The government is proposing to update the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), a Centrally sponsored scheme that facilitates senior citizens, disabled persons and widows with financial assistance through social pensions.
A revamp in the NSAP could increase the pension payouts for the beneficiaries, i.e. the elderly, individuals with disabilities and widows. According to sources, the pension payouts for senior citizens above the age of 80 years could increase up to Rs.1,000 per month. At present, the current pension payout for the same stands at Rs.500 per month.
In the same line, the pension payouts for senior citizens up to the age of 79 years stands at Rs.200 per month as of now. However, if the new proposal is sanctioned, the pension could increase by another Rs.300. This would bring the total pension payout for those up to the age of 70 years to Rs.500 per month.
The proposed revamp of the NSAP also includes linking the pension rates to the programme. The programme shall make use of the Social Economic Caste Census (SECC) data to recognise beneficiaries more efficiently. If the SECC data is linked to the NSAP, the existing list is expected to increase by over 20 million beneficiaries.
The Centre has also proposed to switch to a complete direct benefit transfer mechanism which will allow the direct transfer of payouts to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. At present, the Centre disburses over Rs.9,000 crore to more than 31 million beneficiaries under the NSAP.
The National Social Assistance Programme includes four schemes focussed on the elderly, widows and the disabled. They are the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS), the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) and the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS).
Under IGNWPS, below poverty line (BPL) widows aged between 40 and 59 years are eligible for financial assistance in the form of pension payouts of Rs.200 per month.
As per the IGNDPS, beneficiaries, i.e. BPL individuals between the age of 18 and 59 years with severe disabilities are eligible for Rs.200 per month.
In the same line, eligible BPL households are to be provided with the one-time financial assistance of Rs.10,000 in case the family’s breadwinner aged 18-64 passes away under the NFBS.
With the linking of the SECC 2011 data to the programme, identification of deprived beneficiaries will become a lot easier for the Centre. Also, the census data will help in rolling out the pensions in phases depending on the level of deprivation.
The number of senior citizens in India increased from 76 million in 2001 to over 103 million in 2011. The projected numbers expect the number of senior citizens in the country to rise to over 143 million in 2021.
The NSAP programme was launched in the year 2007. However, the amount decided for the pension payouts has not been revised ever since. Earlier in 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre and State government to reconsider the entitled pension payout to a more realistic number. If the Centre’s proposal is sanctioned, then it could be a massive win for the elderly, widows and the disabled in the country.
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