New Delhi: Old age pension is likely to be linked with inflation index on the pattern of MNREGA besides being made universal by doing away with APL and BPL criteria, the government today informed Rajya Sabha.
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 percent.
"Government has reached a broad consensus on the issue after two rounds of talks with Pension Parishad. Elderly people from different states are staging dharna at Jantar Mantar for universalisation of pension scheme. The Prime Minister has asked me to talk to them...An agreement is likely in the next three to four months," Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said.
Ramesh was responding to members' concern over dharna by the elderly people, who are demanding increase in the pension to Rs 2,000 a month from Rs 200 at present.
Informing members 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.
"This is a very important issue ...Pension distribution system needs to be changed," Ramesh stressed.
Earlier raising the issue during Zero Hour, Hussain Dalwai (Cong) said government should do away with the criteria of APL and BPL as about 50 percent of the BPL did not have cards.
Stressing that it was a matter of serious concern that over 3,000 old persons were staging a dharna on the issue, he demanded that the government should increase the pension amount and reduce the age cap from 65 years to 55 for men and 50 for women.
Najma Heptulla (BJP), however, said the age criteria for men and women should be the same and demanded that the amount be increased "as such a meagre amount was shameful."
D Raja (CPI) said elderly people were most marginalised sections of the society and universal pension should be implemented.
Many other members also associated with the demand for increase in pension and making it universal.
Elderly people are on dharna under the banner of Pension Parishad at Jantar Mantar here demanding universal old-age pension for all those above 55 years.