NABARD to stream micro credit through grass root groups

Thiruvananthapuram: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) will pay greater focus on financing through 'Joint Liability Groups' (JLGs) in Kerala as it is found more effective way of priority sector lending, reports PTI.

JLGs are informal groups of even 4-10 individuals joining together for the purpose of availing bank loans through group mechanisms against mutual guarantee.

According to NABARD's State Credit Plan 2011-12, financial inclusion through JLGs would be deepened in partnerships with neighbourhood groups like 'Kudumbasree', non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and banks.

Over 21,000 JLGs had been promoted by the bank in the last year in Kerala alone. It also gives promotional assistance for formation and nurturing of JLGs by banks and NGOs, sources said.

Through JLGs, the bank could "reach the rural masses including the tribals, fisherfolk and farmers in a better way," a NABARD document quoting Dr Prakash Bakshi, executive director, said.

NABARD's 'State Credit Plan' for 2011-12, an aggregation of potential linked credit plans of the 14 districts of Kerala, envisaged an outlay of Rs58,159 crore.

While the 'primary sector' comprising agriculture and allied activities would get Rs25,872 crore, the 'secondary sector' with small and micro enterprises would get a credit share of Rs4,130 crore.

The 'tertiary sector' including small road transport, tourism, housing and educational loans would get an outlay of Rs28,155 crore under the Credit Plan.

To help farmers meet growing expenses, the bank would ensure 100% coverage of Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) to all eligible farmers in the state. Efforts will also be done to make KCCs smart and linking to ATMs, it says.

The plan has laid focus on adequate credit estimate for crop production, organic farming, land development, soil and water conservation, rural tourism and traditional industries like coir, handlooms and handicrafts.

NABARD's annual financial assistance to Kerala for various economic activities in rural sector and rural infrastructure creation is in tune of over Rs2,100 crore.

While it had provided an assistance of Rs913 crore to banks for agriculture lending and non-farming activities, Rs837 crore was outlayed under short-term credit during 2009-10.

For creation of rural infrastructure, loans to the tune of Rs382 crore was provided to the government of Kerala during the same period, sources said.


New STAR mediclaim products with dual benefits and for couples

Star Health launches a health policy that does not require medical screening, and allows migration to plans with renewal beyond the age of 69. Another for couples also clubs maternity benefits

Star Health and Allied Insurance Company has launched two new products-a health policy with dual benefits and another to provide basic health cover for couples with an additional offer to take care of child delivery expenses up to a limit.

Star Unique Health Insurance is a health policy which covers hospitalisation as well as pre-existing diseases after a waiting period of 11 months. The advantage is that there is no pre-acceptance medical screening. This policy can be a boon for those persons who are perceived to be hypertensive or diabetic. The coverage for pre-existing diseases is limited to 50% of the sum insured.

The drawback is that co-payment of 30% is applicable for all claims and has certain limitations like room rent @1% of the sum assured, sub-limits for some procedures, as well as specific exclusions like cancer, kidney diseases and so on. The policy can be renewed till the age of 70. Policyholders can also migrate to the Senior Citizen Red Carpet plan (age 60 to 69 with guaranteed renewals beyond 69) or other plans.
RS Nayak, zonal manager, Star Health, says, "The target segment for this product is individuals of age 50 to 65 with a high risk of hypertension, diabetes or other problems. The co-payment of 30% will be applicable due to the nature of risk taken by the company. The premiums will also be almost twice the premiums of regular mediclaim."

Persons who are HIV+ can also take this policy provided their CD 4 count at the time of entry is not less than 350. The cover for such persons excludes treatment for HIV/AIDS and 'opportunistic' infections. The policy is available under three sum-insured options, namely Rs1,00,000, Rs2,00,000 and Rs3,00,000. The policy is for a two-year period, with the facility for payment of premium in two annual installments. The premium for sum assured of Rs3,00,000 will be Rs20,010 for age 41 to 55 in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi. For the same coverage and age in the rest of India the premium will be Rs16,675.
The other policy, Star Wedding Gift Insurance, offers basic health cover for couples on a floater basis from 18 to 40 years. It is renewable up to age 45 and provides for maternity expenses-whether it is a normal delivery or by Caesarean section-up to the limits provided. Couples who already have a child can also be covered.

The policy is available for one-year, two-year and four-year terms and the policyholder can move to other plans after the maximum age limitation. The drawback is that the entire premium is payable in advance, with a waiting period of 36 months to avail the benefit. There are two sum-insured options-namely Rs3,00,000 and Rs5,00,000 that each have different benefits.

Broadly the policy offers cover under four different heads: hospitalisation cover, child delivery expenses, pre- and post-natal expenses, cover for the new-born baby, lump-sum payment if the new born is a down's baby or is suffering from cerebral palsy and cost of test for detection of foetal abnormality. The premium for sum assured of Rs3,00,000 for age up to 35 years will be Rs10,305 and for the sum assured of Rs5,00,000 it will be Rs13,960.

According to RS Nayak, "The target customer segments are newly-married couples or couples with one child. Even though there is waiting period of 36 months to cover child delivery expenses of Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 for normal delivery and Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 for Caesarean, the coverage is also for numerous complications that can arise for the new-born baby and mother. For example, the lump-sum payment for Down's syndrome and cerebral palsy is Rs30,000 to Rs50,000. Post-delivery complications will also be covered within hospitalisation limits."

There are some products in the market that cover pregnancy after a waiting period of 48 months, whereas Star Wedding Gift insurance covers this after 36 months. The plan does not need medical examination.  The drawback is the exclusion of pre-existing conditions and other specific exclusions.

Overall, both are good products, but it is necessary to read the policy document for details on exclusions, sub-limits, and coverage details.

RS Nayak says, "We have done business of Rs979 crore in 2009-10 which includes Rs187 crore retail. For 2010-11, we have done Rs950 crore till December 2010 which had Rs220 crore by way of retail. We hope to scale up to Rs1,250 crore by the end of the current financial year."


Till debt do them apart

The Treasury Secretary of the US has said that if the country does not get another $1 trillion or so by March this year, America will begin to default on its debt obligations.

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