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Karnataka's Free Health Insurance to the Poor

Karnataka will spend Rs.350 million to provide health insurance to around 1.2 million families below the poverty line (BPL), Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy announced// here Wednesday.

"We are aware of the health challenges and the economic backwardness of thousands of families. We have decided to provide health insurance to BPL families, and Rs.350 million (Rs.35 crore) has been fixed for the project this year," Kumaraswamy said in Ingalagi village in Bagalkot district, 650 km from Bangalore.

"It would be our first step to ensure better health to the underprivileged and many such steps will be taken soon," he added.

Elaborating on the scheme, Health Minister Ashok R. told IANS that the scheme is a pilot project and will benefit nearly 20 percent of the total BPL families.

"The project will cover only 1.2 million families consisting of nearly 60 million people. We are negotiating with two companies, including the Oriental Insurance Co Ltd. We will start the process in three weeks," he said.

"We have also finalised an agreement with the World Bank to give health insurance to nearly the same number of BPL families. The world body has agreed to give us nearly Rs.400 million for the purpose," he said.

Karnataka has around six million families below the poverty line. "All the families would be insured within the next 18 months," the health minister said.

Kumaraswamy, who spent Tuesday night with a HIV-positive family, also said that he had directed all district administrations to provide loans of Rs.15,000 to 'devdasis'.

"Though the tradition has been declared illegal, yet some cases have surfaced and we would deal with them strongly. The tradition is forcing prostitution on women and this adds to the HIV-positive population," the chief minister said.

"I have directed all the district commissioners to provide loans to devdasis," Kumaraswamy said, adding that his govern ment would build about 15,000 homes for them in 2007.

The chief minister spent Tuesday night with a family of agricultural labourers, in which two members have been tested positive for AIDS - to "instill confidence and dispel stigma" attached to the disease.


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