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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

PM announces aid, free education for Covid orphans; pension for employees’ next of kin

This comes days after the Ministry of Women and Child Development said 577 children across the country had been orphaned during the second wave of the pandemic.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: May 30, 2021 7:30:58 am
The Ministry of Women and Child Development said that 577 children across the country have been orphaned in the past 55 days during the Covid-19 second wave. (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Battling the pandemic as it completes seven years in office, the Modi government Saturday said all children who have lost both parents, the surviving parent, legal guardians or adoptive parents to Covid-19 will receive financial assistance under the PM-CARES for Children’s scheme.

In another key decision, the government extended pension coverage under the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme to all registered dependents of those who died due to Covid-19.

It also reiterated the announcement of expansion of insurance benefits under the Employees’ Deposit-Linked Insurance (EDLI) scheme for members registered under the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a Twitter post, said: “Family pension under ESIC and EPFO-Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme will provide a financial cushion to those families who have lost their earning member due to Covid-19. GOI stands in solidarity with these families.”

He said efforts are being made through these schemes to mitigate financial difficulties that may be faced by them.

Earlier, the Prime Minister, chairing a meeting to “discuss and deliberate” on steps which could be taken to support children who have lost parents to the pandemic, announced financial assistance for these children in the form of fixed deposits, free education as well as health insurance.

This comes days after the Ministry of Women and Child Development said 577 children across the country had been orphaned during the second wave of the pandemic.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that while announcing these measures “the Prime Minister emphasized that children represent the future of the country and the country will do everything possible to support and protect the children.’’ He said the measures being announced have been possible only due to generous contributions to the PM-CARES Fund.

Explained

Pressure to expand coverage

The Centre’s safety net for a section of the Covid-affected, as states announce their own relief, may see growing demand to expand it beyond those covered by EPFO or ESIC. States will face the challenge of enumeration and of how to factor in those who got ‘Covid protocol funerals’.

The PM-CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each child when he or she reaches 18 years of age. This corpus will be used to give a monthly financial support or stipend, through a fixed deposit in the name of the child, from 18 years of age for the next five years to take care of his or her personal requirements during the period of higher education. On reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use.

For children under 10 years, the child will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees as per the RTE norms will be given from the PM CARES. The PM-CARES will also pay for expenditure on uniforms, textbooks and notebooks.

For children between 11-18 years, the child will be given admission in any Central government residential school such as Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya etc. In case the child continues to live with grandparents, extended family or a guardian, then he or she will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees as per the RTE norms will be given from the PM-CARES and the expenditure on uniform, text books and notebooks will also be covered.

The child will be assisted in obtaining education loans for professional courses and higher education in India “as per the existing Education Loan norms’’ and interest on this loan will be paid by the PM-CARES.

As an alternative, scholarship equivalent to the tuition fees or course fees for undergraduate or vocational courses, as per government norms, will be provided to such children under Central or State government schemes. For children who are not eligible under the existing scholarship schemes, PM-CARES will provide an equivalent scholarship.

The Prime Minister also announced that all Covid-19 orphans will be enrolled as beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs. The premium amount for these children, till the age of 18 years, will be paid by PM-CARES.

The WCD Ministry had also announced that it had allotted a sum of Rs 10 lakh per district for non-institutional care of Covid orphans, which is to be distributed by respective District Magistrates as they see fit, under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme of the Ministry.

The other announcement Saturday was on extending pension coverage under the ESIC scheme to all registered dependents of those who died due to Covid-19, and insurance benefits under the EDLI scheme for members registered under the EPFO.

The benefits under the ESIC pension scheme for employment-related death cases are being extended to even those who have died due to Covid, the PMO statement said.

All dependent family members of such persons will be eligible for pension equivalent to 90 per cent of average daily wage drawn by the worker as per the existing rules. This benefit will be available retrospectively with effect from March 24 last year till March 24, 2022.

Detailed guidelines on this scheme are being worked upon by the Labour Ministry and will be issued by Monday, a senior Labour Ministry official said.

The eligibility conditions for the ESIC benefits are likely to include the norm that the insured person must have been registered on the ESIC online portal at least three months prior to the diagnosis of Covid resulting in death, the official said. Also, the insured person must have been employed for wages and contributions for at least 78 days should have been paid or payable for the deceased insured person during a period of one year immediately preceding the diagnosis of Covid resulting in death, the official said.

The amount of maximum insurance benefit under EPFO-EDLI, as was announced earlier this month, has been increased to Rs 7 lakh from Rs 6 lakh. The provision of minimum insurance benefit of Rs 2.5 lakh has been restored and it will apply retrospectively from February 15 last year for the next three years, the PMO statement said.

The government has tweaked a significant eligibility condition for the workers, with benefits being made available to families of even those employees who may have changed jobs in the last 12 months preceding his/her death.

All surviving dependent family members of EPFO are eligible to avail benefits of EDLI in case of death of the member.

“About 6.53 crore families are expected to be eligible. Number of claims on account of death under the scheme has been estimated to be about 50,000 families per year including an increase in claims taking into account the estimated death of about 10,000 workers, which may occur due to Covid,” the official said.

The ESI Act applies to all factories and notified establishments located in implemented areas employing 10 or more persons and is applicable on employees drawing wages up to Rs 21,000 per month (Rs 25,000 for persons with disabilities). It covers about 3.49 crore of family units of workers and provides cash benefits and medical facilities to 13.56 crore beneficiaries.

EPFO covers organisations employing 20 or more employees and any employee who has an EPF account automatically becomes eligible for the EDLI scheme. The EDLI scheme is managed on the basis of a contribution of 0.5 per cent of monthly wages paid by the employer to the fund and there is no employee contribution. The nominee registered by the employee is eligible to claim the benefit under the scheme.

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