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SHG women to get pension in Andhra

A Pension of Rs 500 per month may be a small amount,but for lakhs of women in Andhra Pradesh,especially widows and the destitute,it will be a lifeline in old age.

A Pension of Rs 500 per month may be a small amount,but for lakhs of women in Andhra Pradesh,especially widows and the destitute,it will be a lifeline in old age.

Next week,the state government will start enrolling close to one crore women who are associated with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) into a unique pension scheme named Abhayahastham. The scheme ensures that every woman who is a member of an SHG will receive Rs 500 as pension from the age of 60 till her death. For women who have already turned 60 or will turn 60 this year,the state government has put a codicil: pay Rs 3,560 in installments and become eligible to receive pension for the rest of your life. The scheme also provides death and disability insurance cover and,importantly,enables two children of a member to avail scholarship of Rs 1,200 per annum. The scholarship amount will be given to children from 9th to 12th class.

In the first year,the government is aiming to cover nearly one crore women who are at present members of SHGs,and the individual policy bonds would be handed over to them from November 1.

B Rajasekhar,special officer for Abhayahastham in the Rural Development Department,says it is a unique co-contributory pension scheme with multiple benefits for women in the 18 to 59 years age group. “The scheme envisages contribution of Rs 30 per month by SHG women and equal amount by the government which would be credited into the individual pension account. The contribution of the member and co-contribution of the government are periodically transferred to the Life Insurance Corporation of India for investing diligently for securing better returns on investment. The corpus thus generated till the age of 60 years of the individual contributor,will be used for giving monthly pension to each women on her crossing 60 years,”says Rajasekhar,who has the tough task of ensuring that the scheme covers all the SHGs in the state before November 1.

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“The scheme is a boon especially for widows and destitute women living alone. Old women are often treated as a burden by the family they are dependent on. With a minimum of Rs 500 pension these woman at least don’t have to worry about providing themselves a decent meal everyday. In poor households even Rs 500 can bring respect and recognition,” says Punna Sunitha,a senior member of an SHG in Warangal district,and who is helping the Rural Development Department in creating the database on women members. Minister of Rural Development,Pensions and NREGP (National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme),V Vasant Kumar says the government has made a provision of Rs 365 crore in the 2009-10 budget to contribute its share to the pension scheme and also to ensure that those who have already crossed 60 years start receiving the pension as soon as they are enrolled. “It will provide financial stability for the women in old age,” Kumar says.

In order to provide a reasonable amount of pension,the state government has given a guarantee that every woman shall receive a minimum of Rs 500 on crossing 60 years till her death. However,the monthly pension payable to a woman can also depend on the number of years that she contributes till she turns 60. “A woman joining Abhayahastham at the age of 18 will be able to draw about Rs 2,200 per month pension or even more on attaining 60 years. This amount is likely to be much higher should the level of monthly contribution and co-contribution by government is increased every five years or so,” Minister of Rural Development,Pensions and NREGP,V Vasant Kumar says.

As the scheme also provides insurance cover,in the event of a woman member becoming partially disabled,she will receive Rs 37,500 and permanent disability,Rs 75,000. In the event of a woman member’s natural death,Rs 30,000 will be paid to the nominee,in case of accidental death,Rs 75,000. In case of death,the member’s and government’s contribution along with accrued earnings will be transferred to the nominee.

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Enrollment is being carried out by village enrolment teams and an extensive database on eligible woman is taking shape. At the AP Academy for Rural Development at Rajendranagar,hundreds of employees are being trained on the special software that will process and verify details of members to create a comprehensive data of eligible women. The verification process is expected to be complete by September 10 and collection and contribution from eligible members will be completed by October 10. The scheme starts on November 1 when the members would be given their pension and insurance policy papers.

First published on: 13-07-2009 at 12:29:05 am
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