Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Welfare Trust Fund for Disabled swells to 223 crore; remains unutilized

The documents submitted in Supreme Court show that the trust has so far has utilised only Rs 18.59 crore towards extending benefits to physically disabled.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | March 3, 2014 11:49 pm

A fund created on the order of the Supreme Court for welfare of the disabled has swollen to Rs 223 crore, but not even 10 per cent of it has been utilised in almost a decade now.

The only plan in place, a scholarship scheme for disabled students, is yet to be introduced in any of the union territories or Northeastern states.

In 2004, the court had ordered that the Comptroller and Auditor General set up a trust with the money recovered by it from banks as illegal collection from borrowers. The money, the court said, would be used for the benefit of disabled. The trust was to be managed by the CAG as its chairman, with the finance secretary and law secretary as ex-officio members.

The RBI recently wrote to the under secretary, Ministry of Finance, that Rs 173 crore in all had been deposited in the fund. While 46 commercial banks had deposited Rs 154 crore towards excess interest charged to borrowers, Rs 19.5 crore had been deposited as part of the additional Rs 50 lakh each the banks gave in accordance with the Supreme Court order.

This money, Additional Solicitor General Rakesh Khanna informed a Supreme Court bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan recently, has grown to Rs 223 crore along with interest.

However, as the documents submitted in court showed, the trust has so far utilised a meagre Rs 18.59 crore towards according benefits to the physically challenged. Only money allotted for a scholarship scheme has been entirely used, benefiting 1,500 students per year. The number of scholarships has now been raised to 2,000 students per year.

Documents also revealed that no union territory or Northeastern state barring Assam had benefited from the scholarship scheme, which has more male recipients than female.

At a hearing earlier, ASG Khanna had told the court about the recovery of the amount so far and sought some additional orders on issues like merger of banks, or closure of banking operations by some entities, mode of recovery from state finance corporations etc.

The bench, which was hearing a petition filed by Ravi Shankar Bhushan, a disabled person working in an NGO, said it would pass appropriate orders with assistance from the petitioner’s counsel Colin Gonsalves.

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