Manmohan launches new old age pension scheme

Special Correspondent

Citizens above 65 and living below the poverty line eligible

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday launched the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme that would provide a monthly pension to people over 65 years and living below the poverty line.

The scheme, launched to mark the birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, will cover 1.57 crore people and cost Rs. 3,772 crore and an equal contribution by all States and Union Territories.

Speaking after giving pension to people from 24 States, Dr. Singh asked the State governments to implement the new scheme at the earliest. “They have to ensure that all eligible persons are covered and that the pension is credited, wherever possible, into a post office or bank account. They must clearly define the responsibility of various functionaries involved in the implementation of the scheme.”

Assuring that efforts would be made to include those aged 60 and above under the scheme, Dr. Singh said the States should own the scheme, increase their contribution to the benefits that were being given and ensure that no one was left out.

It had been the tradition and part of the ancient Indian culture that the elderly were taken care of by families and communities. However, with rapid urbanisation, breakdown of the joint family system, growth of nuclear families and increasing longevity, the elderly people were finding it difficult to sustain themselves.

“Therefore, it has become necessary that we have modern systems of social security in place for the elderly. Further, the absence of adequate public healthcare facilities and the rising cost of private healthcare facilities make it imperative that social security be provided to the elderly,” Dr. Singh said.

The Centre would give a monthly pension of Rs. 200 to each beneficiary and expects the States to contribute an equal amount.

Earlier, under the National Old Age Pension Scheme, the Centre gave Rs. 75 and the States Rs. 25. But the scheme was applicable only to destitute people.

Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the States should ensure that the amount reached the beneficiaries without leakages by using the mass distribution system and the latest technology. Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh described the scheme as a token of respect for the elders in society.

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