Skip to main content

Budget for non-govt pensioners 'stagnates' in money terms, 'declines' in real terms

By Bharat Dogra* 
The population of elderly (60 years plus) citizens in India is around 140 million. The union ( central) government pays annual pensions worth around Rs 180,000 crore to its former employees numbering between 6 to 7 million. For the remaining elderly it provides about Rs. 9,700 crore ( inclusive of some other welfare spending).
During recent years, this budget, listed under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) has stagnated in money terms, declined in real terms. Leaving aside its own former employees, the union government spends just around Rs 85 (a little above 1 US dollar) per capita per month on pensions of all other elders, including the poorest.
What it spends on non-contributory pensions of these poorer elders is just about 0.4% of what it spends on contributory pensions of its own employees. The NSAP provide just Rs 200 per person per month (equivalent of less than 3 US dollars), this too only for a minority of elders, those below poverty line, in the age group 60-79 and Rs 500 per person per month for the much smaller numbers in the 80 plus age group. To this small amount several state government add their optional share.
If we include the state governments’ employee pensioner bill, then about Rs 430,000 crore are provided to about 20 million regular pensioners by union and state governments, but only about Rs 25,000 crore for pensions to all the other elderly people numbering around 120 million.
Clearly about 120 million elderly people out of a total of about 140 million do not get any significant pension at present. Their number will increase further with the implementation of Agniveer scheme in armed forces. In addition, the number of elderly people is expected to grow more compared to the general population.
If we exclude about 5 million elders who are rich enough not to need any pensions, then we still must plan for the pension needs of around 115 million elders who are either not getting any pension at all, or else, in the case of about 90% of them, are getting less than Rs 1,500 per month.
This situation should be remedied by ensuring that all these 115 million get a pension of at least Rs 3,000 per month, tied to the price index to increase with the passage of time. Thus an elderly couple can get Rs 6,000 per month as assured pension. The main initiative for this can be taken by the union government, and the state governments can fill in the gaps.
In the case of the poorest sections, several people tend to age early, particularly in the case of those with health problems. In such cases the age-limit can be relaxed and reduced to up to 55 if needed.
This will be a very significant help for people in their old age. In the case of elderly people living alone this will be a lifeline, but even in the case of those living with their families this can be a big help. This will add much to their dignity and the fulfillment of several small needs for a little cash.
Medicines, spectacles, some special nutrition for medical reasons and buying some small presents for grandchildren are some such needs and small joys that easily come to mind. Studies have shown that depression or a sense of being left out is very common among elderly people.
The monthly assured availability of cash, which increases with inflation, will surely help to reduce this somewhat. Of course this is not seen as an isolated measure to help our senior citizens, but this may well be the single most important step which the country can take to help its elderly population.
There are several schemes planned separately for farmers and farm workers and urban poor, but this is one overarching step which will benefit all sections. Apart from the elderly getting a big relief directly, their family members too will be happy.
It is high time we realize that just as government employees need a pension in their old age, similarly farmers and workers and artisans and self-employed who have toiled for several decades also need some rest and relief and security in their old age and therefore they need pensions.
This is a right which no welfare state can refuse. Fiscal options are available if there is the requisite political will. Organizations like Pension Parishad which have been pleading for this can help in taking forward such an initiative.
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Planet in Peril' and ‘Man over Machine'



Importance of Bangladesh for India amidst 'growing might' of China in South Asia

By Samara Ashrat*  The basic key factor behind the geopolitical importance of Bangladesh is its geographical location. The country shares land borders with Myanmar and India. Due to its geographical position, Bangladesh is a natural link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.  The country is also a vital geopolitical ally to India, in that it has the potential to facilitate greater integration between Northeast India and Mainland India. Not only that, due to its open access to the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has become significant to both China and the US.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'BBC film shows only tip of iceberg': Sanjiv Bhatt's daughter speaks at top US press club

By Our Representative   The United States' premier journalists' organisation, the National Press Club (NPC), has come down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recent "attacks on journalists in India." Speaking at the screening of an episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” banned in India, in the club premises, NPC President Eileen O’Reilly said, “Since Modi came to power we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his regime has suppressed the rights of its citizens to a free and independent news media."

Chinese pressure? Left stateless, Rohingya crisis result of Myanmar citizenship law

By Dr Shakuntala Bhabani*  A 22-member team of Myanmar immigration officials visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar to verify more than 400 Rohingya refugees as part of a pilot repatriation project. Does it hold out any hope for the forcibly displaced people to return to their ancestral homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar? Only time will tell.

China ties up with India, Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingyas; Myanmar unwilling

By Harunur Rasid*  We now have a new hope, thanks to news reports that were published in the Bangladeshi dailies recently. Myanmar has suddenly taken initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. As part of this initiative, diplomats from eight countries posted in Yangon were flown to Rakhine last week. Among them were diplomats from Bangladesh, India and China.

40,000 Odisha adolescent girls ask CM: Why is scheme to fight malnutrition on paper?

By Our Representative  In unique a postcard campaign to combat malnutrition, aimed at providing dietary diversity, considered crucial during adolescence, especially among girls, signed by about 40,000 adolescent girls from over 10,000 villages, have reminded Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik that his government's Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG), which converged with Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman  ( POSHAN ) 2.0 in 2021, is not being implemented in the State.

Natural farming: Hamirpur leads the way to 'huge improvement' in nutrition, livelihood

By Bharat Dogra*  Santosh is a dedicated farmer who along with his wife Chunni Devi worked very hard in recent months to convert a small patch of unproductive land into a lush green, multi-layer vegetable garden. This has ensured year-round supply of organically grown vegetables to his family as well as fetched several thousand rupees in cash sales.

Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das  Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.