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Open Letter to Finance Minister

We, the undersigned, are writing to draw your attention to two urgent priorities for the forthcoming budget.

We, the undersigned, are writing to draw your attention to two urgent priorities for the forthcoming budget.

(1) Social security pensions: The central government’s contribution to old-age pensions under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) has remained at a measly ₹200 per month since 2006. This is extra­ordinarily stingy. It is also a missed opportunity. NOAPS is a good scheme (with low leakages and administrative costs) that reaches some of the poorest members of society. The central government’s contribution should be immediately raised to ₹500 (preferably more) at the very least.

This requires an additional allocation of ₹8,640 crore or so, based on the current NOAPS coverage (2.4 crore pensioners). Similarly, widow pensions should be raised from ₹300 per month to ₹500 at the very least. This would cost just another ₹1,680 crore.

(2) Maternity entitlements: Maternity benefits of ₹6,000 per child are a legal entitlement of all Indian women (except those already covered in the formal sector) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. For more than three years, the central government did virtually nothing about this. On 31 December 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally announced that maternity benefits would be provided very soon. One year later, how­ever, (i) the new scheme framed for this purpose (Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana [PMMVY]) is yet to be operationalised; (ii) the provision made for it in the Union Budget 2017–18 (₹2,700 crore) is barely one-third of what is required based on NFSA norms; and (iii) in flagrant violation of the act, PMMVY restricts the benefits to ₹5,000 for just one child per woman. The Union Budget 2018–19 should provide for full-fledged implementation of maternity entitlements as per NFSA norms. This requires at least ₹8,000 crore, based on a 60:40 ratio for centre–state contributions.

Along with this, it is very important to streamline payment systems so that pensions and maternity benefits reach the recipients on time every month, for example, by the seventh day of the month as directed by the Supreme Court in its order of 28 November 2001.

We hope that these recommendations are useful.

Abhijeet Singh, Abhijit Banerjee, Aditya Bhattacharjea, Ajit Ranade, Ashok Kotwal, Ashwini Deshpande and 54 others.

7. Atul Sarma (Visiting Professor, Council for Social Development)

8. Bharat Ramaswami (Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi)

9. C. Rammanohar Reddy (Visiting Research Professor, University of Goa)

10. Debraj Ray (Professor of Economics, New York University)

11. Deepti Goel (Assistant Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

12. Dibyendu Maiti (Associate Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

13. Dilip Abreu (Professor of Economics, New York University)

14. Dilip Mookherjee (Professor of Economics, Boston University)

15. Dipa Sinha (Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi)

16. Gaurav Datt (Associate Professor of Economics, Monash University)

17. Himanshu (Associate Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

18. Farzana Afridi (Associate Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi)

19. Jayati Ghosh (Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

20. Jean Drèze (Honorary Professor, Delhi School of Economics)

21. Jeemol Unni (Professor of Economics, Ahmedabad University)

22. J.V. Meenakshi (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

23. K. Nagaraj (Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism)

24. K.P. Kannan (Honorary Fellow, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum)

25. Kirit Parikh (Emeritus Professor, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai)

26. Leela Visaria (Honorary Professor, Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad)

27. Maitreesh Ghatak (Professor of Economics, London School of Economics)

28. Manoj Panda (Director, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi)

29. Mausumi Das (Associate Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

30. Mihir Shah (Visiting Professor, Shiv Nadar University)

31. Nalini Nayak (retired Associate Professor, PGDAV (M) College, New Delhi)

32. Naman Garg (Research Scholar, Columbia University)

33. Naresh Saxena (retired Secretary, Planning Commission)

34. Param Jit (Associate Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

35. Paul Niehaus (Associate Professor of Economics, University of California San Diego)

36. Pranab Bardhan (Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of California Berkeley)

37. Pranab Mukhopadhyay (Professor of Economics, Goa University)

38. Pulapre Balakrishnan (Professor of Economics, Ashoka University)

39. Pulin Nayak (retired Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

40. R. Nagaraj (Professor of Economics, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai)

41. Raji Jayaraman (Professor of Economics, ESMT Berlin)

42. Ravinder Kaur (Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi)

43. Reetika Khera (Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi)

44. Rohini Pande (Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School)

45. Rohini Somanathan (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

46. S. Mahendra Dev (Director, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai)

47. Santosh Panda (Professor of Economics, South Asian University)

48. Shreekant Gupta (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

49. Sreenivasan Subramanian (Professor of Economics, Madras Institute of Development Studies)

50. Srijit Mishra (Professor of Economics, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)

51. Sudha Narayanan (Associate Professor, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)

52. Sugata Bag (Assistant Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

53. Sujata Visaria (Associate Professor of Economics, University of Hong Kong)

54. Sukhadeo Thorat (Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

55. Sunil Kanwar (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

56. Surender Kumar (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

57. Tridip Ray (Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute)

58. Uday Bhanu Sinha (Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

59. Vijay Joshi (Emeritus Fellow, Merton College, Oxford University)

60. Vijay S. Vyas (Professor Emeritus, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur)

Updated On : 22nd Dec, 2017

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