Siddaramaiah appears to be following in the footsteps of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa in populism.
The number of beneficiaries under Social Security Pensions (SSPs) has shot up to 42.53 lakhs from 31 lakhs in the last one-and-a-half years after the Congress came to power.
The government has been generous in sanctioning pensions under the following heads: old age, destitute widows, disability pension, Sandhyasuraksha, Manaswini and Mythri. To make matters easier for pension seekers, the government has done away with the mandatory affidavits that declare that the applicants do not get pensions from other sources.
There has been a substantial increase in the government’s spending on SSPs: It increased to Rs 2,700 crore in 2014-15 (estimated) from Rs 2,000 crore in 2011-13, as per statistics from the Directorate of Social Security Pensions (DSSP). The government has directed the Revenue department to ask its taluk-level officials not to delay processing applications for SSPs.
Even details furnished by applicants are hardly verified before pensions are sanctioned, officials said. Interestingly, a huge number of applications were processed ahead of the general elections early this year.
The situation was similar between 2008 and 2011 when Yeddyurappa was chief minister. That government sanctioned pensions indiscriminately, more so under the Sandhyasuraksha scheme, Yeddyurappa’s favourite. The number of beneficiaries had then increased from about 30 lakhs to 40.08 lakhs just before the 2009 parliamentary elections.
But the Finance Department was concerned about the increasing burden on the Exchequer. It stopped sanctioning funds for new pensions and asked the pensions directorate to verify all sanctioned cases.
The directorate conducted a State-wide drive and brought down the total beneficiaries to 31 lakhs by weeding out about nine lakh bogus beneficiaries. The guidelines for sanctioning new pensions were also made stricter, and every applicant was required to submit a physical verification of his/her details.
However, the Congress government not only relaxed the guidelines but also launched two new schemes: Manaswini (unmarried, BPL women aged above 40) and Mythri (transgenders).
Of the six pension schemes, Sandhyasuraksha has the highest number of beneficiaries at 16.72 lakhs, followed by the destitute widow pension scheme at 12.61 lakhs.There are 25,547 beneficiaries under Manaswini scheme and 402 under Mythri, a source said, adding that the budgetary allocation of Rs 2,700 crore in 2014-15 for SSPs might not be adequate.
DSSP director P R Shivaprasad said he had brought to the government’s attention the increasing number of SSP beneficiaries and recommended a comprehensive verification drive.
But verification could not be done in the last few months in view of parliamentary elections and the subsequent by-elections to the State Assembly, he said. He justified the government’s decision to sanction large number of pensions saying it has the social obligation to extend a helping hand to the needy.