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Govt plans Rs 7,000-crore additional sops for the elderly, widows and disabled

The RD ministry wants to raise the pension under its three schemes to Rs 500 per month currently given to the elderly, widows and disabled under the NSAP.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2013, 08.56 AM IST
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The RD ministry wants to raise the pension under its three schemes to Rs 500 per month currently given to the elderly, widows and disabled under the NSAP.
The RD ministry wants to raise the pension under its three schemes to Rs 500 per month currently given to the elderly, widows and disabled under the NSAP.
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NEW DELHI: The government plans to raise social assistance benefits for the elderly, widows and disabled sections of society in a Rs 7,000-crore pre-election sop, hoping that the move will help the ruling United Progressive Alliance garner some extra votes in the next general elections.

The rural development ministry, led by Jairam Ramesh, is in talks with the finance ministry and the Planning Commission to increase the pension under its three schemes to Rs 500 from Rs 300 per month being currently given to elderly, widows and persons with disability under the Nation Social Assistance Programmes (NSAP).

“We have proposed to enhance social assistance to flat Rs 500 per person per month keeping in mind the inflationary pressures,” a senior government official told ET.

According to the official, if the proposal goes through, it would mean an additional outgo ofRs 7,000 crore a year from the Centre. Analysts, however, are apprehensive that a spurt in election-related spending could make it difficult for the government to stay within the budgeted fiscal deficit of 4.8% of GDP. “Achieving the government’s own fiscal deficit target of 4.8% of GDP in fiscal 2014 will depend partly on the government’s resolve on the level of election spending and on the evolution of commodity prices,” ratings agency Standard & Poor’s had said earlier this month.
 Govt plans Rs 7,000-crore sops for the elderly, widows and disabled

The rural development ministry commands a sizeable Rs 74,000 crore for implementation of the government’s four flagship welfare schemes — Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (Rs 33,000 crore), Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana (Rs 21,700), Indira Awaas Yojana (Rs 15,184) and National Rural Livelihood Mission (Rs 4,000 crore).

The annual allocation under NSAP is around Rs 8,000 crore and it comprises Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme and National Family Benefit Scheme.

Until last December, about 273 lakh people belonging to families living below the poverty line have benefited from the three pension schemes. Of this, 223 lakh elderly have benefited from the old age pension scheme while 42 lakh beneficiaries have been covered under the widow pension scheme and 8 lakh under the disability pension scheme India's national and state social assistance pension schemes are important social security programmes that are aimed at alleviating chronic poverty through regular cash transfers to the elderly, widows and disabled people, who are the most vulnerable among the poor.

NSAP was introduced in 1995 as a centrally-sponsored scheme. It was later transferred to State Plan in 2002-03. Funds are now being released as additional central assistance by the finance ministry to state finance departments.

States have been given flexibility in terms of increasing the number of beneficiaries or quantum of assistance in case they meet the excess expenditure from their own resources. Funds are allocated by the Planning Commission and monitoring of implementation is with the rural development ministry.
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