UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday formally launched
(Helping Hand), a pension scheme to cover millions of women in rural Andhra Pradesh, even as the opposition parties lambasted the government for using public money to promote Congress party`s hand symbol on the eve of elections.
The pension scheme, described as the first of its kind to cover such large number of people anywhere in the world, came into effect with Sonia Gandhi handling over the policy bonds to a few women at a small function at the old Begumpet airport.
Under the scheme, members of the women self help groups(SHG) will receive a minimum pension of Rs 500 and a maximum pension of Rs 2500 per month after attaining the age of sixty. The pension amount increases for those who start early, say at the age of 18 and progressively comes down. The women members contribute Rs 30 a month ( Re 1 a day)and the government gives a matching amount and the fund is managed by LIC. The nominee of the member gets the corpus in the event of the death of the member.
It will initially cover 1.5 lakh women and gradually increased to cover the 1.5 crore women SHG members, state officials said. The State Government has provided Rs 350 crores in this years budget as corpus fund for the purpose.
The women SHGs are very successful in Andhra Pradesh. They are engaged in various economic activity at the village level and the government is making available loans to them at cheap rates.
Some members of SHGs shared their perception about the scheme with Mrs Gandhi.
"This new programme will give you the security. As you grow older you don't know what happens. This insurance scheme will look after that side of your life," Sonia Gandhi said.
“The women of Andhra Pradesh have set an example for empowerment of women all over the world, " she further said and added “I have met self help groups in Andhra Pradesh a number of times. Every time I meet them I go back moved and satisfied by the way the women are inspiring others. They are actually setting an example for the rest of the country and the world."
Meanwhile the four party grand alliance has charged the Chief Minister YS Rajsekhar Reddy of “deliberately misusing and abusing his official position, government machinery and public money by issuing huge advertisements for the Abhaya Hastam scheme”, which they alleged was nothing but Congress party's propaganda.In a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, the alliance partners pointed out that the advertisement announcing the scheme, carried a photograph of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and also the symbol of the Congress party, the hand.