Scores of senior citizens, widows and farm labourers will be left out from the ambit of welfare pensions owing to the flip-flops that the State government has taken in the past year. After relaxing the norms for these pensions hardly a year ago, the government has now reverted to the old norms, which has put the city Corporation in a fix due to the confusion in the selection of beneficiaries.
A government order issued on June 20 says that the maximum annual income permissible for welfare pensions, which was increased to Rs.3 lakh by an order on July 20 last year, has been reduced to the previous level of Rs.1 lakh. The minimum age for old-age pension has also been increased from 60 to the old level of 65.
As a reason, the GO says that “there has been an exponential increase in the number of beneficiaries after the relaxation of the annual income and age limits. After the increase of the limit to Rs.3 lakh, a large number of applications were received. Several questions were raised from various local bodies on how to peg the income limit.”
It continues to say that “considering the errors up in the preparation of the APL/BPL lists and the precarious financial situation of the government, amendment of the norms is required.”
The relaxation of the norms last year, which did away with the requirement that the beneficiary should be from Below Poverty Line, had led to criticism from the local bodies. Over the past year, the City Corporation has revised the welfare pension lists by including new beneficiaries. Now they are confused as to what to do with the new beneficiaries.
“The new order does not say anything about the people who were added to the pension list in the past one year. It only says that we need not collect back the money already paid to them. But what will we tell them when they turn up next month asking for the pensions?” says Palayam Rajan, Chairman of the Corporation’s Welfare Standing Committee.