West Bengal Govt to Extend Pension to all Above Age 60
Image Courtesy: PTI
Kolkata: Safura Bibi (67), Palan Ali Mondal (65), and Momtaj Mistri (70) are residents of Pratapnagar Gram Panchayat in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. They, like many others in the state, are supposed to be covered under the targeted pension scheme of the state government that is funded through various central schemes.
After failing to provide pensions under the current schemes and facing people's discontentment, the West Bengal government has proposed a grand scheme to provide old-age pensions to all residents of the state above 60 years of age. Nearly one crore of the state's population falls into the over-60 age group, and providing a pension of Rs 1000 to all elderly residents of the state will be a Herculean task for the Mamata Banerjee-led government.
Safura Bibi is not enthused by this decision of the West Bengal government. She told NewsClick, "There is no money left in the exchequer to pay for our pensions."
Meanwhile, government schemes such as providing funds to clubs for Durga Puja celebrations continue robustly in the state. Further, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has increased the annual grant to clubs to Rs 70,000. Additionally, the government also waives two-thirds of the electricity bills for these Puja committees.
Applications for the new above-60, gender-neutral pension scheme will be available at the "Duare Sarkar" camps of the state government. According to the Nabanna (the state secretariat), two schemes continue in the state: "Joi Johar," which caters to all tribals over 60 years of age, and "Tafsili Bandhu," for those from the SC community over 60 years of age. There are pension schemes in the state for tribal, OBC, and SC categories.
All pension schemes extended to economically weaker sections of the general category have been discontinued for the past couple of years. In the last five "Duare Sarkar" (government at doorstep) camps, many applications were not accredited by the West Bengal government. This has led to discontent against the state government.
There has been an aggregation of general category pension schemes paid by the central government, with funds diverted to other schemes. It has also been learned that if the pension applicant has received money from any other central government pension scheme, they will not be considered eligible for Pension under this scheme.
In December 2020, the "Duare Sarkar" scheme was launched in the state. So far, six sessions of the initiative have been organised in the state. In these six sessions, 5 lakh camps were held, according to the state Chief Secretary, Harikishore Dwivedhi. He further stated that ten crore people have attended these 5 lakh camps in the state, and government schemes have reached around 7,20,000 people in the state through these camps.
The stark contrast between these tall claims and reality has led to growing dissatisfaction among the rural population, prompting the government to consider extending pensions to all sections of the population above 60 years of age.
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