India agrees on universal pension


By Rhiannon Leon

Last week, thousands of older people from across India gathered in New Delhi to peacefully protest for their rights. Days later, on 7 March, they heard the Government of India make an unprecedented commitment to improve the Indira Ghandi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) and ensure every older person receives a pension.

The scheme has faced mounting criticism for its small size and low coverage. Targeted at older people in households classified as living below the poverty line, it covers only around 20% of India’s estimated 84 million older people. The amount people receive varies between states, with some people receiving as little as Rs.200, or US$4, a month.

Shunda Bala, 70, with her grandson Even small pensions allow older people to contribute to their basic needs and provide for their families. (c) Kate Holt/HelpAge International

In recent years, the Pensions Parishad, an Indian civil society organisation, has mobilised older people to carry out a number of protests across the country, supporting them to call for an abolition of targeted coverage in favour of a universal scheme, as well as an increase in the pension. These protests have also supported intense lobbying by local and national NGOs, including our Affiliate, HelpAge India.

“Everyone should get a pension”

On 7 March, Jairam Ramesh, the Rural Development Minister, announced that he had been authorised by the Prime Minister to negotiate an expansion of the pension system.

Speaking to the protesters in Parliament Street, Ramesh stated everyone’s right to a pension and that targeting based on poverty line classification would “be done away with”. Instead, targeting which excludes only the wealthy and those who receive contributory pensions, aims to ensure that everyone receives a minimum income in old age.

Ramesh also announced an increase in the benefit level of the current pension scheme to Rs.300, or US$6, a month, while at the same time acknowledging that this amount should be increased.

However, the minister stopped short of a commitment to Pension Parishad’s calls for the benefit level to be raised to Rs.2,000, or US$40. It is expected that, in the coming weeks, talks between the Pensions Parishad and the Government will attempt to negotiate an acceptable increase.

Timeline for implementation

Despite a strong commitment, the timeline for implementation of these changes is uncertain, a cause of concern for the Pension Parishad.

With no firm schedule for implementation, and only a vague statement that these changes will happen within the next five years, protests may continue.

“We cannot agree to this indefinite timeline,” said Aruna Roy of the Pensions Parishad, “if they will not agree to implement changes this year, we will come back with larger numbers”.

A step forward

An expanded social pension would undoubtedly improve the lives of older people and their households in India.

Evidence demonstrates that even low-level social pensions can have a significant impact on older people, contributing to their basic needs, allowing them to invest in ways to earn a living and improving their sense of wellbeing.

“India has the second largest population of older people in the world. If this expansion were to go ahead it could constitute one of the greatest single steps forward in income security for older people,” said Charles Knox-Vydmanov, HelpAge’s Social Protection Policy Adviser.

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  • vinod sharma (25 June 2016)

    The new Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi should look seriously into the universal state pension of senior citizens of India. Based upon the current status of India in the world, the minimum universal state pension of senior citizens of India should be Rs 4000.00 per month. India has the funds to do it to keep its dignity in the world as a rising super power. India is no longer a rat race. If it is not done by you now, it will never be done.

    Mr Modi, I hope you are getting my massage.

  • vinod sharma (06 February 2014)

    the minimum level of universal old age pension without means testing should be set at Rs 1500/ per month as at now subject to annual review onward. India has stupendous wealth and can afford this meagre amount quite easily.

  • lalit (02 September 2013)

    As majority of the elderly in the country are dependent, and considered as a financial burden on the family, their self-esteem, health and general well-being are low. Therefore, to give them a sense of relevance and feeling of important participants of nation building, the government could consider universal pension and insurance coverage (UPIC) for citizens above a certain threshold of age, say 60 years

  • M.V.Ruparelia. (15 March 2013)

    Rural Ministry is playing games with Poor Elders of the Country since lat several years! Rs 300 p.m. is a mockery of Humanbeing and violates Human Right to survive. Pl see our letter to Rural Minister: To 8th March, 2013.
    Shri Jairam Rameshji, Honorable Minister of Rural Development,
    Government of India, Krishi Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi-110001.

    Respected Jairamji,

    Sub: Report of Task Force headed by Shri Mihir Shah notified in Web Site of Rural Ministry.
    Ref: News in Live Mint & The Wall Street Journal of 4-3-13.

    It is observed from above News that you are very happy & in total agreement with the recommendations and would put it up to Cabinet for implementation. We would request you to look in to the following observations sympathetically.

    Recommendations of this Task Force are nothing but a JOKE of the Day and Mockery of Respected Elders of the Country!!

    The learned Task Force has recommended Rs 300 p.m. as IGNOAPension from 1-4-13, same amount as already given for other 2 pensions by Government from 1-4-12!! Let government be fair to their elders and give Rs 300 to Senior Citizens from the same date viz 1-4-12, as given to other 2 categories and not from 1-4-13, as recommended. Rs 300 to a Senior Citizen belonging to BPL Family of 5 are nothing but a social crime. If only one senior citizen is in BPL Family of 5, the entire family shares the meagre pension of Rs 300. Even after State/UT`s contribution, it works out to Rs 600 for five members i.e. Rs 20 per day for 5 and Rs 4 per one living/breathing INDIAN CITIZEN!! BRAVO to TASK FORCE!!

    Financial Constrains are for only helpless, ailing BPL Elders of a Highly Advanced & Financially Prosperous Country, which boasts in the ENTIRE WORLD for having RESPECT for their ELDERS!! Government spends Rs 20000 p.a. (more than Rs 1600 p.m.) for one Under Trial Prisoner and much more for convicts. Even alcoholic & drug addicts are granted Rs 900 p.m. by same Govt for food during their remaining in Anti-addict Centres! Rs 300 to Respected BPL ELDERS are a MOCKERY OF HUMANBEING & SOCIAL CRIME!! Kindly, consider how much Government is spending for SC/ST/OBC/Minority citizens only considering that they are born in those families and they are looked after well by Government and are given lot of facilities and opportunities without seeing their financial or social position. BPL are also born in BPL families, which are not given any facilities or opportunities to educate themselves or get employment or earn their livelihood for centuries together. Those born in such disadvantaged poor families remain BPL due to competitive social & economic condition in the Country and deserve special treatment on par with SC/ST/OBC/Minority Community etc.

    Para 25 of National Policy, 99 lays down that rates of monthly pension will need to be revised at intervals so that inflation does not deflate its real purchasing power, whereas TASK FORCE has now suggested in 2013 for linking with inflation and that too not with immediate effect but in Phase II i.e. with effect from 1-4-14!! WHOLE COUNTRY must salute such TASK FORCE!!

    Task Force has suggested Rs 500p.m. from 5th year (2016-17) of 12th Plan. This is nothing but cheating BPL Elders!! Task Force has not cared and taken note of Country-wide agitations by Joint Action Committee of all Organizations of Senior Citizens of the entire Country for last 3 years and recent mass agitation in Delhi by Pension Parishad headed by Smt Aruna Roy.

    Task Force has not bothered to remove the adoption of 13 Parameters by Rural Ministry for classifying BPL Family for giving this meagre pension to Senior Citizen but has boldly suggested to continue present criteria and to consider change over later to criteria notified by Government for fixing Priority Households and General Households under National Food Security Act!!! Can this be due to lethargy & inertia of the Task Force to examine the given task and decide as per terms of reference or just to eyewash and strengthen the prejudice of Government for their Elders due to so called restraints of resources only for Elders or to recommend on dotted lines of thinking of anti-elder Government officials!!

    Kindly, consider the plight of BPL Elders of the Country sympathetically.

    Thanking You,
    Yours Sincerely,

  • Joseph Vijay Panicker (14 March 2013)


  • pankaj.sinha (13 March 2013)

    This is very good step..taken by Govt..As India is 2nd largest population of older people in the world.Now destitute Senior citizens will get benefit..

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