Press Release 7th March 2013, Day 4 of Pension Parishad Dharna

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Prime Minister directed Minister of Rural Development, Mr. Jairam Ramesh to evolve a Comprehensive National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) in the next five to six weeks

Delhi, 7 March, 2013: Addressing the Pension Parishad dharna at Jantar Mantar,veteran
parliamentarian, Shri D. Raja, recounted how when Minister Jairam Ramesh responded to his
Zero Hour question on what the government was planning to do to reach out pension for the
elderly, all the Rajya Sabha members extended their wholehearted support and appreciation
of the effort that the Minister Jairam Ramesh and Congress M.P. Mr. Hussain Dalwai, had
made in consultation with the Pension Parishad to make the pension scheme a universal and
enhanced entitlement.

“We would like to assure the Minister that all Legislators and the Pension Parishad, a
coalition of organizations representing the elderly and unorganized workers will extend all
support to the Minister to strengthen his effort to carry the rest of the government with him,
in particular the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, to implement a universal pension
scheme,” added D. Raja

Shri Jairam Ramesh told the gathering that a broad in-principle agreement had been reached
with the Pension Parishad at a meeting held two days ago. This will govern the restructuring
of the scheme by making it Universal and enhancing the entitlement.

He stated that it was agreed that NSAP Pensions – Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension,
Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension – will be universal with exclusions based on clear
criteria. It was also decided that all the pensions will be at par. In this connection the Minister
stated that this means an equalized pension of Rs. 300 will be implemented across the board
for the elderly, women who are widows, single, abandoned, deserted and for people living
with disability. However, he agreed that this amount is very low and assured the gathering
that in the next few weeks the Ministry will confer within the government and with Pension
Parishad to determine what the pension amount should be. “This is a decision that the Prime
Minister and the Finance Minister have to agree,” he added.

The agreement also included the important provision that the pension amount should be
indexed to inflation and adjusted accordingly every year as is done with the MGNREGA
wage rate stated Shri Jairam Ramesh.

He also emphasized that there was a need to re-define the pension for widows and people
living with disability. In keeping with the Task Force Recommendations he stated that the
widow pension will be given to all widows 18 years and above and in addition the pension
of Rs. 300 will also be given to all vulnerable women – divorced, separated, abandoned and
single.

Similarly, the qualifying level of disability will be brought down from 80% to 40% with no
minimum age limit for the payment of disability pension. “Even a 3-year old child who is
living with disability will be given social assistance,” he stated.

He concluded his address by stating that at the end of the day what will matter is our ability
to develop a mechanism for effective delivery of the pension. This he said must include our
capacity to deliver on a fixed date and reach the pension amount at the homes of the elderly
people. He, therefore, made no commitment on when this scheme will become operational.
He said he could not assure the whole thing next year, but it would not be a very long
timeframe.

While welcoming the announcement of the Minister to make the pension scheme universal
and to implement the progressive recommendations of the Task Force on widows’ and single
women’s pension, Aruna Roy stated that the government had no choice but to implement
the scheme immediately. “We cannot agree to this indefinite timeline” she asserted and went
on to add that there is no assurance that many of the old people assembled at the dharna will
survive the hardships and indignities they are facing day after day, she said. “We do hope that
the government will reconsider the decision and come up with a meaningful timeline.” added
Baba Adhav.

In addition to Mr. Hussain Dalwai and Mr. D Raja, MPs, others present included Shri Sanjay
Raut, Shri Anant Geethe and Shri Dudhgaonkar

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