Buoyed by victory in local bodies, CM Pinarayi on a welfare announcement spree

Pinarayi Vijayan

Encouraged by the realisation that his welfare schemes have struck a chord with the people, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, not satisfied with just the second phase of the 100-day employment-generation and development programme, has announced 10 additional welfare schemes for the weaker sections.

Many of the new ones, like the services for the elderly, corruption-free Kerala and merit scholarships, are a repackaging of schemes that are already in place. Some like suicide counselling are already on.

The chief minister sought to send two indirect messages through the announcement. One, his government will go the distance to improve the welfare of the people. And two, his government, contrary to the opposition and media propaganda, is above corruption.

At the service of the elderly

The objective is to reach government services to the elderly, especially those who are staying alone and are differently-abled, without them having to step out of their houses. Five services – mustering (linking of life certificates with Aadhar cards for social security benefits), life certificate, social security pension application, assistance from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund and essential life saving medicines - would be included in the scheme before January 10.

A list of homes where people over 65 and differently-abled like the hearing and sight impaired people are living alone would be drawn up by the local bodies and their details would be passed on to the volunteer force in the area.

Assisted living homes: Why they matter for elderly care?
'With more and more nuclear families becoming the norm, families are struggling to care for their elders even if they have access to all resources.' Image courtesy: IANS

For the computer illiterate among them, officials will personally visit them and take down their needs. The follow up action taken will also be informed to them.

The Kerala Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules already has such provisions and more.

Eminent Scholars Online

The chief minister said this was a scheme to allow academically bright students from financially backward homes to achieve their dream of learning in globally-reputed centres of learning. However, this is not a loan scheme but an orientation programme that would expose such students to the talks of world renowned economists, sociologists, scientists and linguists.

online class
Trust, not suspicion, is the key word in the process of dealing with children in the digital age. Image courtesy: insta_photos/Shutterstock

Such interactions will be held online and students picked for the programme could listen to the talks and communicate with the experts at specific centres arranged in government college classrooms or auditoriums.

The first such online interaction will be held this January.

Merit scholarship

Under this scheme, Rs one lakh would be provided as merit scholarship for 1,000 students who had passed their degree in a commendable fashion but comes from families with an annual income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh. The money will be provided from the Chief Minister's Pratibha Financial Assistance Scheme and would be deposited in the bank account of the student.

The first 1,000 students would be selected on the basis of their marks or grades.

Corruption-free governance

This is a whistleblower protection scheme that would honour the anonymity of citizens who would want to complain about instances of corruption. The complaint can be registered online, through a system developed for the purpose.

The complaint will be made to an anti-corruption authority, which the government would soon notify. These complaints will be first scientifically assessed by two senior officials and only then would be passed on to the authority for action. If needed, this authority will hand over the complaint for Vigilance or department-level action.

The chief minister said fake complaints would be filtered out in the most scientific manner. Called Corruption-Free Kerala, the programme will be unveiled on January 26, Republic Day.

Suicide counselling

The chief minister said the government was in receipt of the report of the expert committee on children's suicides. He said the number of school counsellors would be doubled. Now, there are 1024 school counsellors in Kerala.

"Their timely intervention is necessary to hold the mental balance of kids," the chief minister said. There will be counselling for parents, too, twice a month, and this will be conducted at the block level.

Arrangements will also be made in such a way that there will be one teacher to look after 20 students.

Online consultation for women

This scheme will allow women to bare their mind without having to suffer the dread of visiting government offices. Such consultations will be organised at the district level and will be led by a psychologist, legal expert and a senior woman police officer in the concerned district. The women can attend the consultation either from home or from a place she is comfortable talking.

The women can make advance appointments and if serious legal issues are found to be involved, the case would be referred to higher authorities.

Combating anaemia in children

The chief minister said that the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 has revealed that 39.4 per cent of children in Kerala are anaemic. The national average is 60.2 per cent.

This scheme will assess the extent of anaemia in kids between the age of 10 and 18 in Kerala. The assessment will be done at the local body level. The anaemia check will be done using a simple process that even anganwadi workers could be easily trained to do the assessment. The plan is to complete the assessment in all local bodies before February 15.

The chief minister said steps would be taken to reach nutritious food to children found anaemic in Kerala in February itself. The services of doctors will be made available to kids found severely anaemic.

The haemoglobin level in adolescents should be at least 12 grams per decilitre.

Green rebate

This is a scheme to promote environment-friendly house construction. Construction done adhering to certain norms prescribed by the government will fetch a green rebate on building tax. The norms are: no tree felling, no land reclamation, use of prefab technology, retaining of wells and fresh drinking water sources.

An individual can file for 'green rebate' by filing an online self-attested application showing the adherence to green norms. There will be no official inspection in all cases but applications will be randomly selected and inspections carried out. If an application is found faulty, the rebate will have to be returned with penalty.

The 'green rebate' will be fixed in January after consultations with the Finance and Environment departments.

Recreational spaces

The plan is to earmark recreation space in every village in Kerala by the end of 2021. The first step is to identify such public spaces in villages where there are no such areas at the moment. Along with this, existing public spaces that have gone to weed will be restored.

Digital media literacy

Called 'Sathyameva Jayate', this is a mission to develop discerning abilities in the youth exposed to an abundance of information on social media. "It is important that they acquire the skills to differentiate truth and lies," the chief minister said.

Decoding fake news in Covid-19.

The 'Sathyameva Jayate' project will expose students to the nuances of digital media through special modules taught in schools and colleges. These digital media modules will elaborate on certain fundamental questions.

One, what is fake information. Two, why does false information spread so rapidly? Three, what are the things social media users should be careful about. Four, how do the creators of fake information make profit? Five, what are the things we can do as citizens to bring down the spread of fake information?

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