Ajit Pawar asks CM to consider limiting the scheme to people with not more than two children

The Maharashtra government launched the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Arogya Yojana here on Sunday, enabling families with annual income of less than Rs. 1 lakh to avail free medical facilities worth Rs. 1.5 lakh. Health Minister Suresh Shetty announced that this scheme, when fully implemented, would benefit close to 2.5 crore families.

However, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, while praising the scheme, lamented the rising rate of population in the State. Mr. Pawar asked Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to consider making the scheme available for people with not more than two children.

Population control

Speaking at a public function here, Mr. Pawar said: “After a specific time frame of say, about a year, we should make it a rule that people with more than two children will not be eligible for the health card. This will help us in ensuring population control.” Maharashtra, under its State population policy of 2000, has accepted the two children “small family norm” as a criterion for the implementation of its policies. Free education for all children can only be availed for the first and the second child; candidates with more than two children are not eligible for the civic elections and under the Maharashtra Water Act, farmers with more than two children have to pay one and a half times water tariff to get the water entitlements.

Mr. Chavan, however, chose not to respond to Mr. Pawar's demand in his address. “Ninety per cent of the people will benefit from the scheme,” he stated.

The Yojana, which will be run in a public private partnership (PPP) mode with the National Insurance Company, will be first implemented in eight “most needy” districts in Phase-1, benefiting 50 lakh families. The beneficiaries will each get a health insurance policy, the EMIs of which will be paid by the State government.

The tribal district of Gadchiroli is one of the eight districts chosen, along with Amravati, Mumbai, suburban Mumbai, Solapur, Raigad, Nanded and Dhule. According to Mr. Shetty, Maharashtra will be the only State to ensure cashless health service for the poor. The implementation of the scheme will cost the State Rs. 800 crore, he stated.

Asked by The Hindu if he agreed with Mr. Pawar's suggestion, Mr. Shetty said he was merely voicing his opinion. “The Deputy CM [Mr. Pawar] just expressed his personal view. For now, the scheme is open for everyone. We do not know what will happen in the future,” he said.