New Delhi: Government is planning to bring in reforms in NSAP pension scheme to include more socially and economically deprived people by covering single women and reducing minimum eligibility age for widows from 40 years to 18 years. The revised scheme which is expected to cost Rs 1,31,626 crore will have an exclusion criteria and the assistance extended to beneficiaries would be indexed to annual inflation.
Rural Development Ministry on Sunday accepted a proposal in this regard and said it would move to the Cabinet to get its approval for the implementation of the scheme. In its recommendation, a task force headed by Planning Commission member Mihir Shah said that the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) should gradually move towards universal coverage, excluding families so identified by the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data, and quantum of assistance should be indexed to annual inflation.
It also recommended that the coverage of the pension scheme should be expanded over the 12th Plan Period gradually, with ultimate objective that "all households eligible for benefits under the National Food Security Act will also be provided pensions" under the NSAP by the end of the plan period.
On widow pension, the task force recommended revise eligibility norms by reducing minimum age from 40 years to 18 years. Presently, the pension covers only widowed women and does not cover single women, divorced, separated and abandoned women.
The task force recommended that "pension may be extended to single never married women above 40 years and divorced/abandoned/separated women above 18 years and half widows." Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh supported the proposal and said he would move the Cabinet to implement it in a phased manner. The panel had suggested that the phase-1 recommendation should be implemented from 2013-14 and phase-2 recommendation should be done with effect from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
Ramesh said the total budgetary outlay required for all the five schemes would progressively increase from Rs 14,369 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 55,496 crore in 2016-17. "The total financial implication for the 12th Plan period is estimated to be Rs 1,31,626 crores," he said.