New Delhi: Union Minister Jairam Ramesh has agreed to universal pensions by doing away with the APL and BPL criteria. This means if the Cabinet approves this decision, 6 crore more people will get pensions.
The government is planning to raise the pension for the elderly from the existing Rs 200 to 500, but won't stretch it to Rs 2,000 as demanded by the Pension Parishad.
Informing members of the Rajya Sabha that it will be made Rs 300 per month, Ramesh said, "I agree that today Rs 300 a month is nothing and it should be increased. It should be linked to inflation as in case of MNREGA. I will speak to the Finance Minister and Prime Minister," Ramesh said.
He said the government was implementing three pension schemes at present - Rs 200 a month for the elderly, Rs 300 a month for the widows and Rs 300 a month for the disabled - and as a first step all these three should be made Rs 300 a month. "While the government spent Rs 8,400 crore in 2012-13 on pensions, it plans to spend Rs 9,400 crore in 2013-14," Ramesh said, regretting that barely four or five states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were disbursing the pension amount every month while others distributed the same once in seven or eight months.
The government is also contemplating amendments to other two pension schemes to make widows eligible for it at 18 years instead of present age cap of 40, and disabled with 40 per cent disability qualify for it instead of 80 per cent.
(With additional information from PTI)