pre-poll promises that the party made, providing two free domestic LPG cylinders to all beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme twice a year, on the occasions of Holi and Diwali, is one that has to be tackled on a priority. An official said that since Holi is just a few days away, the chief secretary met senior officials of Indian Oil Corporation to discuss issues related to distribution of free domestic cooking gas cylinders. There are 1 crore Ujjwala beneficiaries in the state and officials estimate the expenses on the scheme at around Rs 1,000 crore.
Free electricity to farmers for irrigation (tubewell) is another promise for which the government is working overtime and a proposal on it is expected to be put up in the first cabinet meeting. Free power for irrigation is already provided by five states in the country — Punjab, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. UP will become the sixth state to provide free power for irrigation.
According to data, Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation (UPPCL) has a total consumer base of 3.06 crore, of which nearly 13.33 lakh (4%) are agricultural consumers. The state government currently pays the UPPCL a subsidy of around Rs 11,000 crore per annum for giving subsidised power for irrigation. For the government to provide free power to the farmers, it would need to incur additional subsidy expenditure of Rs 2,000 crore per annum.
Shailendra Dubey, former chief engineer, UPPCL, and chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation, says: “All these states (which provide subsidised power for irrigation) have a segregated feeder for agriculture (tubewells). In Uttar Pradesh, since there is no such segregation, farmers may end up using the free power for other purposes too, inflating the scheme’s cost.”
“We are expecting allocation for these schemes to be made in the next budget,” the official quoted above said, adding that the state’s finances are not in the pink of health. According to the RBI’s report, UP’s total debt in March 21 stood at `6 lakh crore, which was 35% of its gross state domestic product. Apart from the pre-poll promises, the state government is also working on finding a permanent solution to the stray cattle menace, especially in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to voters during the election campaign that a solution to the problem has been found and would be declared after the results are declared.
“The challenge to deal with stray animals is a bigger one, as they are not only destroying the farmers’ standing crops in the fields and causing havoc on the streets, but are also causing a huge economic loss,” said another official, adding that the cow slaughter ban effective in the state will have to be reviewed in due course of time, given the slump in the state’s meat industry.