Ahead of the assembly polls in Assam, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday launched the Assam Chah Bagichar Dhan Puraskar Mela scheme at Khanapara in Guwahati.

Under the scheme financial assistance would be provided to tea garden workers of the state.

Sitharam ceremonially distributed Rs 3000 each to nearly 8 lakh tea garden labourers at an estimated expense of Rs 280 crore. A total of 7,46,667 tea workers received the amount as the third tranche of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

The union minister also deliberated on the budget during the event. Sitharaman’s visit comes just a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crucial rally at Dekhiajuli.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Rameshwar Teli, Minister of State for Labour and Tea Tribes Welfare Sanjay Kishan, Rajya Sabha, Member of Parliament(MP) Kamakhya Prasad Tasa and other dignitaries were present at the programme.

The Chief Minister called for Aatma Nirbhar Assam, “Our tea garden people who earlier didn’t have Bank accounts. We discussed the issue and immediately opened over 8 lakh bank accounts. We will have to work hard and make Assam one of the top states. We will have to make Assam Aatma Nirbhar.”

Assam Health, Finance and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma speaking at the ceremonial distribution event announced many welfare initiatives for the tea tribe in the state.

Sarma assured the workers that the Assam government will soon increase the tea garden workers’ wages from Rs 167 to Rs 351. He further said that the government would make sure that the children of each tea garden worker have access to education and financial assistance.

“There were only LP and ME schools in the tea gardens but from May 1, the newly-built High schools in 199 tea gardens of Assam will start operations. The Assam government has also reserved seats for the tea garden students in medical and engineering colleges across Assam. Also, 10% seats will be reserved at all colleges located near the tea gardens for tea garden students, and in schools, breakfast will be served to the children of the community in addition to mid-day meal,” Sarma said.

Also, the government has spent Rs 1,400 crore in building roads in tea gardens and within the next two years each and every road in the tea gardens of Assam will be made pucca, the minister said.