In a populist move, the Himachal Pradesh cabinet on Tuesday cleared the proposal to provide free medicines at all government hospitals to patients, irrespective of income criteria, under newly designed Indira Gandhi Free Medicines Scheme covering 330 medicines.
In an equally significant move, the cabinet also approved increase in the basic wages and honorariums for the PTA (GIA) teachers, whose services have not been taken on contract basis.
“They will be allowed financial benefits, including annual increase as well as honorarium, for vacation period on notional basis at par with their counterparts with effect from June 1, 2017,” said a government spokesman.
The Cabinet meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. The Cabinet, however, dropped the controversial agenda of allowing sale/diversion of land under tea estates, a proposal aimed to benefit some influential people settled in Palampur and other areas of Kangra. The tea estates were exempted under the HP Land Ceiling Act, but several people close to power had been pulling strings to get the government nod before the polls.
The meeting also saw some sparks flying when Transport Minister G S Bali raised the issue of distribution of free bicycles, washing machines and induction cookers to voters from the funds of HP State Construction Board under Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri. Bali asked if there were norms and guidelines for this or it was only a means for favouritism in some Assembly constituencies. He also asked for a status note. In the proposal for free medicines, the Cabinet decided that medicines (drugs) and “consumable” will be given to all patients free. “The decision has been taken in larger public interest with a proposal to include more medicines and consumables in the free drug policy of the state government,” said state’s Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, adding that a a budgetary provision of Rs 71 crore was available for this.
The Cabinet also decided to grant retirement and death gratuity to New Pension System (NPS) employees from prospective date on terms and conditions as applicable to the employees covered under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972, subject to a maximum limit of 25 years of qualifying services.
Nod was also given by the Cabinet to increase the honorarium of Panchayat Chowkidars from Rs 2,350 to Rs 3,050, an increase of Rs 700 per month in their monthly remuneration. During the budget announcement, Rs 300 was already enhanced earlier and with this decision there will be an increase of Rs 1,000 (Rs 700+ Rs 300).