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EC curbs sting poor

The Election Commission’s enthusiasm to prevent ruling parties from taking advantage of state-run welfare schemes is squeezing the poorest sections of the population, already reeling under the trickle-down effect of the economic slowdown. Chetan Chauhan and Chitrangada Choudhury report.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2009 01:22 IST

The Election Commission’s enthusiasm to prevent ruling parties from taking advantage of state-run welfare schemes is squeezing the poorest sections of the population, already reeling under the trickle-down effect of the economic slowdown.

Rural job plan

The EC, in an order dated March 5, debarred state governments from enrolling job seekers under the NREGS or National Rural

Stalled

Work on implementing the Unorganised Sector’s Social Security law — it promises a raft of social security like education, pension etc — passed on last day of Parliament.

Two Central schemes yet to take off — the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme. It was scheduled to start from April 1.

Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh’s promise of distributing rice at Rs 2 per kg to the poor in the state from April 1.

Employment Guarantee Scheme that provides at least 100 days of work, at a time when the demand for employment has increased.

Just before the ban was imposed, close to 5.2 lakh households were working under NREGS in Andhra Pradesh compared to 3.93 lakh in November 2008 — an increase of about 24 per cent.

Bihar witnessed an increase of 2.90 lakh households between October 2008 and February 2009. A similar trend was witnessed in Orissa in the same period — number of workers increased from 6.33 lakh households to 8.12 lakh.

A Labour Ministry survey in February 2009 had estimated that six lakh people have lost jobs in the export sector due to slowdown. Many of them, the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) estimate, have returned to villages and are seeking jobs under NREGS.

Health insurance card

Like NREGS, the EC last week asked the ministry to suspend issuing of health insurance cards — they provide access to free treatment of up to Rs 30,000 — to BPL families till polls were over. But it took back the directive on Wednesday.

Passed

Central PSUs: The EC has been generous to employees of central government PSUs who got 50-70 per cent salary hike this week. The approval was given after the Centre submitted that decision was taken before the code of conduct came into force.

A senior ministry official requesting anonymity said 12-15 lakh cards would have been issued in the next 6-8 weeks. “An intricate schedule for issuing cards to families in over 50 districts had been drawn up with states, which would have been thrown out of gear.”