Just Rs 3.92 cr for welfare of 47 lakh senior citizens in State

Just Rs 3.92 cr for welfare of 47 lakh senior citizens in State

For a State whose 7.72 per cent of the population is 60 years or older, Karnataka has allocated meagre funds for the welfare of its senior citizens. 

As per the 2011 census, there are 47.18 lakh senior citizens out of more than six crore people living in the State. But in the budget for 2014-15, Karnataka set aside just Rs 3.92 crore for their welfare, whereas the total budget estimate is Rs 1.21 lakh crore. 

An independent organisation, HelpAge India, which has been demanding more facilities for senior citizens, has recommended an allocation of at least two per cent of the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

“The biggest concerns for senior citizens are the availability of pensions and a proper healthcare programme. In particular, the requirement is for a health insurance scheme for people aged 60 and above,” said Rekha Murthy, State convenor for HelpAge India. 

Officials in the department for the welfare of senior citizens concur, saying that most enquires to the elders’ helpline are about health insurance scheme. 

Allocation increased

Officials also point out that the allocation for the department has actually increased—from Rs 1.26 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 3.92 crore this year. Sources said the department—established three years ago under women and child welfare—needed time to establish itself through its schemes. But the government’s response to a proposal to increase the benefits for senior citizens has been muted. 

 Officials said that a recent proposal to provide free wheelchairs, spectacles and adult diapers was shot down for want of funds. The scheme could have helped elders who are abandoned by their families or who cannot afford such “luxuries”. 

This apart, the existing facilities received lukewarm response because of their viability. The department issues senior citizen ID cards so that its schemes reach the beneficiaries. But in the last few years, only 10.33 lakh senior citizens have subscribed to the identification as there are hardly any schemes to apply for. 

Own set of rules

The ID cards are symbolic of the lack of integrated schemes for senior citizens, whereas welfare schemes in other departments—bus passes or railway discounts, for instance—can be obtained only under the respective department’s own set of rules and regulations.