Youngsters use puppets to spread awareness on gender issues in Assam tea gardens
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New Delhi: The Opposition on Wednesday dubbed the Rs 1,000 crore package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech last year for the welfare of the tea garden workers in Assam and West Bengal as “jumla”, saying not “a penny” has reached the beneficiaries so far.

Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel, however, dismissed the charge and defended the Centre, saying steps are being taken to implement the package to ensure that the benefits reach the targeted beneficiaries “in a systematic manner”.

“There is no need to doubt the government policy and intent…. Definitely, it has taken time,” she told the Lok Sabha during the Question Hour and gave details of the steps being taken to implement the proposal.

Also Read: Where is Rs 1000 crore meant for Assam, Bengal tea workers?

Patel was replying to a question from Congress member Gaurav Gogoi, who sought to know about the status of the Rs 1,000 crore package announced by Sitharaman in her budget speech last year for the welfare of the tea garden workers, saying not a penny has reached Assam and Darjeeling in West Bengal.

Gogoi said in the Centre’s reply, there is no mention of the Rs 1,000 crore package announced by the finance minister.

Patel said the Tea Board, after the announcement of the package, drafted the Prime Minister Chai Shramik Protsahan scheme and “took it forward.”

“Then, one opinion came that all welfare provisions — related to education, health or other facilities — are already being made available through various schemes of the ministries and there is already an institutional mechanism available for those,” she said.

It was then decided that the Tea Board will identify the beneficiaries and the Centre can take all the welfare schemes to the women workers and their children at the tea gardens of the two states by providing funds to the related ministries over and above their budget.

“One more opinion came that we can set up capital infrastructure like anganwadi centres, hospitals, ayush and wellness centres and schools,” the minister said.

Since the expertise to create the capital infrastructure is not with the department of commerce, it is being considered that funds can be provided to the ministries concerned for the purpose, she added.

“But this is under consideration,” Patel said.

The Opposition members expressed dissatisfaction at her reply and one of them termed the Rs 1,000 crore package announced by the finance minister “jumla” (gimmickry).

“This is not at all jumla. There has been in-depth thinking and planning on the part of the government…. We want to take all the benefits to the intended beneficiaries with due diligence and in a systematic manner,” Patel said.

She slammed the Opposition members for “refusing to listen and understand” and alleged that this shows that they do not stand for the welfare of the tea garden workers.

“The government is deeply committed to the interest of the women workers and children in our tea gardens. If you do not want to understand and accept it, we cannot make you understand,” Patel said.

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