Gold, laptops, freebies galore in AIADMK poll manifesto

Continuing the politics of giveaways that has come to mark Tamil Nadu, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has promised a slew of freebies in its manifesto for the 16 May assembly elections, promising a mobile phone to all ration card holders, 100 units of free power, and Wi-Fi in public places if it is voted to power for another term.

Strategically timed on a day when Congress President Sonia Gandhi was scheduled to address a poll rally along with electoral ally DMK's president M Karunanidhi, the manifesto was unveiled by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at a public rally.

Highlighting key aspects of the manifesto containing series of populist measures covering various sectors, she promised that steps will be taken to ensure employment to one member of each household through various programmes including vocational training.

She said her government will provide 100 units of power to all households under the present consumption calculation method, saying it will benefit 78 lakh consumers "who need not pay electricity bills," if it came to effect.

"The free laptop scheme for students of Classes XI and XII will continue and free internet connection will be provided along with this," she said amidst loud cheers from the large gathering in a rural town in Western Tamil Nadu.

Free gold
Jayalalithaa promised to increase financial assistance under a maternity scheme from Rs12,000 to Rs18,000 and promised to double the quantum of gold for thali (mangal sutra) from the existing four gm.

Further, the party assured to give a Rs500 coupon for people to buy handloom clothes from state-run Co-optex during the harvest festival of Pongal.

Waiver of cooperative farm loans, creation of Amma Venture Capital Fund of Rs500 crore to promote first generation entrepreneurs, a Rs100 crore Amma Collateral Guarantee Fund to provide collateral-free loans to SMEs were some of the other promises made in the manifesto.

The manifesto also said government will repay educational loans of persons who are unemployed, and assured to provide 50 per cent subsidy for women to buy scooter or moped.

The party promised to provide 'Amma Banking Card' in association with banks and this can be used for all banking transactions and receive government services.

In the farm sector, AIADMK promised to give Rs40,000 crore of crop loan for the 2016-21 five year period, and assured to expedite mechanisation of farming activities besides a host of other welfare measures including various subsidies.

Genetically-modified seeds will not be allowed in the state and nature farming will be encouraged, it said and reiterated its commitment against implementation of Coal Bed Methane and shale gas projects in the Cauvery delta area as well as the GAIL pipeline through farmlands in the state.

On the inter-state river disputes, the AIADMK manifesto promised to strive for 'complete implementation' of the 2007 final award of the Cauvery Tribunal while efforts will be taken to raise the water storage level at Mullaperiar in Kerala to 152 ft.

For fishermen, the party promised hiking the dole during fishing ban period to Rs 5,000, a separate housing scheme for them and retrieving the islet katchatheevu from Sri Lanka.