Bengal has become the first state to opt out of the ambitious National Health Protection Scheme unveiled in the Union Budget — and dubbed Modicare — with chief minister Mamata Banerjee announcing on Tuesday that the state will not “waste” its hard-earned resources to contribute its share of 40 percent to the program.

“The Centre has drawn up a health plan in which 40 percent of the fund has to come from state governments. But why should the state spend on another program when it already has its own scheme? A state will have its own scheme if it has the resources,” the Bengal CM said, adding: “We have made hospitalization and treatment free in Bengal. We have done it even after the Centre takes away Rs 48,000 crore a year for debt-servicing the loan liability left behind by the preceding CPM government.”

Banerjee, speaking at a public meeting in Krishnagar on Tuesday, pointed out that the Bengal government had already enrolled 50 lakh people under its own Swasthya Sathi programme. Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant has pegged the expenses for the center's health plan for the poor at Rs 5,500-6,000 crore in the first year. The Center has made a provisional allocation of Rs 2,000 crore and wants states to bear the remaining expenses.

The Bengal CM also referred to the paltry allocation for PM Narendra Modi’s Beti Bachao project. “The centre has floated a Beti Bachao project with a paltry allocation of Rs 100 crore for the entire country; the Bengal government has provided for Rs 5,000 crore for its own Kanyashree project,” the CM said.

Banerjee’s next target is the “bail-in” clauses under the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill that proposes to allow banks to make customers bear a portion of the bank’s losses. “The centre has now come up with an FRDI Bill that allows banks to take away a portion of your fixed deposits. We have asked them to withdraw this bill. This will lead people away from banks at a time when we are asking depositors against parking their hard-earned money in chit funds,” Banerjee said.

“They took away homamakers’ Lakshmir bhanr (piggy banks) during demonetization, brought everyone under GST and dealt a blow to small traders and businessmen. Now they are eyeing fixed deposits,” the CM said.

She also ticked off the Modi government for touting its pro-farmer policies when “as many as 12,000 farmers committed suicide all over the country”. “The highest death toll comes from BJP-ruled Maharashtra,” she said, announcing her alternative Bengal model.

“Our government has waived land rent for farmers. We also gave Rs 1200 crore as relief to about 30 lakh farmers’ families when their crops were damaged by unseasonal rain. We have also hiked the monthly pension for aged farmers by Rs 250 a month,” the CM said, with an appeal to people to elect Trinamool Congress candidates in the coming panchayat polls.

Banerjee, aware of the BJP surge in certain pockets of Nadia, announced several development projects, from setting up an education hub and an All-India Institute of Medical Sciences campus in Kalyani to developing Mayapur as a world heritage centre and Nabadwip as a heritage city.

“Do not  heed the BJP campaign and break your home. Keep in mind that this district was the birthplace of Shri Chaitanya, whose disciple was a Muslim. We will not learn Hinduism from BJP. They will set your home on fire and disappear,” she said. – TOI 

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