60 Economists Send Wake-Up Call to Arun Jaitley on Maternal Benefits


"The central government’s contribution to old-age pensions...has stagnated at just Rs 200 per month since 2006. This is unfair."

New Delhi:
Sixty economists from across the country have written to finance minister Arun Jaitley, asking him to ensure that social security pensions and maternity benefits get adequate attention in the Union Budget 2019. They argue that they had made a similar “modest” request before the 2018 Budget, but it went unheeded.

The full text of their letter is reproduced below.


Dear Mr. Jaitley,

This is a follow-up to our letter of 20 December 2017, where we tried to flag two priorities for the next Union Budget: an increase in social security pensions, and adequate provision for maternity benefits. Since both proposals were ignored, we are writing again, well in advance of the next Budget, with the same recommendations. Our argument, much as before, is as follows.

1. Social security pensions: The central government’s contribution to old-age pensions under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) scheme has stagnated at just Rs 200 per month since 2006. This is unfair. It is also a missed opportunity: NOAPS is a good scheme (with low leakages and administrative costs) that reaches some of the poorest members of society. The central government’s contribution should be immediately raised to Rs 500 (preferably more) at the very least. This requires an additional allocation of Rs 8,640 crores or so, based on the current NOAPS coverage (2.4 crore pensioners). Similarly, widow pensions should be raised from Rs 300 per month to Rs 500 at the very least. This would cost just another Rs 1,680 crores.

2. Maternity entitlements: Maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 per child are a legal entitlement of all Indian women (except those already covered in the formal sector) under the National Food Security Act 2013. For many years, the central government did not act on this. Last year, a scheme was finally launched for this purpose: the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMVVY). However, the provision made for it in the Union Budget 2018-19 (Rs 2,400 crores) is less than one third of what is required based on NFSA norms. Further, in flagrant violation of the Act, PMMVY restricts the benefits to Rs 5,000 for just one child per woman. The Union Budget 2019-20 should provide for full-fledged implementation of maternity entitlements as per NFSA norms. This requires at least Rs 8,000 crores, based on a 60:40 ratio for centre:state contributions – see Annexure. Along with this, the illegal restriction of maternity benefits to one child per woman should be removed.

It is also important to streamline payment systems so that pensions and maternity benefits reach the recipients on time every month, e.g. by the 7th day of the month as directed by the Supreme Court in its order of 28 November 2001.

We urge you to accept these modest recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Please click here to read more.

TheWire.in, 21 December, 2018, https://thewire.in/rights/make-pensions-maternity-benefits-priority-in-budget-2019-economists-to-arun-jaitley

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