Tamil Nadu government has decided to deceitfully stop the old age pension which is benefitting lakhs of senior citizens in the state. The scheme was introduced by Kamarajar in the year 1962. By the fag end of his third term in January 1962. The scheme was continued by successive governments as a welfare measure to take care of its senior citizens.
Tamil Nadu government’s policy note for 2022-2023 says, The Social Security Pension
Schemes are extended to all the vulnerable sections of society such as senior citizens,
differently-abled persons, widows, agricultural labourers, poor farmers, deserted and destitute wives, and unmarried women above the age of 50 years and who are destitute and poor. Currently, the Government is giving Rs.1,000/- per month as pension uniformly under all pension categories in order to ensure very wide coverage of pension schemes. For the year 2022-2023, a sum of Rs.4816.00 Crore has been allocated under Old Age Pension Schemes. As of 31.03.2022, 34,52,758 beneficiaries were included under various schemes.
The Tamil Nadu Government has issued a circular in the guise of weeding out ineligible beneficiaries the conditions which have virtually weeded out everyone.
The Revenue Department circular, according to sources has listed the following conditions to make one ineligible for the old age pension.
1) One should not have two gas connection
2) One should not hold a PDS card which is eligible to get Sugar
3) One should not have pledged jewels in a Cooperative Bank
4) One should not have registered any settlement deed in a Registrar office.
Let us examine the first condition. Most of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) households in Tamil Nadu have two gas connections. The credit goes to Dravidian Doyen Kalaignar Karunanidhi.
Kalaignar implemented the free gas stove and connection scheme during his 2006 tenure as part of the election promises. Inaugurating the scheme in August 2006, Kalaignar said, “The poor and downtrodden use firewood and kerosene stoves, and women in these households experience hardship while cooking. To ameliorate their suffering and bring relief and happiness to them, arrangements have been proposed for providing free gas connections and also free gas stoves to these poor families”, Karunanidhi.
In a way, Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in implementing the free gas connection scheme. The Narendra Modi government implemented this scheme only in the year 2016 with much fanfare. Due to these two schemes, most of the senior citizens in households that have two gas connections will be rendered ineligible.
TN Chief Minister MK was vociferous in opposing the linking of Aadhar with LPG subsidy. In 2016, he said, “the news that the Centre would stop the subsidy to consumers failing to provide Aadhaar details by September was shocking. Already, consumers were paying the market price and the subsidy was being remitted to their bank accounts.
The unilateral decision of the Ministry to stop LPG subsidy or hike petrol and diesel prices, which has the tacit acceptance of the Centre is causing problems for the people. The Supreme Court had said that Aadhaar card was not mandatory. In this context, the Ministry’s insistence on Aadhaar for LPG subsidy was anti-people and in violation of SC orders”
Now his own government is using the same Aadhar to deny the livelihood of more than 30 lakh senior citizens.
Regarding the second condition, as of now, PDS cards are classified into two. Above Poverty Line and Below Poverty Line. Further they are classified as Rice Card and Sugar Card. Most card holders get sugar. But these cards eligible for sugar are classified as NPHH – Non Priority House Hold. This condition too will render many ineligible.
The third condition is absurd. Indian households value jewel as sacred. They will never part with their jewels. Only in extremely poor conditions one would pledge the jewel. The reason why DMK promised waiver of cooperative jewel loans and then backtracked is, the number of loanees is huge. Almost all rural households had their jewels in a Cooperative locker.
The last condition is even absurd. Senior citizens are the most unwanted lot in most of households. There are exceptions. In most homes, the younger lot view their parents as liabilities. Except grandchildren, no one likes them. In poor households its even worse. The meagre amount of pension that the senior citizens get, ensures they get some respect in their wards homes. Some do it out of love. Many are forced to bequeath their ancestral properties by way of settlement deed. This also makes a senior citizen ineligible for OAP.
All four conditions are linked through Aadhar data. According to highly placed sources in the Revenue department, from October 2022, OAP beneficiaries are turned back. The source said, ‘one beneficiary shouted in a Taluk office that she did not apply for any LPG connection. The government gave us two connections. Kalaignar gave one. Modi gave one. You gave two connections and citing the same connections you are denying my pension. What will I tell my daughter-in-law’. It was a heart-wrenching scene.
To understand the importance of OAP, read this story.
A society that respects its elders is a civilised society. Where elders are happy, it’s a dream society.
Former Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy in fact expanded this scheme and removed the hurdles faced in getting OAP.
Tamil Nadu Old Age Pension Rules were amended by Edappadi Palanisamy in March 2020 to make the scheme more flexible. A person with one acre of barren land with no income is ineligible. Finding this rule impractical and inhumane, EPS amended the rules.
Naam Tamilar Chief Seeman, speaking to Savukku, said, “There can be no act more atrocious than this. With the cost of an LPG cylinder more than 1000 rupees, what would I do with empty cylinders ? Is this really a government ? How can they do this” said a furious Seeman. He also added that his party will take this up aggressively. We can’t allow this, he added.
A government that promised change, prosperity and growth, is denying the senior citizens their livelihood by stripping them of their pension.
We sought the remarks of PTR Thiagarajan, Finance Minister, Muruganandam IAS, Finance and Kumar Jayant IAS, Revenue Secretary. All of them chose not to answer our query for this story.
The stoppage of Old Age Pension has wide ramifications. This is bound to have a cascading effect on the populace which will reflect in the Lok Sabha polls.