MUMBAI: The finance department has rejected a proposal to reduce the age from 65 to 60 to avail of senior citizen status and get state government concessions. But social justice minister Rajkumar Badole has written to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to look into the matter.
The social justice department had decided to reduce the age limit but it was shot down by the finance departing to avoid an additional burden on the state treasury. There are 1.5 crore senior citizens in the state and the number will go up by about 25 lakh the moment the state clears the proposal. Government data shows it will mean an additional burden of up to Rs 650 crore per annum. “Although it’s a good proposal, the state’s unhealthy financial condition is the key reason for its rejection,” said a senior official.
The state provides concessions for travel by state transport (ST) buses and has two pension schemes for senior citizens. “If the state reduces the age to 60, the number of beneficiaries will go beyond 1.75 crore,” said a bureaucrat. The finance department is not ready to clear it due to the financial crunch this year.
The finance department is already having a tough time due to the additional burden of the Rs 35,000 crore loan waiver scheme, apart from a debt of over Rs 4 lakh crore. Pressure is also increasing on the state government to pay salaries as per the 7th Pay Commission. The Union government has announced that it will implement the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations, leading to increasing pressure on the state.
Badole had assured reduction of the age limit in the last assembly session. “The finance department has not accepted the proposal due to the financial crunch but I have written to Fadnavis, urging him to consider the proposal as many more citizens will get relief,” Badole told TOI.
Former minister Varsha Gaikwad (Congress) slammed the BJP government and said, “This government is not fulfilling its assurances. I will raise the issue in the budget session. The BJP-led state government is dilly-dallying on fulfilling its promises, which devalues the status of the legislature.” She added, “If a minister is making promises before the House, he should keep his word.”
Finance minister Sudhir Munganwitar said he was not aware of the issue and would take a decision after going through it.