State government plans to include persons with less than 40 per cent disability in the pension net

The government’s proposal to include persons with less than 40 per cent disability in the pension net has put the existing beneficiaries under a lot of stress. The disability rights activists have termed this decision as ‘populist’ and point out that very little has been done to make the existing scheme effective for the deserving ones.

According to Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, blindness, low vision, hearing impairment, loco-motor disability, mental retardation, illness and cure from leprosy qualify persons to avail benefits from State-run schemes, provided they suffer from not less than 40 per cent of any of the above disabilities.

Authorities have now proposed to provide pensions even to persons who have disability below 40 per cent during the upcoming ‘Rachabanda’ programme.

“The government gives Rs. 500 as pension to the disabled persons. Severely disabled persons and children, who can’t move out of homes, are struggling because of the paltry amount. Instead of increasing the pension limit, they are increasing the numbers, which will only lead to more competition,” fears in-charge, National Disability Network, AP chapter, M. Srinivasulu.

More numbers

Experts have also questioned the move of the authorities to go against the Disabilities Act.

“The Act clearly is meant for persons with more than 40 per cent disability. Authorities are simply adding more numbers, without doing justice to existing beneficiaries, especially the severely handicapped,” says P. Srinivas Reddy, a senior activist working for the disabled.

Many felt that the priorities of authorities were not right.

“There is no factual figure of the number of disabled persons in A.P. The process of issuing disability certificate is yet to be streamlined due to which there is a surfeit of fake certificates. In Pondicherry, the disabled pension is Rs. 1,500 and in Tamil Nadu, it is Rs. 1,000. In this day and age, how can disabled persons survive on a paltry Rs. 500? Nobody is addressing these vital issues,” feels CEO, Swadhikar Centre for Disabilities, M. Pavan Kumar.

Some have questioned the government’s stand on providing reservations to such persons in education and jobs.

“If they provide pensions to persons with less than 40 per cent disability, then what happens to reservations in education and government jobs? The government has utterly failed to increase the pension amount to Rs. 1,000,” says president, Vikalungula Hakkula Porata Samithi A. Rambabu.