NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to increase the pension amount for senior citizens and take steps to set up at least one old age home in each district in order to provide succour to elders who are below the poverty line.
Expressing concern over the plight of elders in the society, particularly those who have been deserted by their family members, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said these people require special care and attention and the Centre and state governments must pitch in to protect their interests.
Under the present scheme, pension is fixed for persons between the age of 60-79 years at Rs 200 per month by the Centre under Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme and Rs 500 per month for persons above 80 years of age.
Noting that the amount was fixed way back in 2007 when the scheme was launched by the Centre and has not been revised, the bench said the Centre and states “must revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more realistic”.
The court passed the order on a plea of former Union law minister Ashwini Kumar and advocate Sanjeeb Panigrahi who approached the court seeking directions to increase the amount of pension and provide medical cover to the elders. They contended that the amount is a pittance and is wholly inadequate and if the current value of the rupee is taken into consideration, in real terms the amount actually works out to about 92 per month.
The court, refrained from passing any order to fix the amount at higher level saying it has to be done by governments as it would depend upon the economic capacity of the Centre and states.
“An elderly person, particularly someone who is in an old age home is unable to look after himself and therefore needs financial assistance. This can be made available only if there is a viable pension scheme that is implemented with sincerity and which can be taken advantage of by an elderly person,” the court said.
It also directed the Centre to compile data on number of old age homes in each district and the medical and geriatric care facilities available to senior citizens in each district. It granted time till January 31 to the Centre to file status report. As per Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, one old age home must be set up by states in each district.
The number of elderly persons has increased from 1.98 crore in 1951 to 7.6 crore in 2001 and 10.38 crore in 2011. It is projected that the number of people above 60 years age would increase to 14.3 crore in 2021 and 17.3 crore in 2026.