Telangana pension for single women: Plan will not work if disbursal remains difficult
Though small, the joy pension brings is visible. It gives women self-respect and a measure of independence. But the system of disbursal has to be streamlined.opinion Updated: Jun 18, 2017 22:51 IST
The Telangana government’s scheme of Rs 1,000 pension for single women, not covered by any other social security scheme, is a welcome measure. It is recognition of the growing number of women who remain single because of various responsibilities such as bringing up siblings, working, not having the finances to get married or being abandoned. Though the concern for widows and senior citizens has been recognised through welfare schemes, the recognition of single women for benefits is a new phenomenon. The Telangana scheme is expected to benefit nearly three lakh single women.
Though Rs 1,000 is not a large amount considering the rising cost of living, it is a beginning. The rub is, however, in implementation because accessing government welfare schemes is like running an obstacle race. Married women of over 18 years have to provide proof of separation for a year to be eligible. If documents are not available, the tehsildar has to ascertain their status. In the case of unmarried women they have to be 30 years in rural areas and 35 in urban areas and their annual household income should be less than Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively. If the beneficiaries remarry, get a permanent government job or improve their financial status, the benefits are withdrawn. So the marital and financial status of the beneficiaries has to be updated and this will be the responsibility of overworked government officials. Many women in rural India are illiterate and they will have to be listed for the new benefit. They have to deal with touts and administrative staff. So if these hurdles can be dealt with, pension for single women would be a beginning for a better life for them.
The other challenge is accessing money from post offices. At Gurgaon, many of the old who descend on the post office on pension day cannot walk or see. Many are illiterate. Sometimes they are accompanied by a son who waits in the queues. At times there is not enough money in the post office kitty and the pensioners go back. The post office staff, burdened with work, has no time to give individual attention to old women. Space in post offices is limited and there are no separate queues for women or senior citizens. Telangana has said the pension will be disbursed by the postal department after biometric or iris verification. This could only add to the chaos.
The Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan and the National Forum for Single Women’s Rights, working in 10 states and one Union Territory, have been lobbying for several years not just for pension but other rights for single women. Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, which have the most active single women movements, give monthly pension but it is just Rs 500 and Rs 650 a month respectively.
In Himachal, it was enhanced recently. Handicapped, single women of Himachal are the biggest beneficiaries, getting pension of Rs 1,250 a month. In Rajasthan they have been able to get land and property rights, increasing their financial security.
Though small, the joy pension brings, is visible. It gives women self-respect and a measure of independence. But the system of disbursal has to be streamlined.
Finally, let us not forget that the best way to secure the single woman’s future, especially if she is just 18 or 30 years, is to educate her, provide property rights and a skill so that she can earn and join the mainstream for a meaningful life. That should be next goal of the Telangana government.
Usha Rai is a senior journalist . The views expressed are personal .