Problems of Old Age Pensioners: No one is listening
Andhra Pradesh Government plays deaf with the old by being indifferent to pensioners' problems. Mere announcements are no good. Nobody gets fooled. Government MUST Act fast, elections or no elections.
On 12th October 2008 there was a news item mentioning that the Old Age pension has been increased from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per month to all senior citizens below poverty line. It has turned out to just an Election stunt and a mere announcement. There is no budget provision nor has any GO been issued. Even up to 5th January 2009, the topic has not been taken up for any discussion / decision in the concerned department(s). Not a single person has received any increased pension though three months have passed.
Moreover, according to statistics available with the Self Help Groups department (Rural Development) the overall number of beneficiaries of all types of pension is around 47 lakhs only whereas the news item says that the increase will benefit a target group of 70 Lakhs. Who or where these persons are is a big question. According to Central Government calculations there are about 9.2 lakhs whereas AP Government claims to be distributing Old Age pension to some 28 Lakh persons. Unbelievably, AP has nearly 80% of its population in BPL category!
Andhra Pradesh Senior Citizens Confederation (APSCCON) has been actively pursuing this subject with State Government for almost one year now. There are many lapses in the implementation of Indhira Gandhi National Old Age Pensions Scheme (IGNOAPS). Several thousands of eligible persons are ignored. Only persons with recommendation of Political representatives get it. Most of times getting registered for the pension involves bribes. Even while disbursal of the meager amount of Rs 200 per month, there are cuts going into official's pockets. While the scheme clearly states that all senior citizens above 65 and coming under BPL category are eligible, in a family even where both husband and wife are above 65, only one of the couple is sanctioned pension. The scheme also stipulates that the State Government should add an equivalent Rs 200 per month from its own funds. This is just not happening. To avoid misuse the scheme provides for payment through bank or post office. But it is given by MRO through SHGs. The press announcement of raising the pension amount to Rs 500 as stated above remains just a story to be read in the newspapers.
The government must stop fooling the public by such false propaganda especially before elections -- this will certainly boomerang upon them selves with negative effect. They must look into senior citizens' problems with real earnestness. Rectification of lapses in the implementation and enhancing the pension amount are long overdue. Poorest of the poor can stand it no longer. Their voices must be heard. Else the government may not remain in power and politicians can not do any good – even to themselves!