Govt opens populist basket

Central Schemes To Benefit Indebted Farmers, Disabled Workers

New Delhi

Dipping further into its populist basket, the government on Thursday cleared social sector packages covering a gamut of target groups. The intended beneficiaries include indebted farmers, the girl child and disabled workers.  This is being seen in political circles as the latest in a series of announcements by the UPA in preparation of elections. What lends credence to the argument is the cabinet’s inability to approve higher foreign investment limits in a host of sectors, including aviation, commodity exchanges and credit information companies.  In a move which is expected to encourage private companies to hire the disabled, the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) decided to take over the employer’s contribution to the Employees Provident Fund and Employees State Insurance for which it intends to spend Rs 1,800 crore till March 2012.

The scheme, the result of dwindling employment in the state sector, will be applicable to disabled employees drawing a salary of up to Rs 25,000 per month. While the move is being packaged as major bonanza for the disabled, the government contribution in EPF and ESIC will be restricted to three years. During the period of assistance, the employer will have to pay the 1.1% administrative charge.  Initially, both organisations will be provided Rs 5 crore each and considering the requirement, the amount will be subsequently enhanced, I&B minister PR Dasmunshi said. In addition, there is a fresh package of Rs 530 crore for distressed farmers in 31 debt-ridden districts of suicide-prone Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. The latest package is aimed at helping farmers whose loans were overdue in July 2006.   The CCEA also approved enhancing the coverage of the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme. Now rural blocks with under 30% female literacy will qualify to be treated as educationally backward, while 94 out of the 338 towns and cities with concentration of minority population and literacy rate under the 54% national average will have access to additional residential schools for girls.

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