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Ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, the Odisha government on Monday decided to distribute Rs 1,000 one-time assistance to all ration card holders and provide interest-free loans up to Rs 1 lakh to 200,000 youths of the state.

The cabinet of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik approved a total of 26 proposals, including the distribution of Rs 1,000 livelihood assistance to 9,590,000 PDS beneficiary families, state Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

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The minister said that the public distribution system (PDS) beneficiary families face hardship in fetching different items for consumption due to the rise in market prices, which is why the one-time assistance would be provided.

The government also decided to provide two jute bags of 20 kg and 10 kg capacity to each of the PDS families for their daily use, free of cost, Nayak said, adding that the fund requirement for procurement and distribution of the jute bags will amount to Rs 278.69 crore.

Similarly, for providing one-time livelihood assistance of Rs 1,000 per family, the minister said another Rs 959.05 crore will be required. A total of Rs 1,237.74 crore will be borne out of the state budget.

He said under the new government scheme ‘Swayam’ to create self-employment for youth, 1 lakh eligible rural and an equal number of urban youths in the age group of 18-35 years will receive interest-free loans of up to Rs 1 lakh for starting a new business or expanding an existing one.

The scheme will be operational for two years and Rs 672 crore will be spent from the state’s coffers.

There will be no collateral or processing fee for this loan and the repayment period will be four years, which includes a moratorium period varying from 3 to 6 months as prescribed by the financial institution concerned, he said.

The state cabinet also approved the umbrella scheme Mukhyamantri Maschyajibi Kalyan Yojana (MMKY), which will be implemented during the 2023-24 fiscal with a total budget outlay of nearly Rs 448 crore.

This scheme aims at providing livelihood benefits to 50,000 fishermen, including 11,000 women SHG members directly, and more than 100,000 fishermen indirectly, Chief Secretary Pradeep Kumar Jena said.

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