New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a national health policy aimed at providing affordable healthcare and increased dearness allowance (DA) and dearness relief with effect from the start of the year—a decision that will benefit millions of central government employees and pensioners.
Details of the national health policy were not disclosed and are expected to be announced on Thursday, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
The decision to increase dearness allowance and dearness relief will benefit about 4.89 million central government employees and 5.55 million pensioners. The increase in dearness allowance will cost the exchequer Rs5,857.28 crore and the rise in dearness relief Rs6,833.50 crore in the 14 months from January 2017 to February 2018.
“It has increased by 2% over the existing rate of 2% of the basic pay/pension, to compensate for price rise," a government statement said.
Retail inflation quickened for the first time in six months to 3.65% in February from 3.17% a month ago as food inflation reversed its downward trend.
Food price inflation accelerated in February to 2.01% from 0.61% on the back of higher fruit and fuel prices. In its last policy statement, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had said that excluding food and fuel, inflation has been unyielding at 4.9% since September.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) approved marketing and pricing freedom for Coal Bed Methane (CBM) contractors. Coal-mine methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.
The policy is expected to boost gas production and also generate economic activities which will lead to more employment opportunities. It will also help in India’s energy security efforts by attracting more explorers to CBM.
CBM contractors have also been permitted to sell their output to affiliate, in the event contractor cannot identify any buyer. Royalty and other dues to the government will be payable on the basis of prices set by the Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell (PPAC) or selling prices, whichever are higher, the statement said.
CCEA approved expanding the Handia-Varanasi section of National Highway 2 to six lanes. The project is estimated to cost Rs2,147.33 crore, including the cost of land acquisition and re-settlement. The total length of the road will be around 73 km.
The cabinet panel gave in-principle approval to Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (Indian Oil) to sell its 24% equity in Lubrizol India Pvt. Ltd (LIPL) to its joint venture partner Lubrizol Corp.
In a boost to education, CCEA approved opening of 50 new Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) under the civil/defence sector at a total cost of Rs1,160 crore.
“The new KVs will be opened from classes 1 to V for which 650 regular posts will be created. The schools will grow every year with the addition of one higher class. This will eventually lead to the creation of 4,000 regular posts of various categories ranging from teaching to non-teaching. It is estimated that 50,000 students will benefit from the opening of these schools," the statement explained.
The cabinet cleared the introduction of the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Public Private Partnership (IIIT PPP) Bill, 2017. The bill seeks to grant statutory status to the 15 Indian Institutes of Information Technology in the public-private partnership mode and declare them institutions of national importance. It will also enable these institutions to grant degrees to their students in the academic courses conducted by them.