MNF launches family oriented flagship policy amidst much speculation
CM Zoramthanga at the launch of MNF's SEDP policy

Aizawl: Chief Minister Zoramthanga launched the family-oriented Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP) at Vanapa Hall in Aizawl on Friday.

The SEDP is the flagship programme of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and was part of the party manifesto in the 2018 assembly elections. However, it took the government three years to launch the family-oriented policy.

As per the policy handbook, the SEDP aims at “bringing self-sufficiency in food items, improving social life, bringing happiness and peace to people.”

To achieve this goal, the government had promised to provide monetary assistance of Rs 3 lakh to beneficiaries to start projects (trades) of their choice for sustainable development and the economic upliftment of families. The amount assured for distribution has now gone down to Rs. 50,000. CM Zoramthanga blamed Covid for the delay in the launch of SEDP on Friday.

“When we formed a government in 2018, it was towards the end of the year, and Christmas was approaching, so we could not do anything. In 2019, we laid out our plans and started formulating strategies. We were just about to start head-on into the implementation phase when Covid-19 hit us,” CM said on Friday.

“Not just Mizoram, but India and the whole world was under lockdown. Even the most developed countries like the United States could not enforce economic development. Our only goal was to survive. We could not think of socio or economic development. We spent two years fighting against the pandemic,” the CM added.

The CM state economy took a beating during the pandemic, with the state exchequer incurring a loss of around Rs 3,000 crore. The CM also said they did not receive the assured funds from the Centre even though it was part of the Union budget.

The CM, however, claimed the state government was now ready to roll out the scheme.

“We are choosing 60,000 families as beneficiaries for this financial year. While we are still sticking to our target of distributing 3 lakh or more, for the first year, we will be distributing Rs 50,000,” the CM said.

The CM, however, claimed that the initial target of Rs 3 lakh will be fulfilled once the state is in a better economic condition. “The second year is the election year, and when we come to power next year, we will be in better financial condition and add more beneficiaries as well as increase the amount to Rs 3 lakh or more. We know that Rs 3 lakh or more is needed for development, and we will give the next instalment in the 2023-24 financial year,” he said.

The CM said at present, Rs 300 crore has been allocated for the implementation of the programme during the current fiscal year. The allocated amount will go towards providing financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to 60,000 beneficiaries (1,500 beneficiaries in each of the 40 assembly constituencies) to supplement their ongoing economic activities or to start fresh economic activities during the current financial year.

As per the policy guidelines, those eligible to apply for the family-oriented SEDP programme will submit a form to a village-level SEDP committee.

“They can choose from over 70 trades that come under nine departments. They will need to specify how they will use the financial assistance in this form. The form will go through approval and selection of different governing boards and executive boards after which the amount will be transferred directly to the beneficiary account. After the funds have been transferred, the concerned officials and third-party members will file inspection reports and evaluation reports,” the SEDP report distributed at the launch states.

The CM said that for this year, the village-level SEDP committees were set up on April 30, 2022, the beneficiary list was submitted by May 30, 2022, and the district-level SEDP committees sent in the beneficiary list to the higher governing boards by June 15, 2022.

The first instalment is expected to be credited to the beneficiaries’ accounts between September 1, 2022, to October 31, 2022, while the second instalment is expected to be credited between December 1, 2022, and February 15, 2023.

As far as sector-wise beneficiaries are concerned, the agriculture department selected 9,161 households, the Veterinary department had 25399, UD&PA has 828, the Land Resources, Soil and Water Conservation has 5680 beneficiaries, 300 in Sericulture, 1261 in Fisheries, 26 in Tourism, 4078 in Horticulture and 13266 in the Commerce and industries department.

The most popular trade chosen was pig farming which accounted for 27.5% of the total beneficiaries. The highest number of beneficiaries, 18000 are from Aizawl followed by 9000 in Lunglei.

Vanlalhmuaka, BJP Mizoram President, said he believes this is just an attempt to win people’s votes for the 2023 elections, “They promised to distribute Rs 3 lakh and said they will take initiative towards it starting the day after they form a government. Now, not even a year is left for the next election, and they are distributing Rs 25000. This is just a tool to hold people’s votes for the 2023 election, but it will not help them. Rather, it will lead to their downfall because they have lied to the people. They should just admit that they were not able to fulfil this promise.”

“They are giving Covid-19 as an excuse, but they have received more money because of the pandemic. The BJP government has given them Rs 500 crore to help them in the pandemic. If there was no Covid19 and they had no means to source these funds, I believe the treasury would be closed by now,” he said.

While the BJP and Congress parties have taken to policies that include the distribution of money to individuals and parties, Vanlalhmuaka said BJP is against such policies. “For us, we focus on Sab ke sath sab ke vikas. We give money and resources to the people who need them. We do not use it as a tool to win people’s votes.” He gave examples of schemes such as PM Kisan, PMAY, and Jal Jeevan Mission.

Lallianchhunga, the spokesperson of the Mizoram Congress party also told East Mojo he believes Rs 50,000 will not suffice to start a new livelihood or sustain an existing one. “Looking at the rise of prices and expenses today, I do not think Rs 50,000 will be enough for the beneficiaries to stand on their own. They promised that even former New Land Use Policy (Congress flagship policy) beneficiaries would receive Rs 3 lakh, but their failure goes to show that they are liars. This is not a good reputation for a political party to set.”

When asked if the NLUP is similar to SEDP, he said, “Congress NLUP was project-based, some received over one lakh and some less than one lakh based on their project. It helped many families to start a livelihood. However, the amount that the MNF is distributing in their policy is just 16% of what they had promised. Before we launched in 2011, we conducted a baseline survey with the Young Mizo Association. Now they have not even done a baseline survey. The people who are selecting the beneficiaries are MNF unit members. It is just a favour to party members. Rs.50,000 will not change the attitude of people towards the MNF. ”

Two major parties have held governance in Mizoram since it gained statehood in 1986: the Congress government and the MNF. Both these parties have attempted to use flagship policies, wherein selected beneficiaries receive a certain sum of money to help their livelihood. However, the newly floated legislature party, Zoram People’s Movement has time and again spoken on the “flaws” of such policies and assured the people that they will move towards a new strategy.

“All these freebies or revdi culture as aptly called out these days have significant contribution in the economy through the purpose and implementation have been questioned by many. If we go back a decade earlier, NLUP had little impact on the preservation of the environment and ecology when we check with the Indian State of Forest Report as well as the contribution of the primary and secondary sectors had minimal changes. Instead of increasing contribution to the gross output, agriculture: both crop husbandry and animal husbandry are on the decline. Changes and progress in GSDP have been subjected to the contribution of Forestry and Logging. So, these policies of offering freebies have little impact on state economic progress and utter failure in implementing it causes far worse consequences in the morale of the public,” said TBC Lalvenchhunga, a Political Affairs Committee member of the ZPM party.

“Doling out roughly 8% of their pre-poll promises at the end of their 4th year shows a political agenda for the upcoming election, that too selected beneficiaries, count to just 20% of the eligible households. Hence, I want to clarify that these policies instead of solving the economic crisis of the state, aggravated the crisis and left heavy debt for tomorrow. What Mizoram needs for economic progress right now is transparency, rule of law and strong anti-corruption measures. There are various schemes and ongoing policies by the state as well as the Centre, but still need to reach the actual beneficiaries,” he said.

Also Read | Mizoram sees fresh influx of refugees after Myanmar Army raids


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