The great struggle of the older people during the COVID-19 crisis continues with spike in the present third wave, but 81 per cent of the elderly are optimistic about the Union Budget 2022 and believe that the Modi government will consider issues concerning them, finds the Agewell Foundation survey conducted this month across the country.
In the last two years of the pandemic period, most of the elderly in upper age groups have been finding the task of taking care of their health increasingly difficult. Moreover, a huge population of older persons in lower age group between 60 and 70 years is struggling to keep themselves active, engaged, and productive as well.
It is in this backdrop, Union Budget 2022-23 must address the issues they are facing so that they can not only cope with the hard times, but also participate in the mainstream economy with gainful engagements. They need special attention and support from the government, the foundation has said, while enumerating the following provisions to be included in the union budget.
- Provisions for Setting up of Skill Training & Retooling Centres for the Older People.
- Proving GST Exemption on services and products, commonly used by elderly.
- Provision for providing Nutri Kits to elderly from BPL families
- Dedicated Healthcare and online counseling services.
- Financial Security Measures
- Special Provisions for older persons in Government Schemes
- Social Pension Schemes
- Prime Minister’s Self-Employment Scheme for the Retired and Senior Citizens
Provisions for Setting up of Skill Training & Retooling Centres for the Older People
For providing skill training and modern technological know-how to senior citizens in order to retool and empower them for income generation in old age
Proving GST Exemption on services and products, commonly used by elderly, such as-
- Audit diapers
- Medicines, primarily by older people
- Healthcare equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, walking sticks, commode chairs, etc.
- Hospitalization of elderly patients
- Mediclaim policies of older persons
- Lifesaving products, i.e. pacemakers, dialysis, stents, used by older persons
- Medical Consultation fee
- Transportation /travel for medical treatment
Provision for providing Nutri Kits to elderly from BPL families
On monthly basis for ensuring proper and nutritional food items for elderly with a poor health condition
Dedicated Healthcare and online counseling services
- Dedicated healthcare facilities must be set up across the country at the local level and Door-step healthcare services should be provided for all the older persons
- Preference must be given to elderly patients/ bedridden elderly / older persons, unable to walk / move / living alone or facing acute health disorders.
- Online counseling for all kinds of psychological/ medical/ financial/ legal issues being faced by older persons
Financial Security Measures
Financial security provisions such as a higher rate of interest on savings/ investments by older persons with financial institutions (banks/ Post Offices/ etc.) to be ensured as the majority of them have no other source of income in old age.
Special Provisions For older persons In Government Schemes
In all government schemes, the focus must also be on special provisions for the needs & rights of older persons while implementing the schemes/ programs.
Participation of older persons must be ensured in various processes of development / implementation / supervision/ monitoring / evaluation government schemes / programs.
Social Pension Schemes
Under the social pension scheme, the monthly amount of Old Age Pension should be revised according to prevailing inflation. The current share of Central Government in the monthly old-age pension must be increased up to Rs. 3000/- per month for every old person. The state government should also be advised to modify its share accordingly.
Prime Minister’s Self-Employment Scheme for the Retired and Senior Citizens
The scheme should be initiated to tap the unexplored potential of older persons, who have experience, knowledge, wisdom, resources, time and above all zeal to work in old age to keep themselves engaged and connected with the mainstream.
“Today, older persons are facing different kinds of challenges. Making elderly-friendly budgetary provisions would certainly play an important role in ensuring the welfare and well-being of the ever-increasing population of older persons in the country. Older persons need opportunities and greater participation in the mainstream so that they can remain gainfully engaged as long as they can,” said Himanshu Rath, the Founder Chairman of Agewell Foundation.
Dr Gyan Pathak
Writer is a senior journalist and author. He is one of the leading commentators on the issues of public interest in the country. His articles are published in several media outlets across India. He has PhD in comparative study of journalism and literature.