The programme is a co-contributory pension scheme for over 1 crore members of SHGs

Scheme being implemented in a record time of 90 days after Dr. Reddy announced it

HYDERABAD: The much-hyped ‘Abhaya Hastam’, the co-contributory pension scheme launched by the Congress Government for the over a crore members of self-help group, virtually floored AICC president Sonia Gandhi here on Friday.

Complimenting Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy for conceiving the pension scheme, Ms. Gandhi said it would provide security to women as they grew old. “I am happy that the men in the State are listening to the advice of women to start the ‘Abhaya Hastam’ programme, she remarked.

She made this remark after the Government went all out to showcase the ambitious programme that ensures a monthly pension of Rs. 500 to SHG members on attaining the age of 60 years.

Ms. Gandhi, who later gave away pension bonds to five women, viewed a power point presentation by Principal Secretary, Rural Development, K. Raju, giving an insight into the scheme that was implemented in a record time of 90 days after Dr. Reddy announced it in November.

Interaction

The Congress president made a 25-minute-long stopover at the Begumpet airport for an interaction with SHG leaders on arrival here on a whistlestop tour of the State. She said the initiative for women empowerment in Andhra Pradesh was often referred to by Indian participants at international seminars and symposia. Praising the thrift groups, she said they had set a worthy example to the world with their performance and fiscal discipline.

Three beneficiaries of the pension scheme -- Satya Kumari (Nalgonda), Lakshmi Siva Kumar (East Godavari) and Jayamma (Prakasam) -- eulogised the Congress Government for giving them the much needed hope in the twilight of their lives.

“At a time when girl child is discriminated, the Congress Government has given us the respect,” Satya Kumari said. Ms. Jayamma aptly summed up by saying that ‘Abhaya Hastam’ was the hand of hope for the women in the State, who were now ready to lead a life with confidence.