Sunday, May 6, 2012

Press Conference: Demand for Universal Old Age Pension Entitlement

A press conference for demanding universal old age pension entitlement was held at the Indian Women Press Corps, New Delhi on 4 May, 2012. RTI activist Aruna Roy (MKSS) who is spearheading the campaign-Pension Parishad said that there is an ongoing debate on poverty. Poverty issues have been taken up in the discourse on development. Since the longevity of the poor has gone up but ageing body is unable to perform skill based task, pension becomes important for livelihood at old age. There is little or no social security available for the poor who are old. Joint family structure has broken down into nuclear family structure leaving no income or housing support for the aged. A recent meeting held at TISS, Mumbai revealed that Rs. 200/- per month is given to an old person aged between 60-80 years, and Rs. 500/- per month is given to an old person aged 80 years and above. Of the total elderly population, only 1.97 crore are beneficiaries of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), which means that only about one in every five persons over 60 years old receives old age pension. Universal non-contributory pension has been demanded by Pension Parishad for those above the age of 55 while the eligibility for women has been pegged at 50 years without any distinction on the lines of BPL and APL. For other vulnerable groups or workers in hazardous industries, the age of eligibility has been pegged at 45 years. Aruna Roy asked for considering pension to be an individual entitlement and linking pension to inflation. There is demand that there should not be forced retirement due to pension. Daily pension should be equivalent to half of minimum wage.

Baba Adhav, veteran leader of unorganised workers in Maharashtra, informed about the social security conference that took place in Pune in February, 2012. He said that Bhalchandra Mungekar was also present during the conference. The government has shown lack of willpower to implement the Social Security Act (SSA) 2008. The Advisory Committee for implementing the SSA 2008 was formed only in two states-West Bengal and Karnataka. Baba Adhav gave the examples of rickshaw pullers and hamals who are victims of old age. He said that universal pension is provided in Goa and in a country like South Africa where the President has gone for an official foreign trip recently.

Prof. Prabhat Patnaik (former member of the Kerala State Planning Board and ex-faculty member JNU) said that if Rs. 2000/- is given as monthly pension to an old person, then the total cost of providing pension to 8 crore old people who are not yet covered would be Rs. 1,92,000 crore, which is roughly 2 percent of GDP. If a quarter of the rise in GDP (which is presently growing at 8 percent per annum) is kept aside, then the government can use this for funding universal pension. He ended with “The state of civilization must be judged by the way it treats its elderly.”      

Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women) informed that NFIW is part of Pension Parishad. Aged persons are discriminated everywhere including Kerala.

Prof. Ravi Srivastava (former member of the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector and faculty member JNU) informed that as per the estimates by National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS), 93 percent of the workforce is employed in the unorganized sector. 77 percent of the population is poor and vulnerable. As per the recent estimates by KP Kannan, the figure has come down from 77 to 70 percent. Social security is a right of the workers. Social protection, social security and sustainable human development are all interlinked. Old people of tomorrow are workers of today. They deserve protection. The universal pension scheme has to be non-contributory. For financing the scheme, the government needs to impose social security tax and levy cesses on industries. Rs. 500,000 crore has been given as freebie to various industrial houses in the current budget. Inequality has been costly to the Indian society. Maoism is a growing socio-economic problem. In Brazil, old age pension has redistributed income and reduced income inequality, he added. The idea is to raise money via additional revenue generated and not using money from the existing tax base. If there is a universal entitlement scheme, then the migratory construction workers would be benefited.       

Activist Subhas Lomte said that pensions of MPs and MLAs have gone up but not of the poor and aged unorganized workers.

Dharna Program schedule

Along with a focus on Pensions, the following related issues will also be discussed in public hearings on the 5 days of the Dharna -

7th May 2012– Public hearing on issues of the elderly.

8th May 2012– Public hearing on Accountability and Grievance Redress related to Pensions and entitlements for the elderly. The Grievance Redress Bill will also be discussed.

9th May 2012– Public hearing on issues of marginalised and vulnerable groups

10th May 2012– Public hearing on issues related to the National Food Security Bill and food security of the elderly

11th May 2012– Pension Parishad discussion on the response to the charter of demands. Planning the way forward.

•           A Universal and Non Contributory Old Age Pension System to be established immediately by the government with a minimum amount of monthly pension not less than 50% of minimum wage or Rs 2000/- per month, whichever is higher.
•           The pension to be an individual entitlement for all eligible citizens of India.
•           The monthly pension amount to be indexed to inflation bi-annually and revised every two to three years in the same manner as is done for salaries/pensions of government servants.
•           Any individual 55 years or older to be eligible for the old age pension.
•           For women, eligibility age for pensions to be 50 years.
•           For highly vulnerable groups (such as the Primitive Tribal Groups, Transgender, Sex Workers, PWDs), the eligibility age to be 45 years or fixed according to their particular circumstances.
•           No one to be forced to compulsorily retire from work on attaining the age of eligibility for universal old age pension.
•           A single window system for Old Age Pensions.
•           APL / BPL criteria should not be used for exclusion.
•           The payment of pension not to be used to deny any other social security / welfare benefit such as benefit under the Public Distribution System.

Exclusion Criteria
•           Individuals whose income is higher than the threshold level for payment of income tax
•           Individuals who are receiving pension from any other sources that exceeds the pension amount under the Universal Old Age Pension Programme.

Key findings of the ILO report entitled: World Social Security Report 2010/11: Providing coverage in times of crisis and beyond, are as follows:

# In India, public social security expenditure excluding health expenditure (as % of GDP) was 3.10 percent in 2005 (see Table 25. Public social security expenditure, Statistical Annex Part B) as compared to 4.08 percent in China during 2006, 12.30 percent in Japan during 2005, 21.4 percent in France during 2005, 9.6 percent in Brazil during 2001 and 9.7 percent in Canada during 2005.

# Over 60 per cent of the elderly now live in countries classified by the United Nations as “less developed”. In 2050 the elderly in "less developed" countries will constitute nearly 80 per cent of the world’s elderly population. Sixty per cent of them will be living in Asia, with over half in just two countries: China and India. These developing and ageing societies have to do something urgently to ensure the right to retirement in dignity and social security to their elderly members.

# India’s National Old-Age Pension Scheme, financed by central and state resources, reaches one-fourth of all the elderly: about half of pensioners who live in poverty.

# Old age dependency ratio (see Table 1: Demographic trends: Dependency ratios, Statistical Annex Part A) in India is predicted to rise over the years: 7.0 in 2000, 7.4 in 2005, 7.7 in 2010, 12.2 in 2030 and 20.2 in 2050. However, youth dependency ratio is expected to decline over the years: 57.7 in 2000, 53.1 in 2005, 47.9 in 2010, 33.1 in 2030 and 26.8 in 2050. Hence, the notion of youngistan is clearly a myth.

# Population over 60 years as % of total population (see Table 2: Demographic trends: Ageing, Statistical Annex Part A) is expected to rise in India over the years: 6.7 in 2000, 7.0 in 2005, 7.5 in 2010, 12.4 in 2030 and 19.6 in 2050. 

# Population over 80 years as % of total population (see Table 2: Demographic trends: Ageing, Statistical Annex Part A) is expected to rise in India over the years: 0.5 in 2000, 0.6 in 2005, 0.7 in 2010, 1.2 in 2030 and 2.6 in 2050. 


Youth dependency ratio (%): a measure showing the number of youth dependants (aged 0–14) to the total population (aged 15–64).

Old-age dependency ratio (%): population aged 65 years or over to the population aged 15–64.

Further readings:

Old age blues-Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 6 May, 2012,

Elderly people to stage dharna-K Balchand, The Hindu, 4 May, 2012,

Universal old age pension sought for elderly citizens, The Asian Age, 4 May, 2012,

Universal Pension Demanded for Elderly, 4 May, 2012,

Aruna Roy seeks universal pension rights for elderly-Puja Bhattacharjee, Governance Now, 4 May, 2012,

Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act, 2008,


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