Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu today formally launched the “Mukhyamantri Sukh Ashraya Yojana” from the Ridge Shimla, aiming to provide comprehensive support to orphans, specially-abled children, destitute women, and elderly individuals in the State. While addressing on the occasion the Chief Minister said that a thought always came to his mind as how to serve the most vulnerable section of society and those who really needed to be taken care of and looked after by the Government.

“This was the reason, that after taking oath as the Chief Minister, I straight away headed for the Balika Ashram, at Tutikandi to know about the well-being of inmates, to know their problems, instead occupying the Chief Minister’s chair at the State Secretariat”, remarked the Chief Minister. “In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, my government took a decision to adopt the orphans, the specially-abled children as the ‘Children of the State’ and work for their upliftment and well being, giving them all parental care, besides taking care of the destitute women and elderly who have no one to look after”, he said.

Despite facing financial challenges and the recent disaster that struck Himachal Pradesh, the State Government started this scheme and launched it formally today. The Chief Minister distributed financial benefits worth Rs 4.68 crore to eligible children which includes Rs. 15.52 lakh for fees and other hostel expenses, along with Rs. 11.52 lakh as monthly expenses benefiting 48 orphaned children for pursuing higher education. Apart from this, Rs. 7.02 lakh for fees and Rs. 4.08 lakh for monthly expenses were also distributed to 17 orphaned children enrolled in few professional courses.

He also transferred financial benefits to 1106 beneficiaries through foster care and sponsorship, amounting to Rs. 2.65 crore. Besides, 30 meritorious 12th class students from Child Care Institutes, who had excelled in 10th class, were provided laptops. In the second phase of the initiative, 268 students from 10th and 12th classes will receive laptops. He also allocated rupees six lakh to three beneficiaries for the establishment of small and micro-industries. The Chief Minister said that under the Sukh Ashraya Yojana, approximately 2,700 newly identified orphans living with relatives will also get monthly financial assistance of Rs 4,000 until the age of 27 years.

“The Government is committed to protect the interests of such vulnerable children, and has made a provision for a nurse for each child requiring motherly care and also a matron for every three children to care and nurture them”, said Sh. Sukhu. Besides, the scheme also incorporates a 15-day educational tour annually for the orphan children, and their stay in three-star hotels. Besides, the air travel and all other expenses will be borne by the government. He said that these rights, as granted to orphan children, were not merely for the sake of mercy, but now it was a law to protect their rights.

Under the scheme, the beneficiaries will also receive Rs. 10 thousand as apparel allowances, Rs. 500 as festival grant and a marriage grant of Rs 2 lakh. For higher education, children are eligible for financial assistance of up to Rs 1 lakh and a monthly pocket money of Rs 4000. Furthermore, grants of Rs 2 lakh will be provided to support orphan children in establishing small or micro-industries for self-employment, he added. Encouraging the Children on the occasion, the Chief Minister exhorted them to work with sincerity, determination, and hard work, as these were the keys to success, he remarked. For construction of a house, the landless orphaned children will be provided financial assistance of rupees three lahks and additionally three biswa of land in the rural areas and two biswa in urban areas.

He said that the government was giving relaxation in the income limit and simplifying the process for pension and disability relief allowances for various vulnerable groups, including widows, abandoned women, and those with disabilities. Speaking on the occasion, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Dr. (Col) Dhani Ram Shandil highlighted the commitment of the present State Government, led by Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, to uplift the underprivileged sections of society. Emphasizing the significance of Mukhyamantri Sukh Aashray Yojana, the Minister said that various decisions have been taken by the government for the social welfare of the people besides, the approval of new social security pension cases.

He said that the allowance for widow remarriage has been raised significantly from Rs 65 thousand to Rs 2 lakh by the present State Government. The state government has allocated a budget of Rs 995 crore to the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment for this fiscal year, he said. Earlier, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, M. Sudha Devi welcomed the Chief Minister. Agriculture Minister, Prof. Chander Kumar, Public Works Minister, Vikramaditya Singh, MLA Kewal Singh Pathania, Vice Chairman of HPSIDC Vishal Chambiyal, Mayor, Shimla Municipal Corporation, Surender Chauhan, Deputy Mayor, Uma Kaushal, Director Women and Child Development, Rupali Thakur, State Congress Sewa Dal Chief, Anurag Sharma and other dignitaries were also present on the occasion amongst others.

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