Budget 2015: Progressive steps to tackle Silver Tsunami
Sailesh Mishra 28 February 2015
The Finance Minister has announced a slew of low-cost pension and insurance schemes, including Atal Pension Yojana and Universal Social Security scheme that would help to tackle issues faced by senior citizens
 
Union Budget 2015, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was a progressive and visionary budget of PM Narendra Modi. There are short and long term proposal to ‘Make in India’.
 
This was time for government to honor its commitment for 104 million Senior citizens promised in Election Manifesto. While senior citizen numbers are on the rise, we have hardly got the infrastructure, policy and systems in place. 
 
The mood of budget was in right note and Senior’s Friendly, beneficial for Today’s Elders and Tomorrow Senior Citizens – the youth. 
 
The FM said, “Special regard needs to be paid to the population of senior citizens in the country which is now approximately 10.5 crore, out of which over one crore are above the age of 80 years. 70% live in rural areas and a large number are in the BPL category. A sizeable percentage of them also suffer from age related disabilities. Ours is a society that venerates its elders’.”
 
Some of Direct Benefit Declared/proposed are… 
  1. ‘For the nearly 10.5 crore population above 60 years, of which about 1 crore is above 80 years old, and 70% in Rural area, the government has decided to set up a Senior Citizens' Welfare Fund, which will derive funds from a corpus set up from the funds of the un utilized EPF and PPF.’ FM Quote ‘There are unclaimed deposits of about `3,000 crore in the PPF, and approximately `6,000 crore in the EPF corpus. I have proposed the creation of a Senior Citizen Welfare Fund, in the Finance Bill, for appropriation of these amounts to a corpus which will be used to subsidize the premiums of vulnerable groups such as old age pensioners, BPL card-holders, small and marginal farmers and others. A detailed scheme would be issued in March’. 
  2. Physically challenged senior citizens, living below poverty line will get assistance in terms of physical aids and assistance devices. 
  3. Another benefit for the elderly is in terms of the increase in deduction in health insurance premium and medical treatment. While tax deduction under Section 80D has been raised for individuals below 60 from Rs15,000 to Rs25,000, that for senior citizens has been increased to Rs30,000. 
  4. Besides, under Sections 80DDB, which allows a deduction of Rs 60,000 for treatment of specified diseases like cancer, AIDS, etc, the amount for senior citizens has now gone up to Rs80,000.
  5. Service-tax exemption on Varishtha Bima Yojana.
 
For Tomorrow Senior Citizens:
  1. FM Jaitley said, “A large proportion of India’s population is without insurance of any kind - health, accidental or life. Worryingly, as our young population ages, it is also going to be pension-less. Encouraged by the success of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, I propose to work towards creating a Universal Social Security System for all Indians, specially the poor and the under-privileged.” 
  2. Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana - Re1 per day premium, Rs2 lakh coverage, which covers both natural and accidental death risk of Rs2 lakhs. The premium will be Rs330 per year, or less than one rupee per day, for the age group 18-50. 
  3. Atal Pension Yojana, which will provide a defined pension, depending on the contribution, and its period. To encourage people to join this scheme, the Government will contribute 50% of the beneficiaries’ premium limited to Rs1,000 each year, for five years, in the new accounts opened before 31 December 2015.
  4. Limit on deduction on account of contribution to a pension fund and the new pension scheme is proposed to be increased from Rs1 lakh to Rs1.5 lakh. 
  5. Additional deduction of Rs25,000 is allowed for differently-abled persons, increasing the limit from Rs50,000 to Rs75,000. It is also proposed to increase the limit of deduction from Rs1 lakh to Rs1.25 lakh in case of severe disability.
 
Some of Indirect Benefit for Senior Citizen’s Declared/proposed are: 
  1. Housing for All by 2022
  2. Medical Facility for All Villages
  3. Increased Funding for MGNREGA
 
The FM said, “In sum, these social security schemes reflect our commitment to utilize the Jan Dhan platform, to ensure that no Indian citizen will have to worry about illness, accidents, or penury in old age. Being sensitive to the needs of the poor, under-privileged and the disadvantaged, we hope that with intention to provide social safety net and the facility of pension to all individuals will enable India to become a pensioned society instead of a pensionless society.”
 
Still lots to do… But a start has been made with positive mind.
 
(Sailesh Mishra is Founder President of Silver Inning Foundation)
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