Updated March 26th, 2024 at 21:49 IST

Modi govt ensuring women-centric welfare policies: Nirmala Sitharaman 

Atal Pension Yojana design best; guarantees minimum 8% return, says the FM, rebuts Congress

Reported by: Business Desk
PM Modi at Startup Mahakumbh | Image: X/BJP4India
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BJ rebuts Congress: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consciously taken several women-centric policy decisions for their emancipation and empowerment.
In a sharp rebuttal to charges made by the Congress party, Sitharaman said Centre’s flagship scheme, Atal Pension Yojana (APY) has been formed based on the best practice choice architecture. The Finance Minister added that the scheme guarantees a minimum of 8 per cent return.
Enlisting some of the decisions, Sitharaman said, permanent commissioning of women officers, entry of girls in Sainik School, raising maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, and Poshan Abhiyan benefitting 10 crore women are some of them.
“In order to promote entrepreneurship among women, the government is providing credit facilities under the PM Mudra Scheme without collateral and at a concessional rate,” said Sitharaman. 
In a sharp rebuttal to charges made by the Congress party, Sitharaman said Centre’s flagship scheme, Atal Pension Yojana (APY) has been formed based on the best practice choice architecture. The Finance Minister added that the scheme guarantees a minimum of 8 per cent return.

"Atal Pension Yojana is designed based on best practice choice architecture to automatically continue the premium payment unless the subscriber opts out. This is a deliberate and beneficial feature which is in the best interest of the subscribers," Sitharaman said in a post on X.
The Finance Minister added that instead of having people decide each year to continue, they have to make a decision to discontinue, adding that this makes many of them take the right decision and save for their retirement.
The Finance Minister said that there is no coercion or force at all for their contribution debit.
"Under APY, Direct Debit is only allowed with consent of the subscriber. At the time of application, a subscriber gives express & explicit authorization indicating contribution amount, frequency of contribution and auto-debit from his/her bank account," she said in another post on X.
In case a subscriber wishes to exit the scheme, he/she is permitted to exit the scheme and the entire pension wealth is returned, the Finance Minister said.

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The assertion that enrolment is non-consensual, based on cherry-picked data, is wrong, the Finance Minister further added.

Earlier, Congress launched an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government over the Atal Pension Yojana, alleging it is a "very poorly-designed scheme" and a "paper tiger" that needs officials to hoodwink and coerce people into participating in it.

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Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the scheme is a "fitting representation of the Modi government's policy making: headline management, with few benefits actually reaching the people".

The former Congress minister’s attack came after a media report claimed that at least one of three subscribers who dropped out of the central government's pension scheme for the unorganised sector, the Atal Pension Yojana (APY), did so because their accounts were opened without their "explicit" permission. The report cited a recent sample study by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).

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Responding to Ramesh, Sitharaman said he has done proper fact-finding on the guaranteed pension scheme.

"The minimum return under the APY is guaranteed by the GoI to be at least 8 per cent, regardless of prevailing interest rates and returns. This is an attractive guaranteed minimum return. GoI pays a subsidy to PFRDA to make up for any shortfall in actual returns," she said.

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If higher investment returns are received on the contributions of subscribers of APY, higher pension would be paid to the subscribers: In fact, currently the returns are more than 8 per cent, she said.

"@Jairam_Ramesh says that people are being 'hoodwinked and coerced' into participating! Hoodwinking is what @INCIndia does always' in the name of vote bank politics or minority appeasement. Coercion is what was used to make former Chairman of @TheOfficialSBI Shri RK Talwar resign because he refused to give loans to favourites of the dynasty," Sitharaman added.

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In terms of the majority of pension accounts being in the lower slabs, for a subsidised scheme intended for the poor and lower middle class, this is obvious, the Finance Minister added.

In fact, it shows the proper targeting of the scheme, she said, adding, if the offtake was at the higher end, that would be surprising! The elitist mindset of the dynasty and its minions who are constantly thinking of people in the higher echelons of society, perhaps, blinds them to this obvious truth. The @INCIndia prefers that poor should not have pensions so that they are forced to rely on government hand-outs which keeps them dependent on dynasty politicians, the minister said. 

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(With PTI inputs) 

 

 

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Published March 26th, 2024 at 21:49 IST