Many still stand outside Ashraya Scheme

Poorest of the poor excluded from plan.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An internal random sample study conducted by the Social Justice Department has found that nearly 40 per cent of those under the Ashraya Scheme, launched to take care of the poorest of the poor in the society, has been excluded from social security pensions. The population admitted to poor homes and old age homes have also been left out of the social security pension schemes. Old age pension scheme has the highest rate of exclusion followed by the widow pension scheme. "It was found that the exclusion was more for males than females," a top Department official said.

There was also a literary angle to the exclusion. “Exclusion of individuals with lower levels of education was significantly more relative to those better educated,” the official said. In the case of old age and widow pension, exclusion of individuals in the BPL category was more compared to those in the APL bracket. The study revealed that majority of the wrongful inclusion of beneficiaries belonged to the APL category. A major reason for the exclusion of the vulnerable sections, the study seems to suggest, is the guidelines of National Social Assistance Programme itself. It is under the NSAP that old age, widow, disability, unmarried women and agriculture labour pensions are distributed.

"The guidelines exclude those admitted to poor homes or old age homes. But it has also kept an income ceiling of '1 lakh. This in effect will enable the inclusion of those comparatively better placed in society while specifically excluding the otherwise vulnerable and destitute living in poor or old age homes,” the official said. Another criterion states that the applicant for these pensions should not resort to habitual begging and should be a destitute. “Such a specification allows lower-level officials to bring their whims into play, as both are highly subjective,” the official said. The complexity of the guidelines, especially the specification that a beneficiary is entitled to only one kind of pension, has kept the least educated out of the welfare net. Further, the dependence on ration cards to assess income levels has also been found to be inappropriate.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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