news Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 05:30
  They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the government of Tamil Nadu may well be on such a path with a new government order. In a bid to simplify eligibility conditions for various welfare schemes meant for disabled and elderly people, the government may actually have ended up excluding many of them with the insertion of one word. The state government recently released an order dated April 17, which while removing some outdated criteria, has also decided to amend existing rules for pension schemes in the state  pertaining to the definition of the word "Destitute". The use of this term has attracted the ire of rights activists who have called the order “devastating” because of the ambiguity in defining a destitute person. The word "destitute" means a poor person who does not have the means or the persons to provide for himself or herself. Activists fear that disabled and elderly people with families may be excluded under the new rules. If the new amendments are introduced, no one will be eligible for schemes such as the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), which currently benefits around 40,000 people, says S Namburajan, the State General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC). Under the scheme, BPL card holders would get a monthly pension of Rs 300 from a central fund. In addition, the state makes its own contribution. Under the new amendments, criteria requires those availing the IGNDPS to be "destitute" in addition to existing conditions such as belonging to the Below Poverty Line category, over age 18 and with disability over 80 %. “If someone has to avail this scheme, then they should not have any family at all. But the disabled almost always live with their families. They need to be with their families,” he says.   However, outdated conditions required to avail the schemes have been done away with. The order says that there was a “need to simplify the eligibility conditions so that all poor deserving persons get benefitted”. To this end, it has removed some outdated provisions. According to B. Jansirani, the State President of TARATDAC, the G.O had come on the heels for demands for more clarity on the criteria for availing disability schemes. Until now, beneficiary of the scheme should not own “house property” worth more than Rs 5,000, which does not make sense today because prices have gone up.Also minor variations in the eligibility conditions, that have made the process of identification "ambigious and subjective" have been done away with.  However with the introduction of the new G.O, she too is worried about the use of the word “destitute”. “So to avail these schemes, do these people have to be orphaned?” Jansirani says. The organisation has written to the Chief Minister and other relevant departments of the state government demanding for the withdrawal of the order in a month’s time. “The government is mandated to provide social protection. Social protection doesn’t mean that one needs to be destitute to avail benefits,” says TMN Deepak, president of rights group December 3 Movement. December 3 is World Disability Day. Government officials could not be reached despite repeated attempts.