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Chandigarh, January 23: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has ordered immediate release of pending old age pensions, with strict instructions to regularise payment to the beneficiaries.

The Chief Minister issued the directives during a meeting to review various schemes of the Department of Social Security and Women & Child Development here on Tuesday.

Expressing concern over the non-payment of old age pension in many places since April 2017, Captain Amarinder expressed the hope that the process of payment would be regularised by March, with directions to make December payment by January 31. Pointing out that the government was burdened by a Rs 110 crore liability per month on account of pension arrears, the Chief Minister directed the Department to start releasing the arrears in a staggered manner.

The Chief Minister also directed the Department to sort out the cases of absentee beneficiaries at the earliest, so that all eligible persons are included in the list, which now stands at 16,24,269, against the earlier 19,87,196. The meeting was informed that 93,521 cases (4.71%) had been found to be ineligible, while another 1,96,478 were absentee cases.

The ineligible cases related to those who did not fulfill the eligibility criteria, an official spokesperson disclosed after the meeting. The meeting also discussed a proposal to implement the electronic benefit transfer scheme to ensure timely and smooth direct payment of pension to the beneficiaries, he added.

In another decision, Captain Amarinder ordered to get latest specifications including colour for the free bicycles being distributed to girls, with no photograph of the Chief Minister, in contrast to the existing practice of having the CM’s picture on these specially coloured blue and saffron bicycles.

The issue of vacant Group A, B, C and D posts for the disabled in all government departments was also discussed, and the Chief Minister was apprised that 287 of the 899 vacancies had so far been filled by the Department. Captain Amarinder has ordered the remaining vacancies to be filled by April 30.

The progress of the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan), launched by Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, GoI, was also discussed at the meeting. The campaign is aimed at achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Built environment, Transportation system and Information and communication system. Under Built environment accessibility, the city of Ludhiana has been selected, and 46 government public buildings have been identified to be made accessible to disabled persons. An estimate of Rs. 15.50 crores has been prepared and submitted to the Government of India, which has sanctioned the grant but has sought detailed estimates, which are currently being prepared, the Chief Minister was informed.

To implement the RPWD (Rights of Persons with Disability) Act, 2016, in letter and spirit, and to extend all benefits as per the provisions of this Act to all deserving/needy disabled persons, this Department has proposed to set up an independent department of disability, at an annual expenditure of Rs. 3.5 crores. The case has been sent to the Finance Department.

The Chief Minister was also updated on the work for the creation of various sports facilities, such as running tracks, cricket pitch, gymnasium etc, at the Blind School in Jamalpur, for which Rs 42 lakh has already been transferred. The department informed that land for the facilities had been earmarked and the process of planning was under way with the sports authority at district level.

With regard to the UDID (Unique Disability ID) project initiated by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, the meeting was informed that a state level admin and district level admin had been created, including the Departments of Health, Revenue and Social Security. A state Coordinator has been appointed in this regard and the training of the admins is scheduled in the second week of February, after which the scheme will be launched in March.

On the Supplementary Nutrition Programme for the Anganwadi Centres, the Department informed the meeting that a proposal for full implementation of this Centre:State scheme had been sent to the Finance Department.

The meeting was also apprised about some of the new schemes being taken up by the department. Under the Mahila Shakti Kendra (funding pattern – 60:40), two districts, Moga and Ferozpur, will be covered in the first phase, while the remaining will be covered in the next financial year. For Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Department is coordinating with NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan Foundation of Noble Award winner Kailash Satayarthi, for making Punjab a model State for Children.

As part of the 100% centrally sponsored One-Stop Centre scheme, in the first phase, six centres have been set up in Punjab (Bathinda, Jalandhar, Mukatsar, Patiala, SBS Nagar and Gurdaspur). In the second phase, eight new One Stop Centres have been sanctioned by GOI (Ferozpur, Fazilka, Sangrur, SAS Nagar, Roopnagar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana and Amritsar), while the remaining will be covered in the next financial year 2018-19 by the Government of India, according to department officials.