- No expansion of coverage of people, even though a steady increase in population is observed. Inappropriate neglect of the people falling under BPL.
- Pensions have not been adjusted to inflation. In 2016, government had agreed to the fact that the amounts paid are meagre, it went back on its promise to adjust pensions to inflation.
- Despite NSPA being the only national scheme, the funds have remained between Rs. 9000 crores to Rs. 9500 crores, totalling up to less than 0.6 percent of the GDP. In 2019-20, the outlay for the scheme has been downsized by Rs. 300 crores. The pension amount has stayed between Rs. 200 to Rs.500/month without revision for over a decade.
- Mandatory linking of Aadhar has been operationalised in last 5 years leading to exclusion of many due to technical flaws in linking Aadhar or inability to register. Government forgets that these beneficiaries are old, widow or disable people, for whom Aadhar registration could be a difficult task.
CHARGE 1: NO EXTENSION OF SOCIAL PENSION SCHEMES
- Blatant Lack of Political Will for Extending Social Pension Schemes: While this government has repeatedly voiced its support for income security of the elderly, the NSAP has been systematically overlooked and weakened. Any programme offering non-contributory income security for the elderly, widows and disabled has hardly been debated. Instead a slew of schemes based on contributions for the poor are peddled to prove the government’s commitment towards income security.
- Low Coverage under the National Social Assistance Programme: Apart from a marginal increase in coverage of widow pension in 2018, no expansion of coverage has been initiated by the government. With the increase in absolute population and the expansion of BPL category people, government must have added more people to the scheme. It has only left out the deserving beneficiaries from the scheme.
- Inadequate Capital Outlay and Chronic Underfunding: Despite National Social Security Programme being the only income security programme of government, the total outlay for it hovers between Rs. 9000 crores and Rs. 9500 crores, i.e. less than 0.6 percent of the GDP. The population of those above 60 years of age is 104 million, of which 23 percent are BPL. Based on entitlements ensured under IGNOPS, the scheme should allocate at least Rs. 7300 crores, but it only allocated on Rs.6500 crore. This underfunding is observed over the years.
- Decrease in outlay and Insufficient Entitlements: NSAP outlay decreased by Rs. 300 crores in 2019-2020. After repeated appeals by people to increase coverage and entitlement, and governments lip service to assure it, capital outlay for the NSAP has witnessed downward revision. At present the central government assures pensions ranging from Rs. 200 p.m. to Rs. 500 p.m. These have remained unchanged, without being adjusted to the inflation, throughout the tenure of the present government.
In the matter WPC 2016 Ashwani Kumar versus the Union of India, despite the Ministry of Rural Development agreeing that the demands of increasing coverage and entitlement of the elderly are not adversarial they declined extending the common courtesy of adjusting pensions to inflation. Despite the adjustment would have resulted in a modest increase of monthly entitlements from Rs. 200 to Rs. 450 – costing less than 0.04 percent of the GDP the MORD termed it impractical.
- Mandatory linking of pension benefits to Aadhar: Despite it being common knowledge that the elderly find it difficult to access pension benefits due to the bureaucratic hurdles, mandatory linking of Aadhar has been operationalised in the last 5 years. Many states have reported exclusion due to absence or unlinking of Aadhar.