With an eye on Lok Sabha elections, the Union cabinet approved a hike in dearness allowance (DA) to 100% from existing 90%. The DA hike though, will not be merged with the basic pay.
The cabinet, perhaps in its last meeting before the Lok Sabha elections, also approved Rs1,000 per month as the minimum pension for the non-government staff under the EPFO scheme. Though, government insisted it was not a poll bonanza, the decisions will benefit 50 lakh central staff and 30 lakh central pensioners. The cabinet also approved terms and reference of the 7th Central Pay Commission. The Commission will make its recommendations within 18 months.
However, the Cabinet deferred decisions on other issues like raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 years and also merging part of the DA into the basic pay. The move could have benefited the employees in terms of the higher allowances like HRA and city compensatory allowance.
The cabinet also deferred to approve an ordinance on key anti-corruption legislations strongly backed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. There was no word either form any minister or the Congress leaders on backing out on deferment of these legislations. A source, however, told dna that several ministers of the alliance (a reference to agriculture minister Sharad Pawar) objected that the cabinet note has not explained the urgency to bring out an ordinance. There were also murmurs in the government that president Pranab Mukjeree has also been uncomfortable to accept the ordinance route, which is normally used by the government on extremely urgent situations, when parliament session is too far. The Congress core group, an interface between the government and the ruling party, will discuss the issue and there is possibility of holding another cabinet meeting on Saturday to discuss the issue of anti-graft ordinances.
Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has organised a dinner for all Union ministers, party's office-bearers, prominent Congress MPs and top bureaucrats at her residence on Monday amid murmurs whether it would be a "farewell dinner". Party sources, however, insisted that it was just a party that she could not host during the extended winter session of parliament early this month as it was disrputed every day on the contentious issue of Telangana.
Slew of initiatives to woo voters: The UPA government has announced a slew of initiatives to woo the voters before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In the last Cabinet and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) meeting on Friday, the government decided doles for welfare schemes at a cost of about Rs5,000 crore.
The CCEA approved continuation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme in the Twelfth Plan, with enhanced financial norms. The total financial implication for the 12th Plan period would be Rs3,000.33 crore, which includes a Central share of Rs2,350 crore and a state share of Rs650.33 crore. The ICPS is a centrally sponsored programme for child protection, being implemented across the country from 2009-10.
The CCEA also approved setting up of 3,500 model schools in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) in 27 states/UTs with certain modifications. This is under the scheme for setting up of 6,000 model schools at block level as a benchmark of excellence. For the year 2013-14, an amount of Rs1,000 crore has been allocated under the scheme. Each school will have 560 students. The total beneficiaries for 3,500 schools would therefore be 19.60 lakh students.
CCEA has also approved the proposal of the Department of Health Research in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the central sector scheme of Human Resource Development for Health Research under the 12th Plan at an estimated cost of Rs.597 crore.
The scheme is intended to create a pool of talented health research personnel in the country by upgrading skills of faculty of medical colleges, mid- career scientists, medical students etc through specialized training in priority areas of health research in leading national and international institutions. A total of nineteen approvals were granted by the CCEA.