Around 12 Crore Persons 60+ Years Old; 85% Not Covered by Pension
Image Courtesy: NDTV
New Delhi: There has been no change in the scope and amount of National Pension Schemes since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. According to the data released by the National Social Assistance Programme of the Ministry of Rural Development, there are about 3.5 crore men and women below the poverty line in the country, including 2.15 crore elderly, about 65 lakh widows and nine lakh disabled persons.
While state governments also have a share in these pension schemes, the amount varies from state to state. Even with the share of the state governments, this amount is not enough to cover the expenses of any person. Additionally, the inflation rate has not been added to it for the last eight years.
The Central government started the National Social Assistance Programme to provide financial assistance to below the poverty line (BPL) families in 1995. In the initial phase, the entire share of the funds given in all these schemes came from the Central government. In 2009, the Central government implemented the Widow and Disabled Pension Scheme. At the same time, states' shares in pension schemes were also introduced.
By 2014, they were converted into Union-sponsored schemes, whose implementation was put under the supervision of the states. Both the Central as well as the state governments contribute to these schemes. At present, there are five schemes under the National Social Assistance Programme, including Old Age Pension Scheme, Widow Pension Scheme, Disabled Pension Scheme, National Family Benefit Scheme and Annapurna Scheme.
The old age pension scheme was started in 1995; under this scheme, a minimum amount is given per month to BPL elderly. From 1995 to 2014, three changes were made to this scheme. There has been no change since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
As per the 1995 guidelines of the National Social Assistance Programme, Rs 75/month was given to the elderly above 65 years of age under this scheme. According to the 2007 guidelines, this amount was increased to Rs 200/month. In 2011, the age limit was changed from 65 to 60 years; as per the changes, Rs 200/month was given to the elderly from 60-79 years, while Rs 500/month was provided for those above 80 years.
The Central government also implemented the Widow Pension Scheme in February 2009. Under this scheme, an amount of Rs 200/month was given to BPL widow women in the age group of 40-64 years. The Central government insisted on giving an equal share to the state governments in this scheme. In 2012, the age limit of this scheme was increased to 79 years, and the amount received in it was increased from Rs 200 to Rs 300/month. In 2014, the government decided to give Rs 300/month to widows in the age group 40-79 years and Rs 500/month to those above 80 years.
In 2009, along with the widow pension scheme, the handicapped pension scheme was also implemented. Under this scheme, Rs 200/month was given to BPL disabled people in the age group 18-64 years. In 2012, the age limit of this scheme was changed to 79 years. Simultaneously, the amount was increased from Rs 200/month to Rs 300/month.
In the revised guidelines of 2014, the amount was changed to Rs 300/month for persons with disabilities above 40 years and Rs 500/month for those above 80 years.
No changes have been made in all these pension schemes since 2014; the government needs to increase the scope and amount given in these pension schemes.
In a NewsClick article, Prabhat Patnaik said that about 12 crore people in India are above the age of 60 years. About 85-90% of these people are not covered under any institutional pension, and many elderly at the grassroots level are below the poverty line. Still, they are not officially counted below the poverty line.
More than 80% of disabled people benefit from handicapped pension schemes. Only seven categories of disabled people get the benefit of these schemes. At the same time, there are 21 categories of disabled in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Therefore, the guidelines of this scheme should be amended afresh, and other categories of persons with disabilities should also be included.
Civil society organisations have been demanding that the amount received in the National Pension Schemes should be close to half of the minimum wage. Although the minimum wage varies from state to state, we can still fix a standard wage by considering Rs 300 as the average wage. The pension amount will be Rs 4,500/month if that is done. It should be at least Rs 3,000/month.
(Translated from Hindi by Amit Sheokand)
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