5 Feb : The govt will expand the scope of National Social Assistance Programme to include about 40 lakh poor widows and persons with multiple disability for providing them a monthly pension of Rs 200.
"The Union Cabinet today approved to expand the scope of National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) to provide pension at the rate of Rs 200 per month per beneficiary (to widows and persons with severe and multiple disabilities)," Home Minister P Chidambaram said at New Delhi on Thursday.
Widows aged between 40-64 years and persons with severe and multiple disabilities in the age group of 18-64 years belonging to below poverty line (BPL) households will now be covered under NSAP.
The scheme is estimated to put an additional burden of Rs 1,691 crore annually on the exchequer. For the remaining period of the current fiscal, the scheme is likely to cost Rs 281.98 crore.
About 25 lakh widows in 40-64 age group in the BPL households are likely to be benefited from the scheme. Persons with severe and multiple disabilities in the required age group in BPL families are estimated to be at 15.65 lakh.
The current scheme covers only persons aged 65 years or higher, estimated to be around 1.57 crore.
Govt approves four highway projects worth Rs 3,230.80 cr
Stepping up the road development programme, the government on Thursday approved four projects worth Rs 3,230.80 crore for two-, four- and six-laning of sections of national highways in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka through public-private partnerships (PPP).
The approval for the projects was granted by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) which met at New Delhi on Thursday.
The projects include Rs 1,203.64 crore four/six laning of Jaipur-Tonk-Deoli section of NH 72 in Rajasthan and Rs 1,661.9 crore project for four laning of NH 6 at Surat-Hazra section in Gujarat, Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters.
"The project will be developed by the National Highways Authority of India through PPP and the concessionaire will be selected by NHAI following two stage bidding process," he said, adding that the second stage of bidding was in process.
The Cabinet committee also approved two laning of Beawar-Gomti section of NH 8 in Rajasthan and subsequently its four laning at a cost of Rs 200.54 crore, besides two laning of Hospet-Bellary section of NH 63 at a cost of Rs 162.56 crore, he said.
Chidambaram said CCEA also approved modification of the guidelines of the Sub Mission on Urban Infrastructure and Governance under JNNURM to facilitate funding of urban transport projects including purchase of buses.
Cabinet okays amendments to Rubber Act, 1947
The Cabinet also approved the amendments to the Rubber Act, 1947 saying that the Rubber (Amendement) Bill, 2009 will be introduced in the ensuing session of the Parliament.
Following the amendment, the definition of ‘small grower’ would be as one whose estate is not more than 10 hectares as against the existing limit of 20 hectares.
The provisions of registration of rubber estates, licence for planting or replanting are deleted, it said.
The Rubber Act, 1947, which is 60 years old, was last amended in 1994.
"Some of the provisions of the Rubber Act, 1947 have become redundant over the years. The rubber sector has also undergone a lot of changes over the years and particularly, as a result of the regime of economic liberalisation," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters.
The Cabinet said that the amended Act will empower the government to grant exemption or reduction of any cess on rubber produced in the country or exported if it is considered necessary in public interest.
It will also enable the government to specify zero paise per kilo as the rate of cess on natural rubber produced in India and procured for export from April 1961 to 31st August 2003, it said.
The Cabinet said the amended Act will also empower the Board to implement the standards for quality, marking, libelling and packing for various marketable forms of rubber produced and processed in the country and also on the rubber imported and exported from India.
To give fresh impetus to the Board, a single fund will replace the existing ‘General fund’ and ‘Pool fund’ for smooth flow of money, it said, adding that amendment will provide the government representation in the Board.
Rs 500-cr supplementary aid granted for loss on cotton buying
The government has allocated a supplementary Non-plan budgetary grant of Rs 500 crore to compensate state-owned procurement agencies that have incurred losses by purchasing raw cotton at MSP to provide remunerative prices to farmers.
"The Union Cabinet today approved the allocation of supplementary Non-plan budgetary grant to the tune of Rs 500 crore in the current fiscal to meet the commitment towards reimbursement of losses," Home Minister P Chidambaram said, briefing the media about the decisions taken by the Cabinet on Thursday.
The government has also asked its major procurement agency, the Cotton Corporation of India, to dispose of the cotton procured at the MSP by offering discount for bulk purchases as has been the practice by the Maharashtra State Co-operative Cotton Growers Marketing Federation, he said.
The minister said the grant is meant to reimburse the losses under the purchase of the raw cotton at the support prices to "protect the farmers’ interests in the event of domestic prices ruling below the MSP".
The government has sharply increased the MSP of standard cotton (long staple) to Rs 3,000 per quintal for 2008-09 from Rs 2,030 in the previous year.
The MSP of medium staple cotton has been raised to Rs 2,500 from Rs 1,800 per quintal.
Govt allots Rs 746 cr to develop fishery sector
The government on Thursday decided to allot Rs 746 crore to develop marine fisheries and infrastructure in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12).
"The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the proposal of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries for continuation of the centrally sponsored scheme on ‘Development of marine fisheries, infrastructure and post harvest operations’ in the 11th Plan with an outlay of Rs 746," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting.
Under the scheme, funds would be utilised to empower traditional fishermen through motorisation of their craft, assist small scale mechanised sector by subsidising excise duty on fuel and improve safety of fishers in sea, CCEA said.
Infrastructure will also be developed under the scheme by establishing 10 new fishing harbours, 30 fish landing centres and repairing and renovating the existing 15 fishing harbours and fish landing centres, it said.
It would also improve post harvest component. Central fish markets, fish retail outlets, cold storage and transportation facilities will be set up, it added.
CCEA, also decided to continue the Directorate of Oilseeds Research and All India Coordinated Research Projects on sunflower, safflower and castor.