Interim Budget 2019: Pensioners let down, say activists

Piyush Goyal’s budget speech ignored the vulnerable as it had nothing about the state-assured social pension for the elderly, widows and persons with disability

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 04 February 2019
Retirement benefits
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

The interim budget, or vote on account, presented on February 1, 2019, had no mention of the social protection schemes — the National Social Assistance Programme under which it provides income security to the elderly, widows and differently abled, say activists.

Those from Pension Parishad have four demands: the coverage of the scheme be increased and it should be near-universalised to include all elderly who do not have any income security, the monthly pension amount be increased from a paltry sum of Rs 200 per month for those between 60 years and 80 years and Rs 500 for those above 80, proactive identification of beneficiaries and annual renewal of pensions and that the Union capital outlay for the elderly, differently abled and widows be raised to 1.5 per cent of the GDP from the current 0.05 per cent.

The elderly living below the poverty line currently receive around Rs 7 per day as income security and the widows and differently abled get Rs 10 per day. Since the central government only covers about 3.55 crore beneficiaries who figure on the BPL list , more than 70 per cent of the vulnerable population is unable to avail even these bare benefits.

“The miss given by Union Minister Piyush Goyal to the National Social Assistance Programme from the budget speech is extremely disappointing,” said Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge India.

Goyal, instead, stressed on a new contribution-based scheme for the unorganised sector workers. “Under this scheme, to gain a monthly income of Rs 3,000 a worker has to pay Rs 1,200 per year for 31 years. From what is evident it is just another version of the existent Atal Pension Yojana with different matching of contribution by the state and not a social protection programme as touted by the government and the media,” say social activists in a release. Since the Atal Pension Scheme has about 1.1 crore beneficiaries, the activists wonder why the new scheme is believed to do 10 times better when it comes to coverage

“While the availability of affordable, contribution based schemes is welcomed, 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 pensions?” says Nikhil Dey, coordinator, Pension Parishad.

To ask that the government recognises their contribution in labouring and they be given a monthly, state assured social pension amounting to at least half the stipulated minimum wage or amounting to Rs 3,000 per month, more than 12,000 people had marched to the Capital on October 1, 2018.

“We are distraught to learn that the elderly of the country don’t find even a mention in the roadmap for the country’s progress,” the activists add.

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