New Delhi: The Union government wants to expand the scope of the National Social Assistance Programme, or NSAP, a welfare fund, to include about four million poor widows, besides people with multiple disability—to provide each of them a monthly pension of Rs200, which is likely to put an extra burden of Rs1,691 crore a year on the government.
“The cabinet today (Thursday) approved (a proposal) to expand the scope of NSAP to provide pension at the rate of Rs200 per month (to widows and persons with severe and multiple disabilities),” home minister P. Chidambaram said. Widows aged between 40 and 64 and people in the age group of 18-64 from below poverty line, or BPL, households, who have multiple disabilities, will now be covered by NSAP.
Meanwhile, allocating more projects for Bihar ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the government on Thursday approved the setting up of an electric as well as a diesel locomotive manufacturing plant in the state.
While the electric locomotive factory will be constructed at Madhepura, the diesel locomotive factory will come up in Marhowra, both strongholds of railway minister Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, or RJD.
The factories are proposed to be set up as joint ventures between the railways and a leading international manufacturer, who will also bring state-of-the-art technology, Chidambaram said. He said the railways will hold a 26% stake in the new entity.
The railways will procure 800 electric locomotives and 1,000 diesel locomotives each from these two factories over 10 years, he said. These locomotives will be maintained by the joint venture company for 25-26 years, the minister said.
The joint venture partner will be selected through international competitive bidding.
The cabinet also approved amendments to the Rubber Act 1947, saying that the Rubber (Amendment) Bill, 2009, will be introduced in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
Following the amendment, a “small grower” would be defined as one whose estate is not more than 10ha against the existing limit of 20ha.
Chidambaram said a new centre is expected to come up in Bangalore in four months to expedite processing of income-tax returns and issuing of refunds.
“The centre will enable the income-tax department to process the returns and issue refunds expeditiously,” Chidambaram said.
He said the workflow in the centre will be managed by the departmental officers and staff who would be assisted by vendor-supplied staff.
While the departmental officers and staff will be responsible for logistics, coordination and sovereign responsibilities, the vendor would be responsible for developing software for processing returns and tax accounting.
The process of selecting the vendor is in the final stages, Chidambaram said.
Chidambaram also voiced concern over the loss of lives in embattled Sri Lanka, and asked the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, to lay down arms and come to the negotiating table. “We are deeply anguished at the loss of lives. We are not happy that the Sri Lankan government has resumed hostilities. It is for both sides to cease hostilities,” Chidambaram told reporters.