The awareness among the elderly population among the social welfare schemes in the country remains low, the recently published India Ageing Report 2023 has pointed out.
The report, produced by the United Nations Population Fund, India, in collaboration with the International Institute for Population Sciences, throws light on the challenges, opportunities, and institutional responses surrounding elderly care in India as the country’s elderly are likely to make up 20% of the country’s population by 2050.
The three key government schemes for the elderly are the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) and Annapurna Scheme.
“The elderly in India have low awareness about the various social security schemes designed for them. A little more than half of the elderly (55%) are aware of the old-age pension scheme (IGNOAPS); 44% about the widow pension scheme (IGNWPS); and 12% about the Annapurna Scheme,” the report said.
The 184-page report which was made public on September 27 cites not only rural and urban disparities but also State-wise variation as far awareness about the welfare schemes is concerned.
In comparison to the awareness of social security schemes, the awareness of MWPSC (Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens) Act is relatively very low. A little less than 12% of elderly people had any knowledge regarding the MWPSC Act - only 15% of elderly men and 9% of elderly women knew about the Act.
Low utilisation of welfare schemes
When it comes to the utilisation of social security schemes about a third of the rural elderly (30%) from below-poverty-line (BPL) households receive benefits from IGNOAPS. “Amongst the elderly BPL widows, only 24% receive the widow pension. The percentage of the elderly receiving these benefits is lower in urban areas than in rural areas. The utilisation of Annapurna scheme is substantially low across all sections of the elderly,” the report points out. There is a State-wide disparity as far as utilisation of the welfare schemes.
“In the southern States, where ageing is more pronounced, only Karnataka showed a somewhat higher coverage (48.2%) while a third of the BPL elderly availed this scheme in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala; only a fourth of the ageing population from BPL households received IGNOAPS benefits in Telangana,” the report said. The highest coverage of IGNWPS was found in Andhra Pradesh wherein 51% of the widowed elderly received pension, followed by Himachal Pradesh and Telangana with around 41% coverage.
As far as the reason for not availing the welfare schemes the study points that multiple administrative procedures including extensive documentation could have led to some challenges, and the elderly and the elderly are often unable to carry out these mandatory requirements because of physical infirmities, lack of technical understanding among others.
Older persons with disabilities
The India Ageing Report 2023 also points out that access to social security schemes for older persons with disability remains far less. According to the report around 32% of the elderly with hearing and vision impairments availed the social insurance scheme. Of the total elderly population, around 2.5% have hearing impairment and 3.7% have vision impairment.
“The widowed elderly with disabilities accessed IGNWPS to a much lesser extent—the widow pension scheme was utilized by those with physical impairment (17.6%), mental impairment (16.1%), hearing impairment (23.1%) and vision impairment (24%),” the report said.
As far as the State wide variation for social security schemes for older persons with disability Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh showed higher access to IGNOAPS whereas Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala are some of the States with lower access to the old age pension scheme.