New Delhi: The UPA government's flagship health insurance scheme for the poor that uses biometric smart cards to identify subscribers could be converged with the old age and disabled pension schemes run by the rural development ministry to improve implementation and weed out ghost beneficiaries.
The convergence is also expected to provide an 'enlarged' social security programme for the underprivileged in the country. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has written to labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge suggesting that its three pension schemes under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) be converged with the labour ministry's Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (NSBY) as they have the same target beneficiaries.
"The target families being the same, there is tremendous opportunity for convergence to ensure that every pension holder is enrolled in RSBY and vice versa," Ramesh said in the letter.
The three pension schemes, which includes Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disabled Pension Scheme, cover in all 2.5 crore beneficiaries. The RSBY scheme covers 3.26 crore families across the country.
Ramesh has asked the labour minister to get RSBY's database cross-checked with the NSAP database in the states to ensure convergence. "I am issuing similar instructions to state departments implementing the NSAP," Ramesh added.
Labour department officials say that the convergence exercise would result in the number of beneficiaries under both the pension and the health insurance schemes to go up.
"Although the BPL database used for both the pension and the health insurance schemes is the same, there would definitely be beneficiaries under one scheme that also qualify for the other who have been left out and vice versa. The convergence of database would expand coverage under both schemes," said Anil Swarup, director general, labour welfare bureau.
Convergence of the schemes would also help in expansion of social security cover to the poor.
"Providing health insurance cover to social pension beneficiaries would be of immense value to all of them and thereby provide the nucleus of an enlarged social security programme which is so crucial to a country like India," Jairam Ramesh's letter added.
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