The change

Through the digital revolution, “we shall aim for social security through pension and insurance penetration”, said the FM.

But the Budget did not see any concrete announcements on this front. Universal pension coverage with auto enrolment to help easy mobility while in jobs, a wish to put in place mechanisms to enable inter-operability and safeguard for the accumulated corpus and certain changes to PFRDA regulations were the only mentions.

Allocations to the National Social Assistance Program remains at about the same level of last year ‘s revised estimates at ₹9,200 crore, while allocations to the Employee Pension Scheme has increased by about 23 per cent from the revised estimates of the previous year to ₹7,457 crore.

The background

While the National Social Assistance Programme covers old age pension, disability pension, widow pension, and family benefits to certain select segments of the population, the Modi government in the last few years has selectively introduced pension coverage to various segments of the society.

The Atal Pension Yojana, which aims at providing a pension of ₹1,000 to ₹5,000 through contribution by both the citizen and the government is one such. As of December 31, 2019, the scheme has 1.96 crore subscribers and assets under management of ₹9,788.46 crore.

The PM Shram Yogi Maan-dhan introduced in the interim budget last year has already seen an enrolment of 40.6 lakh subscribers. It intends to provide an assured monthly pension of ₹3,000 a month to workers in the unorganised sector who earn up to ₹15,000 per month.

Another pension scheme for traders and self-employed persons whose annual turnover is below ₹1.5 crore was also announced last year.

This scheme also assures a pension of ₹3,000 per month. This scheme has about 30,295 enrolments now.

Like Atal Pension, both these require contribution by both the individual as well as the government.

The Code on Social Security introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2019, called for a pension scheme for gig workers. This was not announced in the Budget.

The Economic Survey of 2016-17 mooted Universal Basic Income (UBI) in place of targeted schemes that usually lead to inclusions and exclusions. Though direct benefit transfers have been introduced in various schemes now, the idea of a universal basic income continues to remain only on paper.

The verdict

The wait for a wider social security net continues.

  • Allocation to National Social Assistance Scheme stagnant
  • No announcement on pension for gig workers
  • UBI demand unmet

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