Millions of retired people could soon be spared the trouble of travelling to banks and post offices to prove they are alive to claim pensions. The government is working on a scheme for digital verification of pensioners.
“We are developing the means to allow pensioners to prove they are alive by a combination of Aadhaar numbers allied to a software tool that can be used from anywhere”, RS Sharma, secretary, department of information technology, told The Indian Express.
Current rules mandate that any person who draws a pension from her employer has to submit a proof every year that she is alive. While there are several alternative form of certificates that banks and post offices accept (11 types for government pension), in all cases they have to be presented by the person who draws the pension to the office from where the monthly payment is made. This applies for spouse to draw family pension, too. The few exceptions are for certified cases of ill health or permanent disability but here too the onus is on the disbursing agency to assure the person is alive.
This is also one of the reasons why government departments wed their pensioners to a single branch of a bank or a post office as the verification records are maintained by that office in physical documents. In February 2013 the department of expenditure relaxed the rules to allow pensioners to hand over their certificates to any branch of the bank which handles her pension account.
Once the alternative system is in place, it is expected to be extended to the pension market for unorganised sector in India too. Gautam Bhardwaj, managing director, Invest India Micro Pension Services agreed that pension companies in this sector would need this support. “They have not worked out anything so far, but an Aadhaar based application would be essential, I expect”, he said.
The new system will be a joint effort of the finance ministry and the department of information technology. It will allow people to seed their pension accounts with Aadhaar numbers and on top of that build in an additional level of verification using a touch application to demonstrate the person is alive.
Sharma said the scheme has been flagged with the Prime Minister’s Office.
The size of the pension market is expanding fast in India. A Ficci-KPMG report has estimated the potential size of the pension market in India to close to Rs 4,00,000 crore by 2025.