A first batch of elderly farmers will get their first pension packets from the State government on the auspicious Malayalam New Year day that falls on August 17.

Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran said here on Thursday that Kerala would thus become the first State in the country to launch a pension scheme for farmers. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan would launch the scheme at a function here on Monday.

Another function is being organised on the same day at Mancompu, within the rice-growing tracts of Kuttanad, where Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas would hand out the cheques to the first batch of pensioners.

The pension amount now is Rs.300 a month. Farmers above the age of 60, growing rice in fields extending from 10 cents (about 0.4 hectare) to two hectares in area, earning at least 50 per cent of their annual income from cultivation and getting no other welfare pension were eligible for this pension, Mr. Ratnakaran said.

They would also get an assistance of Rs.25,000 each at the time of their daughters’ wedding. For the time being, this assistance would be only for one daughter in each case. And also, the maximum number of pensioners who would get this assistance a year was being fixed at 250.

The Minister said that nearly 10,000 elderly farmers would get the pension. There were not too many other rice farmers in the range described who were not getting some other pension or the other. In the next stage, farmers of other crops too would be included in the scheme and additional benefits such as scholarships for children too will be included. When the pensioner dies, half the pension amount would be sanctioned as family pension to the life partner.

He said a welfare fund would be set up to run the scheme. Besides the contribution from the State government’s budget, contributions from well-meaning people too would sustain the fund. A separate treasury account would be opened in the name of the Agriculture Director to hold the fund. ‘Kissan Abhiman’ (Farmers’ Pride) is the name of the scheme.