'Implement recommendations of pension panel'

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 17, 2014 14:51 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) Various social activists Friday demanded that the government implement the recommendations of the Mihir Shah Task Force Committee on Comprehensive National Social Assistance Programme (pension).

The members, who participated in a public hearing on "destitution among the elderly", organised by the Pension Parishad here, said the "government was duty-bound to implement the recommendations".

"Despite having reservations about some recommendations of the task force committee, we feel this is the very least the government can do considering the fact the recommendations emerged from a government constituted panel," activist Aruna Roy said.

Members of marginalised communities from 18 states, including Delhi, Assam, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Odisha attended the public hearing, and also shared their stories of neglect before the jury.

The jury included Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Prabhat Patnaik, journalist Girish Nikam, National Commission for Minorities chief Wajahat Habibullah and Roy.

The commission's key recommendation was to increase central assistance under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme with effect from the 2013-14 financial year. It also suggested an extension of the scheme to single (never married) women above 40 years and divorced/abandoned/separated women above 18 years.

The commission also stated since there are women whose husbands are "missing/disappeared but not formally proved to be dead", such 'half widows' should be treated at par with widows.

Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, addressing a group of elderly at the hearing, said the committee had made "very basic and minimal recommendations to the government".

"It was done considering complete support for these changes from the cabinet as a whole," he said.

Expressing disappointment over promises made by political leaders, 80-year-old Moorthi from the Janta Mazdoor Colony here said getting pension is still a struggle for him.

"I have often gone to the local MLA and politicians. Every election, they come and promise to help people like me in getting old-age pension, but nothing has happened till now. And I don't know how to apply or who to meet in this regard," he said.

Mohammed Iqbal who suffers from acute locomotor disability hopes that "all the tireless procedures such as income certificate, proof of below poverty line status and other documents that disabled, elderly and the poor have to furnish to get the paltry pension of Rs.200-400 should be done away with immediate effect so the elderly and poor get what is due to them."

The Pension Parishad, an initiative to ensure universal pension to all elderly in India, was started by Roy and trade union leader-social reformer Baba Adhav in February 2012.