By Manira Chaudhary:
“Kaahe ka sarkar hai? Janta ki seva kyu nahi karta hai?” (What use is this Government for? Why does it not help the common people?) Says a man, seemingly septuagenarian and visibly frail, in the Bhadal village of Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh who has not received his old age pension for over a year.
India is a country with an estimated population of 11 crore in the age group of 60 years and above, two-thirds of which live below the poverty line. One of the most crucial schemes enacted by the government which could have been a life support for the elderly of the country is the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, which was launched in 1995. The scheme aims at providing a basic pension amount ranging between Rs 200 to Rs 500 to all individuals above the age of 59 who live below the poverty line.
However, the scheme has fallen back terribly on its implementation. Despite regular demands by civil society groups to increase the pension amount, rightly arguing that a paltry sum of Rs 200-500 is not sufficient to pay for the medical and other expenses of the elderly, there seems to be little improvement on that front.
Apart from that, news reports and jan sunwais conducted by civil society groups show that in many villages, senior citizens get their pension after months of delay and at times, are even denied their pension on the whims and fancies of the village head or the government appointed officials. Such situations force people to work in unfavourable conditions, battling bad health and old age, to be able to pay for their expenses.
With the elderly population expected to increase to around 20 crore by 2030, it is time to re-think, regulate and monitor the scheme better.
Watch how the situation is pretty much the same in Bihar with our video series Bihar Ki Baat.