You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Kerala govt plans welfare pension for over 5 million during Onam

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-08-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: Kerala’s generous social security measures will hit a new record in the upcoming Onam festival season next month.

During the festival, the state’s Communist government will disburse pensions to more than 5 million people, the highest ever in the state’s history, Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

According to the finance ministry, the increase in the current year is due to a decision of the government to enhance welfare pensions considerably, after coming out with a unified comprehensive list of those who are eligible.

The move will increase the state’s pension bill for the season to Rs2,500 crore. Ironically, it comes at a time when the state government has claimed that its coffers are stressed because of the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST).

But the government does not think financial distress should come in the way of offering assistance to the poor, said Isaac on his Facebook page on Thursday. A finance ministry official, who did not wish to be named, said that the government has decided to take a Rs6,000 crore loan from the open market, in order to distribute salaries and pension, and overcome the slump in tax collection because of GST.

The majority of people who are receiving welfare pension under the state scheme belong to five categories—old age pensioners, farmers and farm labourers, the differently abled, widows and unmarried women above 50. Pensions across all categories were increased by Rs100 to Rs1,100 in this year’s budget. In effect, the increase in the number of pension beneficiaries is part of a plan to include all elderly people who have less than two acres of land and who don’t pay income tax in Kerala.

This is one of many initiatives taken by the Left Front government to increase the coverage of the state’s extensive welfare measures. It launched a universal health care programme, Aardram Mission, last year, the implementation of which is still in the works. The aim is to improve accessibility to affordable public hospitals at a cost of Rs2,000 crore for the public exchequer, offer free treatment for certain diseases like cancer, among other things.

It has also done considerable work to enhance the food security net. The state was following a practice of giving near universal food subsidies, but with the mandatory implementation of National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2016, the number of people who were getting subsidized food grains in Kerala was reduced by one-third, as per government estimates. This is because after NFSA, the Union government which foots the bulk of states’ food subsidy, reduced its payment to only a “priority list”, under a policy of targeted subsidies. Responding to this, the Kerala government included into universal food the same number of people excluded by the NFSA for food subsidies at the state’s own expense of Rs900 crore this year.

In, another major decision, the Kerala government in May launched a mission to provide housing for the homeless. As many as 70,000 houses will be constructed by March 2018, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday. On Facebook, Isaac urged the Union government, which has been toying with the idea of universal basic income, to take the lead from the social security measures in Kerala.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon