In June, Bengal made history when Dr. Manabi Bandopadhyay became the first transgender college principal in India. She was appointed the principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College, a government institution, in West Bengal.
While this is a definite move towards progress, it affected only one person, while Tripura has created an inclusive project to encompass the large population living in the fringes.
On 28 June, State Government of Tripura announced new pension schemes for marginalised sections of the society. According to this scheme, transgenders, and patients suffering from AIDS and leprosy would be paid a monthly allowance of Rs. 500. Tripura Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, also announced the decision to pay the same amount of monthly pension to Anganwadi workers and Rs 350 per month to female domestic workers and Anganwadi helpers after their retirement at the age of 6o.
Tripura Government currently sponsors 20 pension schemes from which around 1 lakh people benefit. The new schemes would prove valuable to many more, particularly the underprivileged and deprived segments of population.
What is the pension situation of the nation?
Central government currently runs three pension schemes – National Pension Scheme, Swavalamban Scheme and Atal Pension Yojana. All Indian citizens are eligible for these national pension plans. These pension plans are all defined-contribution plans – it requires the individual to contribute a specific amount per month during his employment, and future benefits are dependent on investment earnings on that amount. These schemes decreases the liabilities of the government as it does not have to pay any particular amount in future.
The Tripura pension schemes are defined-benefit plans – it requires the government to pay a specific amount per month and the individual does not have to contribute any sum of money for it beforehand. Hence, benefits are guaranteed as long as the scheme continues. Furthermore, these schemes are specifically directed towards the marginalised sections with no regular income. This project would increase government responsibility as it has to pay a certain amount from the state’s welfare fund and budget needs to be adapted accordingly.
Economy or Empowerment?
Our Fundamental Rights include Equality of opportunity, Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, and Abolition of untouchability. Despite that, the reality is far cry from what the Constitution declares. The transgenders, even in 21st century, are merely the third sex – the “hijras” begging and selling themselves for their livelihood. They are ridiculed, harassed and discriminated against by the police, medical authorities and general public, while the AIDS and leprosy patients remain “untouchables”. This stigma can only be removed by large-scale sensitization programmes as well as economic initiatives by the government for overall upliftment of these deprived people.
The Tripura pension scheme is only an economic move, but nonetheless a definite step towards progress because it has extended its horizon to the usually overlooked section – the female domestic workers. It is a laudable project that the whole nation should adopt and follow up with mass sensitization programmes. In the question between economy and empowerment, economic empowerment seems to be the best place to start.