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Small family sops lifted

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: Odisha, one of the poorest states in the country with a high infant mortality rate, has decided to do away with the green card scheme aimed to encourage family planning.

“The scheme has been stopped as it has outlived its utility. There is no need to continue it as people are now more conscious about the need to have a small family,” said additional secretary of the health and family welfare department Sibabrata Dash.

The scheme has been discontinued with effect from November 9.

The step comes at a time when the state’s population, according to the 2011 census, has gone up from 3.68 crore to 4.19 crore. Of this, there are 2.07 crore women. The state also remains at the bottom, so far poverty is concerned, with its hinterland spawning stories of child sale and starvation deaths.

The state had shot into controversy in 2007 when 30 female foetuses were found abandoned in Nayagarh town triggering a nationwide furore. Later, such cases were also reported from other parts of the state.

The state government had introduced the green card scheme in 1983 for couples in the age group of 15 to 48 years who have two or less than two children and who have accepted terminal methods — tubectomy and vasectomy — under family welfare programme.

Till date, the state has six lakh green card holders. While the highest number of green card holders, as many as 52,511 are in Mayurbhanj district, the least number is reported from Malkangiri district. At the time of undergoing tubectomy, a woman is entitled to Rs 600, while the male is entitled to get Rs 1,100.

Pratap Mohanty, 42, and Jita Mohanty, 36, both of whom are green card holders, said: “The government decision of doing away with the green card system will be a major setback for the card holders. The government should not have discontinued the programme.”

According to the incentive scheme, those, who hold green cards, are entitled to allotment of houses constructed by the state government.

The government reserves five per cent of its houses constructed in various housing schemes for such card holders.

Besides, the card holders will be entitled to homestead land of eight decimals against four decimals that is now being provided to those who do not have such land.

Besides, preference will be given to the card holder’s families in providing loans to the tune of 5 per cent of the total loan amount. Reservation of 5 per cent seats in engineering, medical, polytechnics and IITs will also be made for admission of the children of these families.

Similarly, if the card holder or his or her spouse happens to be a state government servant, he or she will get an incentive allowance equivalent to one or two salary increments.

A lottery carrying a prize of Rs 10,000 will also be kept open for the green card holders for five consecutive annual draws with effect from the date of sterilisation operation.

However, the state government has now directed all district collectors to withdraw the lottery scheme.

“We will continue to provide the existing eligible green card holders their due entitlements from the respective administrative departments,” said Dash.

Sources said some green card holders, unhappy with the government decision, were contemplating moving court. Most of them feel that the scheme should continue in a state, such as Odisha, which not only suffers from chronic poverty, but also from large-scale illiteracy.

“It is surprising that the government has taken such a decision even though the state continues to suffer from all kinds of social maladies,” said Pratima Devi, a mother of two.