October 31, 2010

Cabinet clears health insurance for street vendors

In a major push towards aam aadmi reforms, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared two big ticket schemes -- conditional cash transfer for pregnant women and health insurance for street vendors -- likely to benefit 18.3 lakh women and 42.19 lakh street vendors respectively.

The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana will be launched in 52 districts as a pilot project where a sum of Rs 4,000 will be paid to pregnant and lactating women over a period of six months on fulfilling certain conditions. The government will pump in Rs 390 crore for 2010-2011 to ensure that pregnancies are registered, women attend an ante-natal check-up and counselling session besides adhering to health norms like immunisation and exclusive breastfeeding.

The cash transfer scheme mooted by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) will be monitored by a committee that will include elected representatives, members of the gram panchayat besides external audits. "The scheme will cover 492 projects in about 87,000 anganwadis and will address issues of low birth weight, high infant mortality, anaemia and maternal mortality," WCD minister Krishna Tirath said.

The Cabinet also approved the labour ministry's proposal for extension of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to street vendors. The RSBY scheme, which presently extends to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families (a unit of five) is a smart card-based cashless health insurance scheme.

The government said in a statement that street vendors, who form an important segment of unorganised workers in urban areas, will now be covered under RSBY. "The government proposes to cover all registered street vendors under RSBY by the year 2013-14, out of which 4.21 lakh are proposed to be covered in the current financial year. The premium for the insurance scheme will be paid by the central and state governments in the ratio of 75:25 and for the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, the expenditure is shared in the ratio of 90:10," said the statement.

The total expenditure on the part of the central government during the current year will be around Rs 20 crore. The recurring expenditure after 2013-14 will be around Rs 200 crore annually.

Beneficiaries under RSBY are entitled to coverage up to Rs 30,000 for most diseases that require hospitalisation. Coverage extends to five members of the family, which includes the head of the household, spouse and up to three dependents. "Till October 15, 2010, 27 states are in the process of implementation of the scheme. The scheme has been operationaized in 24 states and more than 1.95 crore smart cards have been issued covering more than 7 crore persons," added the statement.

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