Rajasthan: Gehlot govt reverses key Raje decisions

Direct election of mayors, revitalising MGNREGA, increasing old-age pension, reopening closed-down universities are some of the key decisions of the state cabinet

Rajasthan: Gehlot govt reverses key Raje decisions

Prakash Bhandari

The Ashok Gehlot government’s first state cabinet meeting spent its time on reversing some of the awkward decisions of the last BJP government of Vasundhara Raje. The Gehlot government reversed four key decisions of the last government. The most significant one was a return to the old system of people directly electing the mayors in the city corporations and chairpersons in various municipal boards.

The cabinet also decided that the Congress manifesto issued before the Assembly election would be given to the state government's Chief Secretary for making sure that the promises on the manifesto are fulfilled.

The government has already announced the promised farm loan waiver. The cabinet decided to form a committee of inter-departmental officials to formulate the policy under which the loans would be waived off. It was decided that this should be a speedy process and implemented as soon as possible.

The Gehlot government, with a view to improve connect with the public, has made it a part of the official duty of all ministers to meet people Between 9 and 10 AM every day. This has been done with the view to possibly revive the Rajasthan Rights to Hearing Act 2012 which was dumped by the last BJP government.

Shanti Dhariwal, Minister for Urban Development and Housing, said about the return to the old system of electing mayors and chairpersons of municipal boards, “The idea is to ensure that the people elect the mayors and the chairpersons by choosing someone they find worthy. We started this process in 2008 with a view to keep the mayors and the chairpersons out of the pressures exerted by councillors and corporators. Previously, a few councillors and corporators would join hands to oust a particular chairperson. It’s like a Lok sabha election where people belonging to different Assembly segments vote to elect the person to represent them in Parliament. All the processes of the local bodies election would be binding on the election of the head of the local bodies.”

Jyoti Khandelwal, former Mayor of Jaipur who was also the first directly elected mayor in Rajasthan, welcomed the decision, saying “It’s the democratic right of the people to choose their own mayor. As Mayor, that allowed me to rise above petty politics, in which corporators get involved, to care for the civic rights of the people.

The new cabinet also decided to review the MNREGA as the last BJP government had almost reduced this national rural employment programme to zero. The new government decided to revive MNREGA with a new spirit and create more man-days, thus ensuring that the rural people work more and earn better.

The BJP government had introduced a system under which minimum educational qualifications were necessary to stand for elections in various panchayat bodies. The Gehlot government has decided to abolish this. Now, no educational qualification would be required.

The cabinet also decided to raise the pension amount of senior citizens. The pension for men above 58 years and women above 55 years has been increased from ₹500 to ₹750 every month and, for those above 75 years, the amount has been revised from ₹750 to ₹1000 a month.

“This is a welcome decision and it shows the sensitivity of the government towards senior citizens. This additional amount would help them live with dignity in a small way. But I hope in the next budget, the sensitive Congress government would increase this substantially,” said Triloki Das Khandelwal, a pioneer for the rights of senior citizens who heads the Social Security Foundation of India.

The BJP government had shut down Ambedkar University and Harideo Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication, both created by the Congress government. It was decided to revive both. A new enactment would be introduced in the Assembly.

The cabinet also discussed the drought situation in 13 districts. The state government would announce the relief package soon.

The 25-member cabinet, including Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, is representative of the various regions of the state and the caste composition of Rajasthan.

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