Food security bill near ready, hike in social sector spending

February 28th, 2011 - 5:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Monday the National Food Security Bill that aims to provide subsidised foodgrains to the poor was almost finalised and would be introduced in parliament this year. The allocation for social sector programmes was to be increased by 17 percent to Rs.1,60,887 crore.Pointing out that the country has carried for long the burden of hunger and malnutrition, Mukherjee in his budget speech said the United Progressive Alliance government was close to finalisation of the National Food Security Bill after detailed consultations with all stakeholders including state governments.

Hiking the allocation for the social sector, he said: “The proposed allocation of Rs.1,60,887 crore for social sector in 2011-12 is an increase of 17 percent over the current year. It amounts to 36.4 percent of the total plan allocation,” he said.

The minister said the government’s flagship programmes have been the principal
instrument for implementing its agenda for inclusive development and allocation for Bharat Nirman was proposed to be increased by Rs.10,000 crore over the current fiscal.
The total allocation for Bharat Nirman was proposed to be Rs.58,000 crore.

Bharat Nirman includes flagship programmes of the government including Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna, Indira Awas Yojna, National Rural Drinking Water Programme and rural telephony.

He said a plan had been finalised to provide rural broadband connectivity to all 2,50,000 panchayats in the country in three years.

Mukherjee said the government has decided to index the wage rates notified
under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to the Consumer Price Index for agricultural labour.

He said remuneration of anganwadi workers was proposed to be increased from Rs.1,500 to Rs.3,000 per month from April 1 this year and that of anganwadi helpers from Rs.750 to Rs.1,500 per month.

The minister said that specific allocations were being earmarked towards Scheduled Castes Sub-plan and Tribal Sub-plan in the budget for the first time and these will be shown in the budget of relevant ministries and departments under separate minor heads of account. He proposed budget allocation for primitive tribal groups from Rs.185 crore in 2010-11 to Rs.244 crore in 2011-12.

He said the eligibility for pension under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme was proposed to be reduced from 65 to 60 years. “For those who are 80 years and above, the pension amount is being raised from Rs.200 at present to Rs.500 per
month,” he said.

Referring to the co-contributory pension scheme `Swavalamban’ announced in
the last budget, he said over 4 lakh applications have already been received. “On the
basis of the feedback received, I am relaxing the exit norms whereby a subscriber
under Swavalamban will be allowed exit at the age of 50 years instead of 60
years, or a minimum tenure of 20 years, whichever is later,” he said.

The minister said he also proposed to extend the benefit of government contribution from three to five years for all subscribers of Swavalamban who enroll during 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Mukherjee said that efforts of the UPA government to scale up the flow of resources
to rural areas had helped the country navigate itself rapidly out of the quagmire of global economic slowdown.

However, he added that much still needs to be done in rural India and there was need to reconcile legitimate environmental concerns with necessary developmental needs. “Above all, there is the challenge of growing aspiration of a young India,” he said.

The minister said that while resources was not a major constraint, at least in the medium-term, “implementation gaps, leakages from public programmes and the quality of our outcomes are a serious challenge.”

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