The Union government will provide three months’ pension in advance to around three-crore widows, senior citizens and differently-abled in first week of April to help them face the novel coronavirus crisis. The government provides a monthly pension to the poor senior citizens, widows and persons with disabilities under the National Social Assistance Program (NSAP). The program is run by the Union Rural Development Ministry.
The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Government of India that provides financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions.
The scheme is administered by the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. It is fully funded by the Central Government, unlike some other welfare programs where the Union government shares costs with the State Governments.
The implementation of social pensions varies considerably across states. Through state-level initiatives, many State Governments have expanded coverage beyond BPL households by relaxing eligibility criteria and increased monthly pension amounts using state finances. One such example is Lakshmi Bai Social Security Pension Scheme, launched by Government of Bihar, to cover all widows not covered under IGNWP. This scheme is among one of the many Social Security initiatives taken up by Government of Bihar being implemented by Department of Social Welfare through State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare, also known as SAKSHAM.
In order to control the spread of the deadly virus, the Indian government has imposed a 21-day lockdown in the country and is urging people to avoid all ‘non-essential’ travel. The lockdown has resulted in the closure of businesses as well as factories and temporary unemployment for thousands of workers. The lockdown followed suspension of train, flight and long-distance bus services last week.
The NSAP program comes under the purview of the Union Rural Development Ministry. There are 2.98-crore beneficiaries under this programme and the pensions are transferred directly to their bank accounts, officials said.
Hence, the Centre has decided to give three months pension in advance to all the 2.98-crore beneficiaries by the first week of April, according to the officials. As per the NSAP, ₹200 per month is given to senior citizens from 60-79 years of age and ₹500 per month to 80 years and above.
An amount of ₹300 per month is given to the widows in the age group of 40-79 years and ₹500 to 80 years and above.
For the differently-abled, the pension is fixed at ₹300 per month up to 79 years of age and ₹500 for 80 years and above.\On Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced ₹1.7-trillion package for the poor hit by the lockdown that went effective from 25 March, 2020 for 21 days. Centre rolled out the relief package, amounting to about 1% of its gross domestic product, marking an aggressive attempt to limit the economic damage caused by the virus and tackle the loss of livelihood of millions of poor.
Making a series of announcements on cash transfers for various sections of the society, Sitharaman said that the eligible senior citizens, widows and handicapped, a one-time amount ₹1,000 will be transferred in two instalments over the next three months, benefitting 30 million people.
RBI, which brought forward by a week the key meeting of the monetary policy committee, also announced steps to boost liquidity worth 3.2 per cent of the gross domestic product, and said it will retain its accommodative stance as long as it is necessary to revive growth and mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the economy.
With businesses closed during the lockdown, the government will contribute employees as well as employer’s contribution to the provident fund for the next three months of companies with up to 100 employees with 90 per cent earning not more than Rs 15,000. The contribution will be a total of 24 per cent of eligible wages.
Also, workers will be allowed to draw a non-refundable advance of 75 per cent from credit in provident fund account or three months salary, whichever is lower.