Pension For All
In his note in March 2013 Union Minister Jairam Ramesh emphasised the need for eliminating the APL-BPL divide so that better pensions can be paid for all deserving pensions in a system of universal pensions. As the Central Government's National Social Action Programme (NSAP) had earlier been paying pension to only BPL or below poverty line persons, such a reform, if and when, it takes place will make available pensions to a significant number of new deserving persons.
Government employees already have a fairly satisfactory system of pensions. Obviously rich households (identified among other indictors by income tax) do not need pensions. However all other elderly people badly need access to justice-based pensions. There are about a 100 million such persons in India. At present less than 20% of them are getting a monthly pension of Rs 1000. The remaining 80 percent either do not get any pension at all, or get less than Rs 1000 per month.
Some state governments or union territories such as Goa, Rajasthan, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Tamil Nadu have introduced limited pension reforms. Elsewhere the situation is very worrying, and state governments also need to contribute more pension reforms.
If the Union Government and State Governments work in close cooperation with each other in the near future on this important but neglected issue, tens of millions of needy people can benefit from pension reforms.
Emphasising the importance of this issue in several protest actions and dharnas, the Pension Parishad has asked for a pension of Rs 2000 per month which should be indexed to inflation. This should be provided on a fixed date every month to elderly citizens identified on the basis of the age of 55 years or so. The pension system should be administered with transparency and should have an effective grievance redressal mechanism. In addition there are recommendations for improving pensions for disabled people and single women. These demands of Pension Parishad are highly justified and should get wide public support.
Bharat Dogra, New Delhi
Vol. 46, No. 29, Jan 26 -Feb 1, 2014
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