Government plans to increase pension for disabled, widow and senior citizens besides making changes in the eligibility criteria for pension payment, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Monday.
The current pension of Rs300 per month for widows and physically handicapped, Rs200 for senior citizen and Rs500 to persons above 80 years "is inadequate. It has to be increased," he informed Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.
"We are considering (raising pensions). In next 2-3 months action will be taken," he said.
Besides the Central grant, states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Delhi and Haryana give pension from their budget. But in most states "there is no matching contribution," he said.
The definition of physically handicapped for availing pension carries a limit, he said adding the definition should be changed to provide for pension to persons with 40% disability instead of current criteria of 80%.
"I am of the view that pension should be dignified," he said. "We are committed to bring changes in both pension and definition."
Ramesh said Mihir Shah Committee has suggested drastic changes in pension plans by universalising pension by including an exclusion criteria rather than current norm of confining it to BPL people only.
Besides, it has suggested lowering age of widow pensioners from 40 years to 18 years, redefining disability of 40% for providing pension to physically handicapped and linking pension to inflation index.
If implemented, the number of beneficiaries getting pension would increase from 2.60 crore to over 9 crore. Currently, Rs9,500 crore is spent on providing pension to 2.6 crore beneficiaries, he said.