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Free health coverage for poor mothers and children

The state government is all set to introduce a health insurance scheme for poor mothers and children living in and around the city, with assistance from several business houses and mass organisations. Those covered will enjoy all the benefits under the scheme but need not pay any premium.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu will launch the scheme on March 16 at Salt Lake stadium, where over 100,000 mothers with their children will be present. This is the first time in the country when a social security scheme is being launched with support from the people.

Brainchild of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who introduced a life insurance scheme for the bus-workers last year, the scheme will cover four diseases — including cancer, leukaemia, cardiac diseases and kidney failure.

According to the scheme, a sum of Rs 50,000 will be assured to anybody suffering from those four diseases, and Rs one lakh for life insurance coverage.

The West Bengal State Sports Council will look after its implementation on behalf of the state government. It will be supported by the Indian Medical Association, Students Health Home, Peerless, ICICI and Pather Panchali, a social organisation serving the poor and the destitute.

“About Rs 700 per head will be required for annual premium for the scheme and we shall arrange the fund. We have made an appeal to several organisations and industrial houses to join hands with us in the project. Many have already agreed to get involved in the activities. We shall raise funds required for the premium from donations, contributions from different concerns and organising different programmes,’’ Chakraborty said.

The minister said though the state is facing a severe funds crunch, he is trying to get a recurring grant from the finance department for the project.

This apart, he said he will urge the Union social welfare ministry to share a portion of the annual premium under its “Mother and child healthcare project’’. The scheme is dubbed ‘Protect mother to protect the child — protect the child to protect the country’.

“We have targeted a lakh mothers and children from the city and its adjoining areas to be brought under insurance coverage within a year. Later, it will be extended to the districts,’’ the minister added.

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