Village Social Welfare Councils being set up: Sajjad

*BPL families to get Rs 5 lakh insurance cover

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 23: While declaring to bring revolutionary reforms in the State Social Welfare Department,  Minister for SWD and Tribal Affairs, Sajad Gani Lone today  said that 27 orpahanages being run by  the department across the State are being converted into the Boarding Schools and Village Social Welfare Councils (VSWCs)  are being set up to monitor activities of the department and recommend the fresh old age/ widow/ handicapped pension cases and review the old and non-deserving cases.
While responding to the issues raised by various members during discussion on the working of the Social Welfare Department  in Upper House today, Sajjad Lone said that he intends to take some revolutionary measures and bring more transparency  and accountability in the department.  He said the Department is taking various measures to ensure maximum public participation in the existing system where people can be involved in the process of monitoring of various welfare schemes.
Lone said he has decided to constitute ‘ Village Social Welfare Councils’ in every village/ ward   to work as one-stop-centre for effective implementation of all social welfare schemes at grassroots level. He said the Government is not doing charity but intends to empower vulnerable sections of society and provide them social justice.
Giving details about the proposed VSWCs, the Minister said the Government will constitute these councils/ committees having 15 members from the villages including a few Panchayat members/ retired employees/ people of good reputation,   who will identify the beneficiaries after proper verification and forward the list for final approval to the concerned Tehsil Social Welfare Officer or the District Social Welfare Officer. The beneficiaries  need not to go to the Police Station, to a doctor or Tehsildar to get certificates. These formalities  will be performed by the Committees and employees of the department at the village.  They will also monitor the functioning of the Anganwadis in the villages/ wards. The members from opposition, however, pleaded that all the people in such councils should be non-political.
“These committees will help the Government in effective implementation of schemes on ground level and also decide the priority of cases to be considered under various welfare schemes.. These committees will further help in eliminating `ghost beneficiaries’, non-deserving and duplication, thereby creating avenues for the deserving people”, the Minister added.
In order to provide social security net to the BPL families of the State, the Minister said the Government will be introducing Cashless Health Insurance scheme of  Rs 5 lakh for which the department will facilitate and fund an institutionalized arrangement, besides ensuring effective implementation of various welfare programmes already initiated in the state. Seven lakh BPL families will be covered under the scheme in the State.
Sajjad Lone further declared on the floor of the House that to impart quality education to the orphans and remove the stigma or orphanages/ Bal Ashram etc,  the Government is working on a proposal for setting up Boarding schools which would serve as better alternative to Bal Ashrams. He said for the purpose the Government is exploring options of funding from Corporate Social Responsibility Scheme. About 27 such orphanages are being converted into Boarding schools. Qualified staff will be provided in the schools besides all the modern facilities.  Huge funds will be generated from CSR and Board of Directors will be formulated with reputed and experts in the field  to run the Schools.
The Minister said the department is also pursuing the issue of ST status for the Pahari speaking population. He further said the department is working on evolving mechanism to provide hassle-free delivery of services to the people under various social welfare schemes. He assured to review the recommendations with regard to backward areas by strengthening Commission.
Earlier, several legislators participated in the discussion on working of the Social Welfare Department.
Zafar Iqbal Manhas said steps should be taken to check the leakages of ration in Anganwadi centres. He also stressed that mechanism should be evolved to facilitate disbursement of pension to old-age and widows.
Bashir Ahmad Shah Veeri demanded effective and efficient implementation of welfare schemes for women empowerment besides enhanced pension for old-age and widows.
Ghulam Nabi Monga urged for hike in honorarium of Anganwari workers and helpers at par with other states and proper implementation of schemes for infants, adolescents and pregnant women.
Ashok Khajuria called for change mindset of the people for better implementation of girl child initiatives like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Laadli Beti.
Saif-ud-Din Bhat pleaded for Aadhar card seeded direct benefit transfer of pensions in favour of old age and widows. He also demanded checks and balances mechanism to be put in place for tracking food grain leakages at various levels.
Showkat Hussain Ganai called for streamlining selection process of beneficiaries under various welfare schemes through ICT interventions. He also asked for revision of backward areas besides seeking greater involvement of members in monitoring of Government welfare schemes.
Sham Lal Bhagat demanded increase in honorarium of Anganwadi employees in addition to allocation of funds to cover freight charges incurred in food grains transportation.
Ramesh Arora demanded for greater role of members in identifying beneficiaries along with timely release of funds for better coverage under various schemes.
Khursheed Alam called for providing motorized cycles for physically handicapped. He also insisted on early clearance of pending cases in favour of destitute and widows. Alam said SWD should not be allowed to become political workers’ rehabilitation centre.
Surinder Choudhary stressed for adopting measures for monitoring and vigilance on the functioning of NGOs in the state. He also demanded check on the child labour and said that mostly those at the top position in political circles and bureaucracy are exploiting children and forcing to work in their homes.