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“India no country for its 10 crore (100 million) aged citizens?”

December 28, 2013

Subodh Verma highlights the plight of ‘elderly left vulnerable by government pension ‘pittance’, TOI December 21, 2013.

Ageing, loneliness, healthcare and to top it all the lack of social security now potentially leaves an excess of 100 million Indians outside the safety network of pensions. A staggering number – far in excess of the population of most countries.

According to the report “there are estimated 10 crore persons aged 60 years or above in India as per Census 2011. If you take persons above, the number rises to over 14 crore. In Indian society, the elderly usually depend on their children. Over 30% male elderly and a staggering 72% of women depend on others – usually their children, NSSO 2006 report says. The government runs three pension programmes for the aged, handicapped and widows. The Centre and states together spent Rs 14,370 crore on old age pension in 2011-12; the centre’s share being just 34%. The ministry of rural development says 2.14 crore elderly people get old age pension. That’s just 20% of the total.

The report goes on to say that the Centre gives a ‘princely’ sum of Rs 200 per person while the states have to match it equally. Some, like UP, give only Rs 100 more. Assam adds only Rs 50, Tamil Nadu Rs 600. There are different income and age conditionalities in states. Gujarat has one of the lowest state contribution because it has Rs 24,000 as the maximum annual income for which pension would be given.

In some states, like all the southern, the minimum age is 65 years. Whatever be the case, the average monthly expenditure over the whole 60+ population is an abysmal Rs 124 per capita. The Pension Parishad demands universal monthly pension of Rs 2,000 for all those aged 55 years or above. This would entail a total expenditure of around Rs 2.31 lakh crore. If Rs 500 is given to males over 57 years and females over 55 years, as in Rajasthan, the expenditure would be Rs 27, 688 crores.

“If the government can pay Rs 1.16 lakh crore annually to its retired employees, then surely it should pay Rs 2.3 lakh crore to 14 crore elderly people (55 plus years age)” says Shankar Singh of the Mazdoor Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, one of the constituents of the Pension Parishad.”

The dilemma shall remain but something needs to be done urgently.

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