In a calculated strategic move, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President Capt. N. Uttam Kumar Reddy has tried to dent the potential vote bank of TRS of nearly 40 lakh pensioners by promising to double the pension amount if Congress party comes to power in next elections.
The various categories of pensioners include Old Age Persons, Widows, Weavers, Toddy Tappers, Beedi Workers, Single Women, HIV Patients and Filaria Patients and the Disabled. After coming to power in 2014, the TRS increased the pensions for above categories multi-fold from Rs. 200 to Rs. 1,000 per month. The total budgetary outlay towards Aasra pensions for the year 2018-19 was Rs. 5,300 crore. Therefore, nearly 39.43 lakh pensioners of various categories and their families were being considered as solid vote bank for TRS.
The Congress party has been planning for quite some time to break this potential vote bank of TRS. In March 2018, a high level committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Deputy CLP leader T. Jeevan Reddy. The committee was assigned the task to undertake an in-depth study of the pension schemes being implemented by the State Government. Further, the committee also studied similar schemes being implemented in other States. Factors like eligibility criteria and inflation were also taken into consideration. After a thorough study of all aspects, including financial implications on the State’s Exchequer, the committee prepared a comprehensive report recommending increase in pension amount by double.
Accepting the recommendations, Uttam Kumar Reddy made the announcement on the eve of 72nd Independence Day that all categories of pensioners would get the double amount if Congress party is voted to power in next elections. Therefore, Old Age Persons (13,36,434), Widows (14,31,060), Weavers (36,739), Toddy Tappers (62,110), Beedi Workers (408,343), Single Women (129,411), HIV Patients (33,807) and Filaria Patients (13,074) who are now getting a monthly pension of Rs. 1,000 will get Rs. 2,000 per month under Congress Rule. Similarly, about 4,92,587 Differently Abled persons will get a hike in their pension amount from present Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 3,000 per month.
Besides doubling the pension amount, the Congress party also aims to increase the number of beneficiaries in the Old Age pension category. It proposes to reduce the Eligibility Age from present 65 years to 58 years which is on par with the retirement age of government employees. “If a government employee starts getting pension after retirement at the age of 58, then why the poor and weaker sections, who have no source of livelihood should get pension at 65 years age,” contended Uttam Kumar Reddy while making the announcement
The TPCC chief was also of the view that the benefits of Telangana State must reach the poorest of poor and this could be done only by expanding the reach of welfare schemes like pensions.
While interacting with the industrialists during AICC President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Hyderabad, Uttam Kumar Reddy had explained how the previous Congress regimes had built a huge infrastructure in Hyderabad to boost revenues for the State. At the time of bifurcation it was ensured that the entire revenue of Hyderabad comes to Telangana. Therefore, it was the Congress party which had already set the process of growth in motion. Despite wrong economic policies of the BJP Government at the Centre and TRS Government in Telangana, the infrastructure built by previous Congress Government had ensured average growth of Hyderabad. The economy of Telangana will be back on track once Congress party returns to power. Therefore, State’s annual budget will cross Rs. 2 lakh crore.
Several political analysts opined that doubling the pension amount and decreasing the eligibility age is the master stroke played by Uttam Kumar Reddy. If this proposal can be effectively conveyed to the people, the Congress and TRS would be on even keel as far as pensioners are concerned.