The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Old scheme wears new hat
- Insurance with NDA flavour

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Not all the welfare schemes the Centre is raining on the aam aadmi deliver something new. The Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana is, with small modifications, the existing Janshree Bima Yojana by another name.

Both the schemes provide life and disability cover to below-poverty-line (BPL) families, and the benefits and premium are virtually the same.

In its hurry to go ahead with the new scheme, launched by finance minister P. Chidambaram in Shimla today, the United Progressive Alliance government forgot to announce the closure of Janshree, introduced by the National Democratic Alliance ministry in the year 2000. Yashwant Sinha was the finance minister then.

Senior government sources said that at the August 30 cabinet meeting, which decided to launch the scheme, some ministers had questioned the propriety of passing off a relaunch as something new but were overruled.

Under the new scheme, the head of the family or an earning member aged between 18 and 59 will be insured against natural or accidental death and partial or permanent disability. The Centre will pay half of the annual premium of Rs 200 per person and the states the rest.

Janshree, too, offered death and disability cover to heads of BPL families. The annual premium, too, was Rs 200 and the Centre’s contribution 50 per cent.

The only difference is that unlike the new scheme, Janshree left the matter of the remaining half of the premium open. State governments were expected to pay their 50 per cent quota of the premium but if they did not, the beneficiaries themselves or voluntary organisations could do so.

The new scheme robs the beneficiaries of this option. The Centre cannot force the states to pay their half of the premium.

A beneficiary of the scheme will receive Rs 30,000 for a natural death, Rs 75,000 for accidental death or permanent disability, and Rs 37,000 for partial disability.

The figures are higher than Janshree’s original offers of Rs 20,000 for natural death, Rs 50,000 for accidental death or permanent disability, and Rs 25,000 for partial disability in an accident.

But on August 15, 2006, the government had raised the sums to Rs 75,000 for accidental death or permanent disability and Rs 37,500 for partial disability in an accident.

The 2007-08 budget had set aside Rs 1,000 crore — in a fund to be maintained by the Life Insurance Corporation — for the implementation of Janshree, which has now become the Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana.

The renamed scheme is being touted as the third major social welfare plan the government has announced in the past four days.

Today, Chidambaram did not forget to take a dig at the BJP. He said there were some parties that did not believe in social justice.

Playing on the NDA government’s India Shining campaign, he said: “They believed that India was shining. We believe that India must shine for all Indians and not just for a section of Indians.”

Yesterday, the Centre launched the National Health Insurance Scheme for BPL workers in the unorganised sector. Four days ago, it had decided to extend the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to the entire country.

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