Monday, July 19, 2010

Old Age Pension: Several States need to wake up

Old Age Pension: Several States need to wake up

The Government of India instituted Old age pension to destitute older
persons several years ago. The pension amount was raised from Rs 75
per month to Rs 200 couple of years ago. Under the latest scheme
called India Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOPS) any
senior citizens above 65 in BPL category is eligible for a pension of
Rs 200 pm from GOI contribution. The center has recommended that each
state may supplement this with a minimum of Rs 200 per month from its
own resources.

The scheme envisages the payment to be made through post offices or
banks to filter out middlemen. It also stipulates that both husband
and wife are eligible if they are above 65. Earlier clause that the
recipient must be a destitute was withdrawn. With Rs 400 a month, at
the present inflationary rates of food items, a senior citizen can
just afford to buy half a liter of milk per day and nothing else. It
is a pity that in as many as 17 states and UTs even this minimum
recommendation of Rs 400 is not complied with. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar,
Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Daman & Diu pay nothing more
than center's contribution of Rs 200. Supplementary payment, out of
State resources, ranging from Rs 50 to 150, is made by 11 states:
Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Chattisgarh, Nagaland, Lakshdweep, Kerala,
Assam, Megalaya, Mizoram, Madya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

As many as 9 states – Gujarat, Jharkand, Karnataka,Rajasthan,
Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Tripura, Tamilnadu and West Bengal are contented
with meeting the bare recommended minimum of Rs4oo, thus contributing
Rs 200 from their own resources. Older persons in rest of the 9 states
are lucky in getting more than 400 – luckiest being Goa and Delhi
where OAP is Rs 1000 per month.

What it all boils down to is that nearly 50% of states are paying far
less than 400 for older persons 65+. In terms of number persons denied
even this barest minimum of Rs 400 works out to 2.1 crores. As I know
of the situation in AP let me give some startling facts: When old
couple, both are above 65, the husband is give; the wife is denied.
The amount is given through political local leaders who pick and
choose who should be given (registered) for OAP. A sample survey
conducted in two villages showed many anomalies such as: ineligible
persons being included; recipients had to pay a bribe to get
registered and a commission even on monthly payments on a regular
basis; non existing names were included for OAP etc.

The Andhra Pradesh Government justifies its stand by claiming to pay
Rs 200 to about 46 lakhs of elders. While the national average of BPL
category is around 38% of the population, AP says about 80% are under
BPL. Indiscriminate issue (sale of, would be more appropriate) of
White Ration Cards for BPL to curry the favors of public and voters
has landed the state into an irrecoverable mess. Our repeated pleas to
rectify the situation and to ensure that all truly eligible senior
citizens get Rs 400 per month have fallen on deaf ears.

This is one of the main reasons triggering senior citizens from all
over India joining together to observe a protest day at national level
on 16th August 2010. Let us hope that our rulers wake up and listen.


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