Insurance for unorganised sector mooted

BANGALORE, FEB. 26. The Revenue Reforms Commission has recommended to the State Government abolition of the Department of Minor Irrigation, extension of multi-benefit insurance policies to unorganised sector workers, closing down of unviable sericulture farms, and setting up of an ombudsman investigate cases of fraud and irregularities in cooperative societies.

The commission Chairman and former Chief Minister, M. Veerappa Moily, told presspersons here today that the final report had suggested wide-ranging reforms in minor irrigation, labour and employment, agricultural farms, sericulture, and cooperative credit.

For optimal utilisation of the potential in minor irrigation, the commission recommended handing over all State-owned minor irrigation tanks to gram panchayat subcommittees that were constituted under the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993. It suggested transfer of engineers of the Department of Minor Irrigation to the zilla panchayat divisions and sub-divisions and recommended giving one-time assistance to gram panchayats for restoration and repair of tanks. This was estimated to cost Rs. 600 crores.

Stating that water rates for minor irrigation projects should be 25 per cent of the rates for major and medium irrigation projects, Mr. Moily said the report suggested that the Government make a strong case to the Centre for 50 per cent assistance to repair and restore minor irrigation tanks and to construct new tanks in drought-prone areas. The commission reiterated that incurring expenditure on tanks would be a waste of money if funds were not provided annually for their maintenance.

It recommended amending the Irrigation Act and Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993, to transfer the powers of water users' societies to the gram panchayat subcommittees and to provide powers to gram panchayats to take up activities recommended by the commission.

The report recommended comprehensive dry-land development by using watershed technology and tapping the potential of irrigation projects to create jobs and increase the income of farmers. The expansion of the Karnataka Milk Federation's (KMF) activities in north Karnataka, and adopting innovative methods in cottage industries, artisan units and small service centres in rural and urban areas would increase job opportunities, the report said.

Mr. Moily said the Labour Department should tie up with insurance firms and the Department of Posts to provide multi-benefit insurance policies for the unorganised sector. The benefits should include life insurance, healthcare, accident relief, education fund and housing loan.

To encourage private participation in the silk sector, the report suggested removal of the licence raj. The restrictions on import and export of cocoons and yarn must also go. It suggested that the Karnataka Silkworm Seed, Cocoon and Silk Yarn (Regulation of Production, Supply, Distribution and Sale) Act, 1959, be amended to achieve this. "Regulation has stunted the growth of sericulture," Mr. Moily said.

On cooperative audit, the report said the auditing of accounts of all cooperative societies with a share capital of Rs. 10 lakhs and above should be entrusted to chartered accountants. The commission recommended that the societies in which the Government had shares or had given financial aid to, should be brought under the supervision of the legislature. Major observations regarding misappropriation should be placed before the House, the report said.