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Pension Schemes Fail Village Elderly

An elderly woman in Jharkhand is forced to pick leaves and weave baskets for a measly income, despite being entitled to a monthly payment under the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme.

Radhni Devi, an elderly woman, faces a daily struggle to earn enough money to survive. “It’s really hard to decide whether to buy food from the money or something else,” she says explaining the consequences of being denied her old age pension.

The Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme ensures people above the age of 60, from BPL (Below Poverty Line) households, a minimum monthly pension of INR 600. The amount increases to 700 for those aged over 80. Access to money under the scheme, however, remains a challenge across the country, including in Ukharbair village in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district.

On the days that she is able to, Radhni Devi picks up leaves from the forest and makes little baskets. Selling these fetches her between 15 and 20 rupees. This barely helps her buy food, let alone cater to medical or other emergencies.

A recent survey from Jharkhand shows that reductions in budget allocations to pension schemes under the National Social Assistance Programmes mean that there isn’t enough money to cover all eligible beneficiaries. Women like Radhni Devi then bear the brunt of this shortfall. The survey also finds that funds are allocated and withheld on an arbitrary basis; there is no uniformity in the paperwork required to get access to these schemes even in a single state.

In addition, the implementation of direct benefit transfer programme and using Aadhaar cards to reduce corruption does not make access to such schemes easy. “Radhni Devi is not literate, she had to depend on others to file her application, she could not even check it”, says Manju Kisku who reported this story, explaining the challenges of online applications. As a result, Radhni Devi was cheated by a tout who promised to help her fill up the necessary paperwork.

Since October 2017, Jharkhand has been in the news for deaths caused as a direct result of people not getting access to social welfare schemes such as pensions and food subsidies. We hope that the administration wakes up before another such death occurs.

Help Radhni Devi and others get their pension by calling Pradhan Majhi, the Circle Officer of Bishnugarh, Hazaribagh on +91-9934174688

Video by Community Correspondent Manju Kisku

Article by Kayonaaz Kalyanwala

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