Pension pain persists for 8 lakh BPL elderly in Odisha!

Odisha's elderly population to touch 1.6 crore in 2050 from 48 lakhs in 2019, which means 1 in every 4 in State will be 60+ yrs. And 45% will be in BPL category.

Bhubaneswar: On the occasion of International Day for Older Persons, Odisha has to revisit the wise words of former US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

Therefore,  the moment is ripe for Odisha to shape up a policy for the elderly as the State will have almost one -quarter of its population in the twilight age-bracket of 60-plus by the year 2050.

As per the projections made by Registrar General of India (RGI), the proportion of elderly population in Odisha was 7.8 per cent in 2001, which went up to touch 9.1 per cent in 2011 census. RGI has projected the 60+ population in the State to touch 13.8 per cent in 2026 and around 25 per cent by 2050. The elderly population in the State would then touch a whopping 1.6 crore from around 48 lakh now.

Consider how fast the proportion of senior citizens in Odisha has grown. In 1961 census, the elderly population proportion in the State was 5.7 per cent vis-a-vis 5.6 per cent nationally. In 2011 census,  the proportion in Odisha stood at 9.1 per cent against 8.3 per cent nationally.

And the big concern is a massive 86 per cent of the elderly population will be living in rural areas of the State. Significantly, nearly 45 per cent of the proportion will be in BPL category.

The colossal tragedy for such population in the twilight years in Odisha is, the State till date has no exclusive old age pension scheme, except Centre’s National Old Age Pension Programme (NOAP).

Odisha’s Madhu Babu Pension scheme (MBPS) is a programme that include disabled and widows. The beneficiaries of MBPS are 48 lakh that include elderly, widows and disabled; whereas the exclusive elderly beneficiaries under NOAP stood at around 14.8 lakh in 2018-19.

In contrast, the elderly population in 2019 in the State stood at around 48 lakh. The per capita expenditure on elderly population in Odisha stood at around Rs 186 vis-a-vis around Rs 550 in Goa, the highest per capita spender on senior citizens in the country.

As per highly placed sources, the total elderly populace eligible for pension scheme stood at around 22 lakh but the beneficiaries in the State stood at around mere 14-15 lakh only.

For which,  experts at Help Age India have suggested the need to increase the spending on old age pension in Odisha by at least 15 per cent.