The Government is all set to take its first step towards universalisation of pension for aged, widows and disabled as it would remove the distinction of BPL and APL for selection of beneficiaries in the 12th Five Year Plan.
The proposal which has huge financial implications has been pushed by activists Aruna Roy and Baba Adhav alongwith many grassroot organisations.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said that pensions would now be given on the basis of some exclusion critieria in the Socio Economic Census that is going on.
Activist Nikhil De today welcomed the news and said that this is a great step forward and brings hope to thousands of poor people.
It may include now people who may be having single storeyed concrete houses, or a vehicle and so on. The schemes under the Rural Development Ministry now provide a pension of just Rs 200 a month while the states complement this with more funds.
The 12th Plan would also for the first time give states some say in spending the funds of the Centrally sponsored rural development programmes according to their priorities and needs
The 12th Plan has allowed a small window of Rs 40,000 crore for such flexibility to the ministry which overall is getting an of Rs 490,000 crore while the ministry of drinking water and sanitation is getting an allocation of Rs 100,000 crore.
The window called Rural Flexi Fund would have a central share of 70% (Rs 28,000 crore), while the rest would be from the state's share.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia announced the fund today and said that now states would even have the freedom of making their own schemes and financing it with the funds meant for central programmes like NREGA or Indira Awas Yojana within the limits set for each state.
The minister said that the mechanism for deciding each state's share of this untied money would be on the basis of proposals sent by states and would ensure that no state is left out.
The new fund would marginally increase the allocations of the ministry which gets close to a lakh crore rupees annually.
This would increase by Rs 8000 crore each year thanks to the Fund.
The 12th Plan also envisages a major role for NGOs in rural development and sets aside a fund of Rs 500 crore to carry out rural development in 170 backward districts in partnership with NGOs.
A Rs 500 crore corpus entity called the Bharat Livelihood Foundation is being set up to facilitate partnerships between states and NGOs in Maoist hit States in the Central belt of the country where the poorest and most vulnerable districts are located, Ramesh said.
The NGOs and the Foundation would be covered under Right to Information and Comptroller and Auditor General to ensure that funds reach the intended purpose, Ramesh said.
The 12th Plan would also for the first time remove the distinction between BPL and APL in all rural development schemes on the lines of NREGA.
In the housing scheme of Indira Awas Yojana, the homeless would be selected on the basis of lists generated through the BPL census and they would be entitled to Rs 20,000 for puchase of land.
For the landed who need housing, again the lists owuld be on the basis of socio economic census that is nearing completion.