M A I N   N E W S

In Punjab, work 90 days to avail interest-free loan
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 2
Call it an act of benevolence or its strategy to attract migrant workers to the state whose count has dwindled of late, the Punjab government is offering interest-free loans to daily wagers to purchase computers.

Being extended to construction and industrial workers, the scheme is being taken care of by the Punjab Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board’, which was constituted last year. The computer loan amount is Rs 1,500. And the payback mode, too, has been kept easy, with an option to repay in 12-30 installments.

The eligibility: Workers must work in the state for at least 90 days in a year. All they are required to do initially is pay a Rs 25 registration fee, which too has been waived off for the next six months, and Rs 10 every month as contribution for at least three successive months. A photograph, a birth certificate and a proof of residential address are also required.

While some feel it is the “mother of all schemes”, critics opine that the government is, through its ambitious plan, “making fun” of daily wagers, most of who are either illiterate or not educated beyond primary classes (Class I-Class V).

Apart from computers, the interest-free loan is also available to purchase bicycles (Rs 2,500), sewing machines (Rs 1,000), ceiling or table fans (Rs 800) and even foodgrains (Rs 2,500). Officials say workers could even avail the scheme for insurance, pilgrimage or even marriage purposes. A pension plan was also on the cards, they said.

Speaking to The Tribune, Punjab Labour Minister Tikshan Sud said the loans were being paid out of the fund created by collecting 1 per cent on all public, private and commercial construction work in the state — the cess, being collected from October 2008, not applicable to construction of residential buildings and those incurring cost not more than Rs 10 lakh. He said Rs 36 crore had already been collected under the cess plan.

Already, 5,000 workers, of the total three-four lakh, have registered themselves under the scheme, said Jacob Partap, Labour department spokesman. However, the officials feel the count very less. Assistant Labour Commissioner (Amritsar) Vipin Kumar says the lukewarm response — 400 registrations in the city — could be due to lack of awareness among workers. 





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