NEW DELHI: The Centre is proposing a major revamp of the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) that could raise pension payouts for senior citizens, widows and those with disabilities.

In the senior citizen category, pensions could go up to Rs 1,000 per month from Rs 500 now for those above 80 years of age and to Rs 500 per month from Rs 200 now for people up to 79 years.

The proposed revamp of the rural development ministry’s programme will also see linking of pension rates to inflation and using the Social Economic Caste Census (SECC) data to identify beneficiaries, a senior government official told ET.

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“We are considering a holistic revamp of the scheme,” the official said. “Proposals being deliberated upon include raising the pension amount, moving to SECC data for identifying beneficiaries and adopting 100% DBT (direct benefit transfer) under the schemes.”

The SECC linkage will add over 20 million beneficiaries to the existing list and the enhanced pension amount will nearly double the exchequer’s cost.

The ministry spends more than Rs 9,000 crore every year on 31 million beneficiaries under multiple schemes of NSAP for social security. Beneficiaries are identified using the Suresh Tendulkar committee-prescribed poverty line.

The NSAP, which is 100% centrally funded, comprises four pension and disability schemes for the elderly. These include the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), under which below poverty line (BPL) persons aged 60 years or above are entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 200 up to 79 years of age and Rs 500 thereafter.

Under the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), BPL widows aged 40-59 years are entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 200. The Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS) offers Rs 200 a month to BPL persons aged 18-59 years with severe and multiple disabilities.

Besides, the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) entitles a BPL household to a one-time assistance of Rs 10,000 upon the death of the primary breadwinner aged between 18 and 64 years.

Explaining the rationale behind moving to SECC 2011 data for identification of beneficiaries, the official said it is used for other benefits and also easily links beneficiaries with the stage of deprivation.

“Besides, SECC 2011 provides the flexibility in rolling out the scheme in a phased manner in accordance with the level of deprivation,” the official added.

The number of elderly persons has increased in the country from 19.8 million in 1951 to 76 million in 2001 and 103.8 million in 2011. It is projected that the number of people above 60 years of age will increase to 143 million in 2021 and 173 million in 2026.

The Supreme Court had in 2018 said the Centre and states must revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more realistic, noting that the amount was fixed in 2007 when the scheme was launched and not revised since then.





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