Ahead of the Union Budget for 2023-24, some NGOs have put forward some suggestions for the betterment of the country’s rising elderly population — increase in old age pension, more relief in income tax and GST exemption on services and products frequently used by the elderly.
The Agewell Foundation said elderly-friendly budgetary provisions have become the need of the hour due to the ever-increasing gap between older people and the younger generation, the demanding lifestyle of older persons in view of a longer span in old age, and their growing vulnerability.
A large number of retired healthy old people need gainful engagement to remain active, it said.
In a statement, the foundation appealed to the Finance Ministry and other stakeholders to consider its recommendations and suggestions while finalising the next budget. It said old age pensions should be revised according to the prevailing inflation.
“The current share of the central government in the monthly old-age pension must be increased to Rs 3,000 per month for every eligible old person. The state government should also be advised to modify its share accordingly,” it said.
Under financial security measures, the foundation demanded an increased rate of interest on bank, post office and other deposit and investment schemes for the elderly. More relief in income tax must be given specially for older people, it said.
The NGO also demanded GST exemption on services and products frequently used by the elderly such as audit diapers, medicines, healthcare equipment like wheelchairs and walkers, hospitalisation of elderly (70+) patients, mediclaim policies and medical consultation fees.
Speaking about the findings of a survey, Himanshu Rath, Founder Chairman of Agewell Foundation, said, “Ensuring social and financial security in old age has become an uphill task for most of the elderly due to limited income/savings. They have a comparatively longer span of life in old age and most of them have to remain dependent on others for their various needs and requirements.”
Due to growing uncertainties in old age, older people are suffering a lot. Through elderly-friendly budgetary provisions, the government can make the lives of older persons more comfortable. Indeed, older persons need gainful engagement opportunities, participation in the mainstream, and better healthcare and support systems in old age.
As India sets its vision for 2047, a vision on age friendly society will be an important part of “Amrit Kaal”. The immediate term focus needs to be on strengthening income and health security for a large segment of disadvantaged elders, who faced a disproportionate impact of the pandemic.
Among other measures, they request for enhancing of old age pension to minimum of Rs 3,000 per month, with priority universal coverage for older women and oldest old, and extension of coverage of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana to all 80-plus elderly population except income tax payees.
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana is a national public health insurance fund of the government that aims to provide free access to health insurance coverage for low income earners in the country. Prasad said as India’s share of 60-plus population is going to increase from 10 per cent currently to 20 per cent by 2050, this demographic change will have wide ranging implications for financial, healthcare and social care systems.
“We urge the government to set up a Ayushman (Longevity) Ministry for Elderly to give due focus on this important area,” he said. The Union Budget for 2023-24 will be presented in Parliament by the finance minister on February 1.
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