M A I N   N E W S

CM extends Ashirwad scheme to Rai Sikhs
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore, December 20
With an eye on Assembly elections, the Congress government, to win over Rai Sikhs who form a major chunk of vote bank in this border area, has decided to offer them sops extended to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh yesterday announced at Abohar Rai Sikhs would get 200 units of free electricity and the Ashirwad scheme under which Rs 15,000 is given by the government for the marriage of a girl of the community would also be granted to them.

On October 20, 2004, on his visit to Hazarasingh Wala Village in Guruharsahai Assembly segment represented by Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, the Chief Minister promised to Rai Sikhs SC status for which a case had been recommended to the Union Government for approval and gazette notification. The case pending with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment got withhold and could not see the light of the day.

With the Parliament session over and Assembly elections a couple of months away, the Congress was finding itself in a piquant situation due to delay in granting SC status to Rai Sikhs. So the Chief Minister decided to extend sops on behalf of the state government to avoid any displeasure of Rai Sikhs.

The Congress, in election manifesto, also promised that Rai Sikhs would be granted SC/ST status. Mr Rana Sodhi maintained the Congress had fulfilled the promise to Rai Sikhs and it was just a matter of time when they would enjoy status of SC/ST which would reduce their hardships. Mr Sodhi said the case was in final stages of approval by Parliament, the Congress regime extended certain facilities to Rai Sikhs in anticipation of the same.

Mr Sodhi said he with a delegation of Rai Sikhs had met both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi last month to urge them to instruct the ministry concerned to expeditely grant SC status to Rai Sikhs.

Rai Sikhs with over 3.5 lakh votes in the region play a significant role in the outcome of any election in this border area and no party can afford to displease them during elections.



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