Another SAD poll promise to be tweaked, now free cycles only for Class IX schoolgirls

Even as a Rs 38-crore Bell 429 helicopter has arrived to ferry the Badals, Punjab is mulling yet another austerity cut in the ruling party's lavish poll manifesto. With Class XII students still awaiting tablets, now the cash-strapped government is trying to be economical on its poll promise of providing free bicycles for schoolgirls from Classes IX to XI.

The Badal government had distributed free bicycles to girl students in Classes XI and XII under the Mai Bhago scheme in the run up to January 2012 polls. The manifesto promised to widen the scope of the scheme from Classes IX to XII. Since Class XI students are now in Class XII, the state Department of Social Security, Women and Child Development has sent an estimate of 2.7 lakh cycles for the three classes, entailing an expense of Rs 75 crore, to the finance department .

However, it has only been sanctioned Rs 30 crore enough to provide cycles to 1.1 lakh girls studying in Class IX. Thus, saving the government Rs 45 crore.

"Since Class IX student can use the cycle till Class XII, the government need not provide any to students of Classes X, XI and XII. So the poll promise will be tweaked a little, but fulfilled," a senior official in the finance department said.

According to sources, a final decision on the matter is likely to be taken in a meeting of the inter-department committee next week. Meanwhile, tenders invited by controller (Stores) under the industries department have been opened. Seven and eight bids have been received respectively for cycles of two sizes 20 and 22 inches. The lowest rate quoted is marginally higher than previous one (2011) and each cycle will approximately cost Rs 2,600 to Rs 2700, including taxes.

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