Social security pensions due in Kerala, opposition stages walkout from Assembly

Finance Minister KN Balagopal assured that the payment of dues will begin next week.
Kerala assembly.
Kerala assembly.(Photo | Vincent Pulickal, EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Launching a scathing attack on the government over the delay in disbursal of social security pension, the Opposition staged a walkout from the Assembly on Thursday to protest against the government's 'negative attitude' and its continued 'neglect' towards welfare pension beneficiaries.

PC Vishnunadh of the Congress, who gave the notice to discuss the matter through an adjournment motion, said social security pension disbursal was pending for the many months. He attacked the government for its declared stance that pension was not a right of the citizen but only an assistance provided by the state.

Vishnunadh reminded the government that providing pension to the elderly, differently abled and underprivileged sections was the hallmark of a welfare state. The Congress MLA alleged the LDF government was slowly withdrawing from its social commitments. He also accused the government of using welfare pension as a campaign tool in the election but its promise of raising the pension to Rs. 2,500 remained unfulfilled.

Vishnunadh also pointed out that payment of pension to various welfare fund board members was also pending for up to a year. As per an order issued by the LDF government in 2019, welfare fund board members are out of the purview of social security pension. Owing to the non-disbursal of both pensions, lakhs of needy people are deprived of any assistance, he added.

Admitting that social security pension disbursal was pending for the past five months, Finance Minister KN Balagopal assured the Assembly that orders have been issued to clear the arrears and the payment of dues will begin next week. Regarding welfare fund board pension, Balalgopal said the pension of 16 such boards are being provided directly by the government.

Kerala assembly.
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On statutory pension, Balagopal reiterated the government's stance that it was not a 'right' as it comes under the directive principles of state policy. He added that payment of pension depends on the government's financial condition. Balagopal alleged that it was the Congress-led UPA government that stopped statutory pension. The finance minister also alleged that during the UDF government's tenure, welfare pension of up to 18 months was pending.

"While the UDF government disbursed  Rs. 9,311 crore on account social security pension, the first Pinarayi Vijayan government paid Rs. 35,154 crore. This government has disbursed Rs. 27,278 crore over the past three years. Also, when the first Pinarayi Vijayan government assumed power, there were 33.99 lakh social security pension beneficiaries. Now, the number has increased to Rs. 62 lakh." he said.

Balagopal accused the Centre of 'stifling' the state through its fiscal policies and asked the Opposition whether it was willing to launch a joint agitation against the Union government. "Now that the Lok Sabha election is over, you should be willing to fight unitedly against the Centre's policies," Balagopal said.

Leader of the Opposition VD Sastheesan disputed Balagopal's argument of pension pending upto 18 months during the UDF government’s tenure. Quoting from the white paper tabled in the Assembly in 2016 by the then Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac, Satheesan said only three months' welfare pension was due when the UDF government stepped down.

Sathesan alleged that bedridden and differently abled people were being denied welfare pension for many months, citing delay in carrying out mustering. "You should ask your conscience why you are doing this to the poor and the bedridden," he said.

Satheesan said the questions that the Opposition asked in the Assembly are now resonating in the various committees of the CPM, with the Chief Minister in attendance. Protesting the denial of permission to discuss the matter through an adjournment motion, the Opposition soon staged a walkout.         

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