Thousands get their February dues only now

Thousands of beneficiaries of social security pension schemes in the State could receive only now their due for the month of February.

Normally, they should have been paid by 10 of the subsequent month – March 10 in this instance. But, this did not happen this time, as the strength of old age pensioners, as they are called popularly, went up during the just-concluded financial year of 2013-2014 beyond the calculations of the government. In March 2013, the figure of pensioners was 30.76 lakh. In a year, it rose to about 36 lakh. When the present government took over in May 2011, there were 23.7 lakh beneficiaries.

Originally, for 2013-2014, the government had set apart around Rs. 4,200 crore for the social security programme. But, to the surprise of officials, a shortfall of around Rs. 160 crore had occurred. It took some time for making additional allocation and, by now, the disbursal of the pension amount not just for February but also for March would have taken place, the officials say, adding that for the next three months, adequate provision has been made.

The increase in the number of beneficiaries has been attributed to different factors. A large number of applications were submitted by prospective beneficiaries at camps held through the Assured Maximum Service to Marginal People in All Village (AMMA) scheme.

Another reason is the government's move to increase the amount of pension to Rs. 1,000 three years ago. Since then, the number of pensioners is on the rise.

Explaining the Tamil Nadu's model, the officials say there are 12 categories of social security pension schemes including three national schemes. Even though the Union government’s share ranges from Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 under the three national schemes, the State government eventually provides Rs. 1,000 each to beneficiaries of such schemes, just as it does for pensioners of the remaining nine schemes.

Responding to reports of the role of intermediaries in the disbursal process, the officials say the government is now paying its attention to reduce the scope of interface, even as District Collectors are attending to specific complaints. As of now, eight lakh beneficiaries are getting the amount through banks. Traditionally, pensions have been disbursed through the Postal Department. The government’s plan is to cover all the beneficiaries through banks in a phased manner. Besides, online submission of applications has been proposed in some districts.

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