Special Correspondent

Estimated to cost Rs. 4,300 cr.; 1.57 crore people to benefit

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to expand the scope of the National Old Age Pension Scheme by including all senior citizens above 65 years of age and living below the poverty line. At present, the scheme is applicable only to destitutes above the age of 65.

Announcing the decision, Union Minister and Cabinet spokesperson Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said the scheme would be re-launched on November 19, birth anniversary former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It is estimated to cost Rs. 4,300 crore in the current financial year.

The scheme was being expanded following an announcement by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech. There would be no change in other details of the scheme. It is expected to benefit about 1.57 crore people.

Mr. Dasmunsi said the Cabinet considered a proposal to amend the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act. But, it postponed a decision as some technical issues had to be examined in greater detail.

Likewise, it considered a proposal to amend the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and decided to refer it to a Group of Ministers for further consideration.

Amendments to the Immoral Trafficking Act are understood to have encountered hurdles over a provision to bring clients under the law. Non-governmental organisations and sex workers have criticised the move on the ground that it would make prostitution go underground and defeat the efforts to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and to undertake rehabilitation scheme for sex workers.

Insurance scheme

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, which also met here on Thursday, approved the continuation of the Centrally-sponsored livestock insurance scheme in the current financial year on an outlay of Rs. 35 crore.

The scheme is being implemented for the past two years and its performance is being assessed. Pending the assessment, it has been extended for the current financial year, Union Minister and CCEA spokesperson P. Chidambaram said.