Government policies and legislation intended to secure the rights and dignity of the elderly are not being adequately enforced, Former Union Law Minister and Senior Advocate Dr. Ashwani Kumar submitted before the Supreme Court on Friday.
The submissions were made before a bench comprising Justice MB Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, on Dr. Kumar’s plea seeking a direction to the Centre to increase the monthly pension for senior citizens.
Currently, the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) provides Central assistance of Rs. 200 per month to persons above 60 years and Rs. 500 per month for senior citizens of 80 years and above, belonging to a household below poverty line. These amounts are expected to be supplemented by the States.
In his submissions, Dr. Kumar pointed out that IGNOAPS was last revised in 2007, and that the present amount is a “pittance and wholly inadequate”. He then asserted that the amount of pension should at least be half of the minimum wage, that is at least Rs. 3,000 (as per 2017-2018 figures) per person per month.
“This pension should be more than just a token and should be adequate to ensure subsistence consistent with the quality of life that promotes the dignity of the aged. Mere tokenism that diminishes human dignity is an affront to constitutional morality of our dignitarian Constitution,” he submitted.
Dr. Kumar further pointed out that over 15 States and Union Territories are providing pension of less than Rs. 1,000 per month to senior citizens. Moreover, he relied on SECC Committee Report to contend that out of the 2.7 crore people entitled to receive pension under IGNOAPS, only around 2 crore people actually receive pension and that too an amount less than Rs. 1,000 a month.
Furthermore, the submissions also attempted to refute claims of financial inadequacy on the government’s part, asserting, “India’s current population of the elderly (above 60 years of age) is 10.3 crores. If under IGNOAPS, a minimum of Rs. 2,000 per month per person for 60 to 79 years age and Rs. 3,000 per month for above 80 years of age is guaranteed to near-universalisation of 90% of the elderly population, the total allocation will amount to no more that 1.49% of the GDP, compared to this, France provides 11.5% of GDP for social security, Italy allocates about 12.3% for social security and Brazil developing country provides 4.5% of its GDP on public provisioning of old age entitlements to cite a few examples.”
As regards housing and shelter for senior citizens, the submissions brought to the attention of the court the fact that only nine States and Union Territories have a minimum of one old age home per person. It further pointed out that even in these States, most homes do not have the capacity to host 150 elderly people, as stipulated statutorily.
“This is wholly unsatisfactory considering the population of the elderly in these States,” it submitted.
Dr. Kumar’s written submissions therefore asserted that government policies and legislation intended to secure the rights and dignity of the elderly are not being adequately enforced and are “wholly incapable of achieving the constitutional mandate”.
In this background, it prayed for directions to the Central and State Governments to provide needy elderly persons a meaningful monthly pension, housing and healthcare.