The Pension Parishad has condemned the lack of adequate provision and the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’ silence on the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) in the Budget that was presented on February 1.
The scheme, launched in 1995, is supposed to provide income security to the country’s most vulnerable groups – the elderly, the widows and the disabled who are declared ‘below poverty line (BPL)’.
Instead, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced a contributory pension scheme for the workers in the organised sector, in which, the workers will contribute Rs 1200 per year until the age of 60, after which they would be eligible for a monthly pension of Rs 3,000.
“While the availability of affordable, contribution-based schemes is welcome, can this help the millions of elderly who need assured social pension in their advancing years, and the comfort of a caring government? How can a contributory pension be spoken of in the same vein as a state-assured social pension?” questioned Nikhil Dey, coordinator, Pension Parishad.
In the absence of adequate allocation for the NSAP, the elderly living below the poverty line will continue to receive a paltry sum of roughly Rs 7 per day as income security, while for the widows and disabled, the amount will continue to be Rs 10.
“The miss given by Goyal to the NSAP in the budget speech is extremely disappointing. It is emblematic of how the poor’s needs and the state’s ambitions lie on very different planes under the present regime,” said Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge.
In a press note released by Pension Parishad on Friday, it has iterated a list of demands:
“1. Increasing the coverage of the scheme and near-universalising of the scheme.
2. Increasing the monthly entitlements provided by the central government
3. Proactive identification of beneficiaries and annual renewal of pensions with the help of MIS.
4. Finally, we demand that provisions for the elderly, disabled and widows cannot be a matter of fiscal availability but is a matter of right to a life of dignity.”
On October 1, 2018, more than 12000 elderly had marched to the national capital demanding a dignified life in their advanced years. One of their key demands was that their lifelong contribution be duly recognised, and they be entitled to a monthly social pension amounting to at least half the stipulated minimum wage or Rs 3,000 per month.