Pension plan for daily wage earners fails to utilise funds
A flagship pension scheme for daily wage earners launched last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed to utilize one-third of its budget allocation, a parliamentary report has revealed. The report also stated that a major part expenditure in the inaugural year went to clearing bills for publicity, among other payments.
The Modi government launched a pension scheme, Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PMSYM), to widen the social protection for the unorganized workers who comprise 95% of India’s 458 million workforce. The scheme, rolled out on February 15, 2019, provides monthly pension to workers who earns less than Rs15,000 in a month. Street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers, cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, own account workers, agricultural workers, construction workers, beedi workers, handloom workers, leather workers and similar other occupations are covered under the scheme.
The report on the labour ministry’s demand for grants prepared by Parliament’s standing committee on labour showed that PMSYM had an initial allocation of Rs500 crore in FY19-20, but it was reduced to Rs408 crores in the revised estimates and finally, only Rs345 crore has been spent till February 10, 2020.
Labour ministry officials told the panel that they are trying to “spend the remaining amount towards clearing the bills to Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), releasing of funds towards information Education and Commutation (IEC) activities, disbursing the amount to the Pension Fund Manager, i.e. LIC.”
The parliament panel, headed by Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab expressed “dissatisfaction on the under utilisation of the budgeted amount in the very first year of launch of the Scheme, which apparently is indicative of a sluggish response from the intended beneficiaries.” The panel wanted the ministry to make “concerted efforts to remove the initial friction so that the initiative which was started in right earnest, fructifies in a more popular scheme.”
The pension scheme for the unorganized sector came along with a life insurance and disability insurance to provide a comprehensive social security net for the country’s poor and the daily wage earners. The schemes were aimed to address the lack of social security coverage and address the need for medical care and expenses when workers are unable to work anymore. Launching the scheme during the interim budget in February last year, then finance minister Piyush Goyal had told Lok the Sabha, “Half of India’s GDP comes from the sweat and toil of 42 crore workers in the unorganised sector. The government must provide them comprehensive social security coverage for their old age.”
Under the scheme, a retired worker is assured of monthly pension of Rs3,000 from the age of 60 years but he has to contribute a small amount during their working age. Goyal had estimated that at least 100 million unorganized workers will get benefits under the PMSYM within next five years.