For most pensioners, their life and livelihood depends on the little source of income. However, for the differently abled, the pension assumes a completely different meaning.
The fact is reiterated by the story of Muniraju, whose plight gained the much-deserved attention on social media after he was found begging at Tumkur Railway Station in Karnataka. The station is well-connected to a number of Indian cities and remains busy a relatively high frequency of trains connecting to the places of Varanasi, Delhi and Patna.
Deprived of any pension for the differently abled since March 2020, poverty and helplessness forced Muniraju to resort to begging at the railway station, at a time when the Covid pandemic had hit them the hardest. With no NGOs or the government extending relief, many people like Muniraju had hit the streets or the railway stations begging for alms.
Sympathies and empathies pour in
When journalist Ashwini Sripad wrote on twitter stating, "Meet Muniraju/Munirama who was seen begging at Tumkur railway station. He has not got differently abled pension since March 2020. His contact number 9880770734," it started making rounds and finally reached the state's Principal Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj L.K. Atheeq, who responded swiftly and asked the district officials of Tumukuru to restore his pension, including the payment of backlog if any.
Budget for the differently-abled
In the Union budget 2020-21, Rs 9,500 crore was announced for the senior citizens and withheld separately where differently-abled people were also included in the budget apart from senior citizens.
However, in the Union Budget 2021-22, differently abled people and NGOs with the cause of differently abled were again given a skip. While the Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Scheme has focussed on the healthcare sector, it specifically did not mention persons with disabilities. The allocation for the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DePwD) in this year's budget has been Rs 1,171.76 crore.