Senior citizens from across the country will stage a protest in the national capital on Sunday to draw the government’s attention towards their measly pension of Rs 200 per month and to demand a universal social security scheme to cover all those aged 65 and above.
The rally will be organised under the banner of NGO HelpAge India and Pension Parishad, a network of around 200 civil society organisations.
“More than 10,000 senior citizens from over 16 states will march to Parliament, demanding a universal social security scheme. We want that 50 per cent of the minimum wage should be given as pension amount, which is nearly Rs 2,500 per person per month, and it is linked to the inflation rate,” Nikhil Dey from Pension Parishad told PTI.
The Rural Development Ministry implements the National Social Security Programme (NSAP), under which it runs the National Old Age Pension Scheme for people aged above 60 from below-poverty-line households.
The budgetary allocation for the scheme has increased from Rs 1,100 crore in 2006 to Rs 6,564 crore in the current year, but the central government’s contribution of Rs 200 per person every month has remained static for the last 10 years, the organisers claimed.
They said smaller economies such as Nepal, Bolivia, Lesotho, Botswana, and Ecuador ensured better social pension schemes for their senior citizens than India.
CEO, HelpAge India, Mathew Cherian said the Centre gave Rs 200 per month to senior citizens under the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme and state governments made their own contribution which ranged from Rs 200 per month in Bihar to Rs 1,800 in Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi.
At present, there are around 8 crore people entitled to the old age pension of Rs 200 per month, but it reaches only 2.2 crore of them, he said.
A large number of pensioners have been denied the benefit due to the linkage of the scheme with Aadhaar. In some cases, the beneficiaries were declared dead due to technical errors, Cherian claimed.
Noted economist Prabhat Patnaik said a pension scheme cannot be contributory or means-related. It cannot be a targeted scheme because such programmes leave out many deserving beneficiaries and are a violation of the principle of universality, he added.
He said a pension was considered a favour to the elderly, which showed the feudal mindset of our society.
Patnaik said based on the consumption criteria of 2,100 calories per person per day in urban areas and 2,200 calories in rural areas, the monthly pension comes out to Rs 2,750 in 2018.
He added that a straightforward wealth tax would be a far more appropriate way of raising resources for pensions.
“A mere 0.8 per cent tax on the wealth of just the top 1 percent of households will be enough to finance a universal rights-based old-age pension scheme,” Patnaik said.
Social activist Aruna Roy said for pensions, like any other public entitlement, one needed a robust and responsive grievance redressal system.