Ashok Gehlot offers jobs, an innovative budget and a tough law on crime

Claiming that organised gangs of criminals from neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are involved in some of the most sensational crime, Rajasthan proposes stringent law to deal with them

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot

Prakash Bhandari

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot exudes confidence that his government’s innovative ‘people’s budget’, investment proposals attracted by the state and its no-nonsense approach to dealing with organised crime will help him counter anti-incumbency in the election. Rajasthan ‘model’, he is fond of saying, has proved to be superior to the much vaunted ‘Gujarat model’.

The Rajasthan budget this year allocated 18 per cent of the outlay to education, the highest by any state. By allocating 7.4 per cent to health and a whopping 10.3 per cent to rural development (compared to the average allocation of 6 per cent on health and 5.6 per cent respectively by other states), the government set a bar that will be difficult to match, say observers. Agriculture received an allocation of five per cent.

Equally significantly, Rajasthan has allocated the lowest in percentage terms to Police (three per cent) and roads and bridges (3.4 per cent) among the states.

People, ministers in the state government claim, have benefitted from various schemes like Chiranjeevi Swasthya Beema Yojana, which provides insurance up to Rs 25 lakhs for medicare even in private hospitals. By addressing the needs of the poor, the government has touched many lives and it gives them the confidence that they would be able to overcome anti-incumbency.

No incumbent government in the state has been re-elected during the last 45 years with power swinging from the BJP to the Congress and back to the BJP again. But Ashok Gehlot says he is confident of bucking the trend this time. This time we will change the ‘Rivaz’ (trend or ritual), he has been repeating, asserting that his government has redefined governance.

 Gehlot this time caught the opposition by surprise by waiting to make several announcements after the debate on the budget. One such announcement was related to one lakh jobs during the current financial year, most of them likely to be filled before November, when the assembly election is due.

The government is also buoyed by the investment flowing into the green energy sector in the state. A study carried out jointly by the MSME Export Promotion Council and Rajasthan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) pegs the ‘new’ investment proposals received during the last four years at over five lakh Crore Rupees.

Dr K L Jain, president RCCI and Dr D S Rawat chairman, MSME EPC also point out that projects worth Rs.7.03 lakh Cr are under implementation in the state according to data collected by the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE). The emphasis on micro, small and medium scale industry, coupled with streamlining of procedures, rules and regulations for ease of doing business, strengthening of ‘single window’ system and attractive incentives, they believe, were the key.

The government has come under fire, however, on law and order. The government, however, blames the opposition and the media for blowing up stray but sensational crime. Claiming that gangs from the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were committing crime in the state, the state cabinet met and approved the introduction of a stringent new law, Rajasthan Control of Organised Crime Bill, 2023 during the current budget session.

The Bill provides for death sentence or life imprisonment if such crime results in someone’s death, in addition to a minimum fine of one lakh Rupees. Giving shelter to members of criminal gangs will invite a minimum penalty of five lakh Rupees and imprisonment for five years, informed parliamentary affairs and urban development minister Shanti Dhariwal.

 Learning from the experience of Maharashtra in implementing a similar Bill, the Rajasthan Bill provides for special courts and  trial in closed courtrooms to keep the identity of witnesses secret. The stringent Bill also provides for demolition of property acquired through organised crime.

“We have also come out with a prison policy that would  curb crime in prisons,” says cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, exuding confidence that the state government would win the battle of attrition against organised crime.

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