The party is trying to dent a vote bank of the TRS of 40 lakh pensioners by promising to double the pension amount if it comes to power in 2019.
In a calculated move, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President N Uttam Kumar Reddy is trying to dent a vote bank of the TRS of nearly 40 lakh pensioners by promising to double the pension amount if the Congress comes to power in the next elections.
The various categories of pensioners include senior citizens, widows, weavers, toddy tappers, beedi workers, single women, HIV and filaria patients, and the differently-abled. After coming to power in 2014, the TRS had increased the pensions for above categories multi-fold from Rs. 200 to Rs. 1,000 per month (the disabled get Rs. 1,500 per month), and the total budgetary outlay towards the Aasra pensions for 2018-19 was Rs. 5,300 crores. Therefore, the nearly 39.43 lakh pensioners and their families are being considered as a solid vote bank of the TRS.
The Congress has been planning for quite some time to win over this vote bank. In March 2018, a high-level committee under the chairmanship of Deputy CLP leader T Jeevan Reddy prepared a comprehensive report recommending an increase in the pension amount by 100%.
Accepting the recommendations, Uttam Kumar Reddy announced on the eve of the 72nd Independence Day that all categories of pensioners would get the double the current pension if the Congress was voted into power in the next elections. Therefore, senior citizens (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, and about 4,92,587 differently-abled persons will see their pension amount increase from the present Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 3,000 per month.
Besides doubling the pension amount, the Congress also aims to increase the number of beneficiaries in the old age pension category. It proposes to reduce the eligibility age from the present 65 years to 58 years, which is the retirement age of government employees. "If a government employee starts getting pension after retirement at the age of 58, then why should the poor and weaker sections, who have no source of livelihood, get pension at 65 years of age?" asked Reddy while making the announcement.
Several political analysts opine that doubling the pension amount and decreasing the eligibility age is a master stroke by Reddy. If this proposal can be effectively conveyed to the people, the Congress and TRS are likely to be on an even keel as far as pensioners are concerned.