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State Rehabilitation Fund to be set up

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 23. A State Rehabilitation Fund will be set up this year to provide relief to the employees of industrial establishments and plantations that are in distress, the Finance Minister, K. Sankaranarayanan, announced in his Budget for 2004-05 presented to the Assembly today.

This fund will be used to provide lifetime assistance to employees and their families and extend relief during festivals like Onam.

"The Fund will provide baseline social protection for workers and families who have been marginalised on account of rapid changes in the external economic environment. I set apart Rs. 2 crores for this," the Minister said.

As part of assisting workers in plantations, the Government intends to cover the educational expenses of children of labourers of tea plantations that have been closed down. Two sets of uniforms will be supplied to each child. The fees of the children who have joined professional colleges will be completely borne by Government, he said allocating Rs. 1 crore for the purpose.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan also announced a raise in the assistance for the handicapped from Rs. 110 a month to Rs. 150 a month. The anticipated additional expenditure is Rs. 7.5 crores a year.

A new welfare scheme for barbers and laundry workers will be launched during the coming year. The monthly pension for the Second World War Veterans will be enhanced from Rs. 300 a month to Rs. 400 a month. The eligibility (income) limits will be increased from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 10,000 a year. Widows of the veterans will be sanctioned family pension at Rs. 300 a month.

The scheme of journalists pension, he said, would be extended to cover eligible journalists who have been working in periodicals and in the visual media. Freedom fighters pensions would be restored to khadi and Hindi pracharks.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan said that two instalments of agricultural workers pension and unemployment dole would be released in February 2004. The entire balance of arrears on other welfare pensions would be released before the end of March.

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