Activists of Pension Parishad continue to campaign for a universal pension system and are pressing for a minimum monthly pension not less than 50 percent of the minimum wage or Rs. 2,000 per month, whichever is higher.

Retirement remains a luxury few among the poor in India can afford. The latest Census reveals that India is home to 14.29 crore elderly (aged above 54 years) population, around 70 per cent of them residing in rural areas.

Additionally, 32 per cent of elderly males and 72 percent of elderly females are entirely dependent on others economically for sustenance.

According to the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), approximately Rs. 71,287 crore is required for universal old age pension at Rs. 500 per month for all aged above 54 years.

Differing provisions across States

Pension provisions differ across States and across State and Centre on the basis of monthly pension amounts, minimum eligibility age, and maximum income limit for eligibility.

An expanded social pension would undoubtedly improve the lives of older people and their households in India. However, a few States provide a comparatively generous supplemental pension, most provide a tiny supplemental amount, some nothing at all.

States that grant a significant monthly pension amount include Goa (Rs 2000) and Tamil Nadu (Rs 800). On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra, at 55 years for females, are role models for minimum eligibility age.

Rajasthan aims to achieve a comprehensive old age pension scheme by increasing its pension expenditure (2011-12) by an estimated 255 per cent.

The CBGA data further reveals that 8 States, including Goa, Haryana, Sikkim and two Union Territories, are already spending more on old age pension than what is required for the Rajasthan model. Interestingly, five States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat) will require relatively higher increase in expenditure on pensions as a proportion of the present expenses, with Gujarat requiring the highest increase of 1097 per cent.

Currently, the Centre-State combined expense on old age pension is around Rs. 14,370 crore, with the Centre’s share of Rs. 4916 crore forming only 34 per cent of the total expenses, far below the 50 per cent sharing principle that a concurrent list subject like social security demands.

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