Social groups working for the elderly and other vulnerable people in the country Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to look into the issues concerning old-age pension, including increment in the amount and lowering age of the beneficiaries.
In a letter to Modi, Pension Parishad, a conglomerate of many groups working in the social sector, said the elderly poor in India live in a state of perpetual crisis and must be looked after well.
Pension amounts continue to be "criminally low and completely insufficient". In many states, in the absence of contributions by states, the people continue to receive a paltry sum of Rs.200 a month, they said in the letter.
In Assam, the monthly pension amount is Rs.250. In West Bengal and Gujarat it is Rs.400 a month.
In Rajasthan and Kerala, social old age pensioners are paid Rs.500 while in Haryana, it is Rs.1,000 per month.
Recently, the government of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have revised their monthly pension from Rs.200 to Rs.1,000, they said in the letter.
Pension must be indexed to inflation, they demanded.
Although some states have increased their pensions from time to time, no state has yet indexed it to inflation. It is only rational, reasonable and humane to index pensions to inflation and to revise the amounts at least once a year, they added.
They also demanded that applying for the pension be made simple. Applying for a pension was extremely cumbersome and time-consuming, the letter said.
Also, there there was an urgent need to revamp the entire payment process as best practices from different states could be brought together to ensure a payment platform that is transparent, timely, corruption-free and efficient, it said.
The social groups also urged the prime minister to revise eligibility criteria for the pension.
In some states like Andhra Pradesh, the age for eligibility for pensions is as high as 65 years.
This should be brought down across the country to 55 years of age - at least for women, they said.