Home » Education Loans » Why Shivraj Singh Chouhan is offering social sector schemes as a post-Covid-19 palliative

Why Shivraj Singh Chouhan is offering social sector schemes as a post-Covid-19 palliative

As Covid cases decline in numbers, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has begun to focus on a post-Covid response by his government. He proposes to implement a series of welfare measures that will not only ease the suffering of those affected by Covid but also hopefully blunt the anger against the government’s failure to anticipate the second wave.

Chouhan, now in his fourth term as chief minister, knows only too well how social sector schemes can end up yielding political dividend. In his early days as chief minister, he had launched the ‘Laadli Laxmi’ scheme, followed by Sambal, an umbrella initiative of welfare measures that covered from women and children to the health and power sector.

The second wave of Covid that struck the country in early April hit Madhya Pradesh equally hard. Like elsewhere in the country, the state too saw shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicine, as also a large number of deaths, the exact magnitude of which is still a subject of debate. The state government came in for criticism for its handling of Covid as people ran from hospital to hospital in search of beds and oxygen. Therefore, as cases began to come down in May, the government got cracking on outlining a post-Covid response, after focusing its energies on tackling the immediate crisis of bed, oxygen and drug shortages. “Covid has not been eradicated and we cannot let our guard down, but we also need to think of welfare measures for those on whom Covid took a toll,” says a senior MP government official.

In the last week of May, therefore, the chief minister announced a number of initiatives targeted to help Covid victims. Prominent among them are schemes for children who have been orphaned by Covid, the families of government employees and frontline staff who lost their lives to Covid and subsidised treatment for all.

“The government focused purely on the response to Covid for a long time, but now there seems to be an attempt to rehabilitate those impacted by Covid,” says Girija Shankar, a political analyst. “Shivraj Singh Chouhan has always believed in social sector initiatives and his response to this (Covid) crisis is on similar lines. Many state governments are not thinking of the political fallout of Covid right now.”
However, by-elections have already become due in three seats in the state assembly due to the incumbent MLAs succumbing to Covid. Helping alleviate some of the scars of the pandemic is expected to act as a balm against public anger.

It will be complicated, though. Will people who recovered from Covid and tested negative but subsequently died of Covid-related complications be considered Covid victims? Or will they be outside the ambit of these initiatives? Financially too, the state’s resources are already stretched, with the lockdown further impacting revenue collections. Financing these new initiatives without hurting capital expenditure is another tightrope walk the government has to do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *