New Delhi: Centre’s ambitious schemes for elderly aimed at promoting their health, well-being and independence have a minuscule number of beneficiaries. While only about 18% of all the elderly in India are accessing old-age pensions, only a quarter of widowed elderly women are benefitting from the widow pension scheme, revealed a report released by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Monday.

The report has said that the reach of old-age pension schemes and widow pension schemes is very limited even among BPL (below poverty line) families and widowed women who have no other source of income.

UNFPA carried out a primary survey in seven states—Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu—which covered a total of 9,852 elderly women and men from 8,329 elderly households in rural and urban areas.

The report, titled “Caring for Our Elders: Early Responses, India Ageing Report – 2017", indicated that only 10% and 15% of non-BPL elderly persons were beneficiaries of old age pension scheme and widow pension scheme, respectively.

The Building a Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India (BKPAI) project under UNFPA found that there is extremely low awareness about and utilization of Annapurna scheme, railway concessions and seat reservations for elderly in buses.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MOSJE), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and the Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) implement many of these schemes such as the Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP), National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE), National Old Age Pension schemes and Annapurna scheme etc.

“The BKPAI survey shows that about 70 per cent are aware of the national old age pension scheme and the widow pension schemes and awareness level is higher in rural areas than in urban areas," the report stated. “Non-BPL elderly have a slightly higher level of awareness than BPL elderly that is the real target group. Elderly men are more aware of these schemes than elderly women," the report said.

The approach paper for the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–2017) recommends special healthcare for the elderly along with pension and insurance reform to enhance the quality of life in later years.

The report has recommended, “Increased pension amount and coverage, including an easy and transparent disbursement system is essential. The active role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) will be particularly important for better availing of social welfare schemes by both older men and older women."