MORE THAN 11 lakh pensioners are being denied enhanced pension under the National Old Age Pension Scheme due to the Madhya Pradesh Government’s dithering for the last three months.
The Union Finance Ministry had already released additional Central assistance of Rs 43.46 crore for Madhya Pradesh with the directive to the State Government to give increased pension from August 1, 2006. Three months have elapsed but the State Government is yet to initiate distribution of pension at increased rate.
The Centre has already enhanced its 50 per cent matching grant from Rs 75 to Rs 200 per beneficiary but the State Government is yet to take a decision on its share.
Now the Union Rural Development Ministry has warned of withholding its share unless the State agreed to chip in equal measure to make the pension Rs 400 per person. Hitherto, the rate is Rs 150 per person.
Union Rural Development Department joint secretary Nilam Sawhney has written a letter to the State Government in this regard, saying ‘further release including release of arrears (under the scheme) is subject to confirmation of disbursement of pension at enhanced rate of Rs 200 per month from August, 2006 onwards”.
State’s Social Justice and Empowerment Department has forwarded a proposal for increasing the matching grant from Rs 75 to Rs 200 per person to the Finance Department. Social Justice Department’ Principal Secretary Bhagirath Prasad told Hindustan Times that final decision on the proposal would be taken soon.
According to sources, enhancing matching grant for pensioners in 60-65 years age group would put Rs 196.95 crore additional burden on the State Government if it increases the matching grant from Rs 75 to Rs 200. That’s real problem. For, the Centre does not provide any grant for pensioners of this category. The Central grant is only for people above 65.
For pensioners above 65, the State Government will have to bear an additional burden of Rs 62.32 crore. While the number of people getting social security pension in the first category (above 65) is 4,15,500, those in 60-65 category are 6,56,500.
Following hike by the Centre, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh had announced hike in the State’s matching share for the social security pension. He went a step further by saying that the State Government would provide benefit of increased pension to those in 60-65 years category as well. According to sources, some rounds of meetings were held in this connection but no final decision.