Finance Minister K.M. Mani is used to being referred to in glowing terms whenever there is a mention about the Karunya Benevolent Fund, an innovative scheme linked to the sales proceeds of a State-run lottery, which has provided free medical assistance to the tune of Rs.200 crore to thousands who could not afford their huge health-care expenses.

On Wednesday, Mr. Mani, could not hide the hint of a slow Cheshire cat grin on his face, when Deputy Leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan went uncharacteristically effusive in his praise of ‘Mani sir,’ who, he said, had worked so quietly to help innumerable impoverished families meet crucial medical care expenses.

The occasion was the State-sponsored public function here to announce the Karunya Benevolent Fund scheme’s success story in having disbursed Rs.200 crore for the medical expenses of 20,000 persons, in a matter of 20 months.

In what could apparently be seen as a veiled reference to the Chief Minister’s mass contact programme, efficiently stage-managed by a well-oiled State PR machinery, Mr. Balakrishnan said that what was remarkable about Karunya Benevolent Fund was the manner in which ‘Mani sir’ had made it the most successful and beneficial scheme of the government, without any publicity-mongering.

“In our State, I see people jostling in long queues from dawn till dusk to secure a mere cash benefit of Rs.5,000. My praise of ‘Mani sir’ is boundless, for he has managed to provide Rs.200 crore relief to 20,000 families across State without making a big deal of it,” Mr. Balakrishnan said.

Satisfying experience

Mr. Mani, who inaugurated the function, said that the Karunya Benevolent Fund experience had been the most satisfying and heartening event in his long innings as a public servant.

He said that when he was drawing up the scheme, he had not realised that the scheme would be so big or that finding funds for medical care was such a huge burden on families in the State. This was one government scheme where no red tapes would come in the way of anyone seeking assistance. The scope for the scheme was big and it would be widened further to meet all health-care requirements of the poor, Mr. Mani said. The Finance Minister announced that the medical assistance provided to haemophilia patients under the Karunya Benevolent Fund would not be limited to Rs.2 lakh and that the government would provide further assistance to haemophilia patients for continuous treatment, on the basis of hospital bills.

He also said that Karunya Homes would be started in five government medical colleges (MCHs) utilising the proceeds from Karunya lottery, where those accompanying the patients could stay. Recognising the requirement for dialysis among a large section of the population, the Karunya dialysis units were being set up in five MCHs and 27 district and taluk hospitals.

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