NEW DELHI: It has reported that the Centre may make it mandatory that 10% of ‘corporate social responsibility’ funds are spent on the welfare of elderly persons and effect a ten-fold hike in the old-age pension, in what is likely to be a new focus on senior citizens in view of their rapidly growing numbers and challenging living conditions.
According to the ‘national policy on older persons’ to be unveiled soon, the Centre will amend the recently promulgated legislation on CSR to ensure that minimum 10% of the funds are spent on senior citizens.
In a major policy leap, the Centre may hike the old-age pension from the current Rs 200 to Rs 1,000 per month for persons up to 80 years while it would be increased from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 for those above 80 years.
The Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 pension would just be the central share which would stand doubled if the states agree to provide a matching share.
Calling the 80-plus as the “oldest old”, they would be provided additional pension in case of disability or loss of adult children which leads to the added responsibility of looking after grandchildren.
The Union social justice ministry is likely to soon move for Cabinet approval for the ‘national policy on older persons’.
The focus on elderly is driven by estimates that senior citizens will soon form a big chunk of the national population, a growth that is fast pitching them as a key social bloc needing care. As per census reports, the 60-plus population has registered a steady increase from 5.7 crore in 1991 to 7.7 crore in 2001 and 10.4 crore in 2011 – the increase in both decades being around 35%.
A government study has projected that senior citizens are likely to be 12.4% of national population in 2026 while the United Nations says the 80-plus population in India is likely to increase by 700% from 2000 to 2050.
Given the looming demographic change, the proposed policy seeks to position older persons as a “valuable resource” rather than a dependent group. In a key proposal to help them “age productively”, the government may increase retirement age of employees beyond the present 60 years.
The finance ministry may promulgate a ‘social security scheme’ to take care of the elderly in the unorganized sector.
The new policy will also seek coverage of senior citizens under “take home ration” free meal scheme under the Food Security Act.
Given that security of senior citizens is a serious issue, the proposed policy will nudge states to prepare “action plans” for protection of life and property of senior citizens as is mandated under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. It will seek setting up of a national commission for senior citizens at the Centre and similar commissions in the states.
(Times of India, 22 November 2013)