Govt takes refuge under financial crunch to deny enhanced pension to disabled

Feb 29: : In a perfect example of lack of coordination between two departments, the State Government has taken refuge under poor financial health to deny enhanced pension to the physically challenged persons despite the fact that the announcement in this regard was made on the floor of the State Legislature by the previous PDP-BJP Coalition Government.
Official sources told that following announcement by the then Minister Incharge Social Welfare Department while getting grants of this department passed from the State Legislature, the matter regarding enhancement of pension to the physically challenged persons having a disability of 60% or more and of widows was taken up with the Finance Department vide UO No.SW/Lit/74/2014 dated March 31, 2015 for concurrence.
After sleeping over the matter for nearly one year, the Finance Department, after being pulled up by the High Court, informed the Social Welfare Department vide UO No.FD-VII-18(Bgt) JK&T/2014 dated February 18, 2016 that though there is adequate justification in the proposal, yet the concurrence cannot be granted because of poor financial health of the State.
“The enhancement of pension to uniform rate of Rs 1000 per person per month is a policy issue and the State Cabinet has not yet taken any decision in this regard so far”, the Finance Department said in the communiqué to the Social Welfare Department, adding “in absence of policy decision on the issue, no budgetary provision has been made yet for enhancing the pension announced during the Budget Session”.
“The State has to wait for either liberal funding for the purpose from the Central Government or the resource position to improve and where after a decision can be taken for enhancing the proposed pension rates to the higher level in future”, the Finance Department has further stated in the communication to the Social Welfare Department.
While taking refuge under the poor financial health, the Finance Department has pointed towards the Budgetary deficit of about Rs 4600 crore and power liability of Rs 7000 crore, sources said.  However, when the financial health of the State will improve remains a million dollar question as the official figures don’t indicate any positive development in this regard.
Keeping in view the stand taken by the Finance Department, there would be unending wait for physically challenged persons and widows to obtain the benefit of announcement made on the floor of the House as the Budgetary deficit and power liability is increasing with every passing year instead of showing any sign of improvement.
This can be gauged from the fact that J&K’s liability on account of power purchase was Rs 5037 crore as on March 31, 2015 and by ending this financial year it is projected to be about Rs 7000 crore. This is also a testimony of the fact that whatever efforts are being made in this regard have failed to yield positive results till date, sources remarked.
The fate of announcement regarding enhancement in pension is hanging only because of lack of coordination between Finance and Social Welfare Department, sources said, adding the Social Welfare Department should have taken Finance Department into confidence before making such an announcement on the floor of the House. On the other side, there should have been standing instructions to the departments against making announcements involving financial implications much ahead of the Budget Session of 2015.
“Since the announcement is of Government, the Finance Department has to find a via-media instead of prolonging the decision by taking shelter under poor financial health of the State”, sources said.
“No doubt the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act lays some restrictions on raising debt but curtailments should be made on other unnecessary or unfruitful expenditure instead of denying the benefit to depressed sections of the society”, sources further said while disclosing that financial implications on account of enhancement of pension to disabled persons and widows have been worked out at Rs 275 crore per annum.

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