“The proposal is being scrutinised for the possibility of inclusion in the Budget speech,” said a senior official of the Rural Development Ministry, which administers the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). If the proposal is announced, the Ministry will then move the Cabinet to approve the increase in pensions, said the official. Separately, a study has been launched to consider doubling the number of people covered by the scheme, a promise originally made in last year’s Budget. Discussions are also being held with the State governments on a proposal to merge the Central and State pension schemes. The BJP’s defeat in the recent Assembly elections has forced the Centre to consider sops for rural India. The Centre has been considering various welfare measures to benefit rural Indians and farming communities before the Lok Sabha election. Senior government officials have mentioned income support, interest waivers and increased access to credit as some of the other measures being considered. The NSAP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with an annual budget of Rs. 9975 crore. It currently covers more than three crore people who are below the poverty line (BPL), including about 80 lakh widows, 10 lakh disabled and 2.2 crore elderly.