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PM to launch pension scheme on July 14

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE JULY 8. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, will be launching the `Varishta Bima Pension Yojana' in New Delhi on July 14.

Disclosing this to reporters here today after a meeting with top bank officials, the Union Minister of State for Finance, Anand Rao V. Adsul, said the date was finalised by the Prime Minister.

The Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, in his Budget speech had promised a subsidised annuity scheme with an interest of nine per cent for senior citizens between 55 and 79.

Stating that the Union Government may consider the demand for increasing the upper age limit under the yojana, Mr. Adsul said the Government's intention was to help the people.

There were demands from various quarters to increase the age limit, but the pension plan would now be operational under the present age limits, he added.

Asked if this would affect the solvency of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), he said: ``we will support LIC to meet the margin, in the event of any shortfall.''

The Corporation was likely to discuss with the Centre increasing the age limit, which had been set on the basis of average life expectancy. Details of the scheme, published by LIC last month, said it would be open for those in the age group 55 to 79.

The Government was committed to reducing its share in public sector banks to 33 per cent, and the standing committee on finance was examining this.

The issues related to the banking and insurance sectors would come up for discussion in the coming session of Parliament, the Minister added.

On reduction of non-performing assets (NPA) by the banks, he said NPA had been reduced from 12 per cent to 4.6 per cent this year.

The public sectors banks of the southern region had been performing well and they were following the guidelines of the Reserve Bank in lending to the priority sector.

Lending for the agriculture sector was 19.6 per cent against the prescribed norm of 18 per cent, he added.

Referring to the co-operative banking sector, he said the Government favoured a full overhaul of the sector and preferred having a single regulator in the RBI.

The Ministry was pushing for a separate Deputy Governor in charge of the co-operative banking sector.

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