The Assembly’s Committee on Women Empowerment on Friday asked the state government of Meghalaya to reconsider the rates for COVID-19 tests and fast track over 57,000 pending applications for ration cards in the state.
The suggestions were made during a meeting convened by the CWE chairperson and Congress MLA from East Shillong, Ampareen Lyngdoh with officials from the Health department and Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs department in Shillong.
The issues related to the implementation of the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) and the various schemes of the Government of India under National Food Security Act (NFSA) vis-à-vis the impact of the COVID-19 on the people were discussed.
This also came after the state government had recently issued a notification which exempted BPL families from payment for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
“We have requested both these departments to immediately look into the urgency at which we need to ensure that people of the state do not face further hardships as because of the lockdown and post lockdown period till today livelihoods are still very challenging in Meghalaya. Thousands of people have come back to the state and left their jobs in other states. Therefore, the MHIS and NFSA are very important aids for the people of the state,” Lyngdoh told reporters.
Regarding the NFSA, the chairperson said there are over 21,45,015 beneficiaries who are covered under NFSA and non-NFSA schemes in the state out of which rural coverage is at 77.79 per cent and urban coverage at 50.87 per cent.
When enquired from the secretary of Food Civil Supplies on the low coverage in urban Meghalaya, she said the committee found out that a total of 57,083 pending applications of which 11,108 are in East Khasi Hills alone, remained unattended since 2016.
“Having seen this, we have requested the department to fast track all these pending applications so that at least within the quota that the government of Meghalaya received under the NFSA, whoever has been left out from the system can be included,” she said.
The chairperson said the committee has decided to review the NFSA at this stage after the state government through its notification issued on October 6, had clearly defined who will be able to access COVID-19 testing and treatment free of cost.
She said the notification had categorically mentioned that citizens who are NFSA card holders (yellow and pink colour cards) can access free testing and treatment for COVID-19.
As far as the implementation of the MHIS is concerned, the CWE chairperson said that the coverages under the scheme are still very inadequate.
She said the MHIS coverage is only 53.97 percent in East Khasi Hills, which has the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the state while in other districts affected by the pandemic like Ri Bhoi and North Garo Hills is at 49.6 percent and 47.35 percent respectively.
She informed that the Health department has assured to have a consultation programme with the government departments to ensure these queries put up by the committee are attended to immediately.