Indian Express Editorial Analysis
04 December 2021

1) Beyond notional benefits

GS2: Issues related to the vulnerable


Context:

  • The authors talk about the need for revamping the National Family Benefit Scheme.

 

Editorial Insights:

  • Recently yet another plight of a migrant labor family showcased the failure of the National Family Benefit Scheme in providing a safety net.

 

National Family Benefit Scheme:

  • The NFBS was launched in 1995 under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) to help the bereaved household in the event of the death of the breadwinner.

  • Rs 20000 will be given as lump sum emergence assistance to the bereaved family.

  • The eligibility:

    • The household has to be BPL.

    • The bereaved person has to be the primary breadwinner & is to be in the age bracket of 18-64 years.

 

The issues with NFBS:

  • The Rs 20000 is insufficient for a family to survive. At the same time, the meager 20,000 benefit does not ensure the dignified survival of a poor family that has lost its breadwinner.

  • The scheme's restrictive eligibility of BPL & formalities is often forbidding to help even to the minute percentage.

  • Lack of transparency & accountability further delayed the meager help needed for the family.

  • The NFBS budget over the years has been stagnated, making it impossible to expand its coverage or raise the benefits.

    • For instance, the central expenditure on NFBS declined from Rs 862 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 623 in 2020-21.

  • Some criticize that the center has been deliberately undermining NSAP (including NFBS) to promote contributory schemes such as the Atal Pension Yojana.

    • However, even the contributory schemes are not attractive for the poorest of the poor because of various reasons.

  • Govt has ignored the Mihir Shah committee recommendations to increase coverage & benefits of NFBS.

 

Steps needed to revamp the NFBS:

  • There is a need to increase the amount of emergency assistance from Rs, 20000.

    • Experts want the NFBS benefits to be pegged at 80% of India’s per-capita GDP i.e. approximately Rs 1 lakh.

  • There is an urgent need for removing the restriction to BPL households because

    • BPL lists are outdated, unreliable & full of exclusion errors in most states.

    • The NFBS scheme should use the exclusion approach whereby the privileged households are excluded using simple & transparent criteria.

  • Further, the NFBS formalities are needed to be simplified, transparent & people-friendly.

    • The main responsibility for identifying eligible families rests with the gram Panchayat or municipality.

    • There is a need for compensation in the event of delays that would help to ensure timely disbursal of benefits.

  • The most important step is to increase in the NFBS budget to cater to the increased coverage & benefits.

 

Conclusion:

  • The absence of any form of life insurance for the poorest of the poor is a gaping hole in India’s budding social security system. A revamped & robust NFBS would bring a big difference to the life of the vulnerable.

 

Additional Info:

National Social Assistance Programme:

  • National Social Assistance Programme. NSAP was launched on 15th August 1995.

  •  It represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the Directive Principles in Articles 41 and 42 of the Constitution recognizing the concurrent responsibility of the Central and the State Governments in the matter.

    • In particular, Article 41 of the Constitution of India directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want within the limit of its economic capacity and development.

 

Objective of NSAP:

  • National Social Assistance Programme is a social security and welfare programme to provide support to aged persons, widows, disabled persons, and bereaved families on the death of a primary breadwinner, belonging to below poverty line households.

 

Presently NSAP comprises of five schemes, namely –

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS),

  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS),

  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS),

  • National Family Benefit Scheme NFBS) and

  • Annapurna.

 

Eligibility and scale of assistance

For getting benefits under NSAP the applicant must belong to a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family according to the criteria prescribed by the Govt. of India.

The other eligibility criteria and the scale of central assistance under the sub-schemes of NSAP are as follows.

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS): The eligible age for IGNOAPS is 60 years.

    • The pension is Rs.200 p.m. for persons between 60 years and 79 years. For persons who are 80 years and above the pension is Rs.500/ - per month.

  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS): The eligible age is 40 years and the pension is Rs.300 per month.

    • After attaining the age of 80 years, the beneficiary will get Rs.500/ - per month.

  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS): The eligible age for the pensioner is 18 years and above and the disability level has to be 80%.

    • The amount is Rs.300 per month and after attaining the age of 80 years, the beneficiary will get Rs 500/ - per month. Dwarfs will also be an eligible category for this pension.

  • National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS): Rs. 20000/ - will be given as a lump sum assistance to the bereaved household in the event of the death of the bread-winner.

    • The death of such a breadwinner should have occurred whilst he/ she is more than 18 years of age and less than 60 years of age.

    • The assistance would be given to every case of death of the breadwinner in a family.

  • Annapurna Scheme: 10 kgs of food grains (wheat or rice) is given per month per beneficiary.

    • The scheme aims at providing food security to meet the requirements of those eligible old aged persons who have remained uncovered under the IGNOAPS