In a move that may prove to be a respite to senior citizens not supported by their adult sons, Social Justice & Empowerment Department (SJED) of the Gujarat government has proposed to waive a rule for the old age pension scheme which disqualifies a senior citizen as beneficiary of the scheme if they have a son above 21 years. The proposal which, if accepted, will enhance the scope of the scheme to a larger group of senior citizens and cause drain on annual state budget to the tune of estimated Rs 600 crore.
Sources said that presently there are two schemes of old age pension existing in Gujarat — one by the Centre and the other by the state government.
A senior officer of the state government says that one of the rules for the state government scheme, Niradhar Vrudhha Pension Yojana, is that the senior citizen must not have a son above 21 years with an assumption that the son would take care of the parents.
“However, it is not necessary that the son would be taking care of the parents. There are increasing number of sons abandoning their old parents. And so, we have proposed to waive this rule,” the officer says.
Currently, the old age pension scheme of the state government has 96,000 senior citizens as beneficiaries. If, the proposal is accepted by the government in its annual budget for the year 2016-17, then it will have increased number of beneficiary senior citizens under its purview.
The other requirement to qualify for the state government scheme is that the annual income of the senior citizen must not be above Rs 47,000 in rural areas and Rs 68,000 in urban areas. Sources said this cap is too unfair as it is even below the minimum wages decided by the state government.
Under the present scheme, the state government is providing Rs 400 per month to qualified senior citizens. Under a similar scheme funded by the Centre, qualified senior citizens are getting Rs 700 per month; in which state government gives Rs 200 and the Centre gives Rs 500.