India is home to one-fifth of the world’s population, which includes a third of the world’s poor and one-eighth of the world’s elderly. Thus the country’s strategy for providing social security to the senior citizens is of global interest.
Like in other villages, most of the elderly face an immensely challenging situation as they become totally dependent on the younger members of their families. The government’s old age pension scheme can be of much benefit to the older people of rural India to provide them with a sustainable income and with much-needed dignity.
Sixty-year-old Abdul resides with his family of eleven members. He works as a daily wage laborer but, because of his advanced age and lack of livelihood opportunity, he is without work on some days, making it difficult for him to maintain his family. Abdul fulfils both eligibility criteria for an old age pension from the government: being below the poverty line (BPL) and his age. However, he had never availed any social security scheme benefits due to the lack of information on how to go about procuring them. In the previous year, Abdul had tried to get an old age pension, but the contact person had cheated him.
In September 2020, he accompanied the Village Leadership School members to their training program in his village that was conducted under a CSR-supported initiative, implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation. The facilitator shared about the various pension schemes, such as widow pension, old age pension, and others. Abdul wanted to apply for old age pension for himself and for his wife. After listening to his case and finding him eligible for the scheme, the project team assured him that he was entitled for the scheme. The team assisted him with the formalities and submission of the applications to the concerned department. Within a few months, in January 2021, his wife’s pension came through; but due to a lack of some documents, Abdul’s application was rejected. After further assistance from the project team, Abdul began receiving his pension from October 2021. The couple jointly receives INR 5,000 per month, which is adequate for his family. This financial support is of special relevance now due to the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic, and his family is sustained only by the income from this scheme.
Abdul says, “Thanks to the project team, I was enabled to avail the old age pension scheme, which is like a magical wand for my poor family.”
Authors: Shahina Khatun and Akshay Gilbert
(Shahina and Akshay are project associates in Nuh, Haryana)