Limited succour: Budget 2018 and senior citizens
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stressed in his Budget speech last week that “to care for those who cared for us is one of the highest honours”, underscoring the importance the Centre attaches to providing economic support for India’s growing population of senior citizens. He then announced several tax and related incentives to ease the financial burden on people aged 60 and above, all of which are very welcome given that the elderly face steeply (दुरारोह तरीके से) escalating (तीव्र) health-care costs on declining real interest and pension incomes. From affording a five-fold increase in the exemption limit on interest income from savings, fixed and recurring deposits held with banks and post offices to ₹50,000, and doing away with the requirement for tax to be deducted at source on such income, the Budget offers much-needed relief. This it does by leaving a little more money in the hands of elderly savers who are heavily dependent on interest income to meet their living expenses. Another useful tax change is the proposal to raise the annual income tax deduction limit for health insurance premium and/or medical reimbursement to ₹50,000 for all seniors. And a crucially allied (सम्बद्ध) step is the move to set the ceiling for deduction in lieu of expenses incurred on certain critical illnesses to ₹1 lakh, irrespective of the age of the senior citizen.
Separately, Mr. Jaitley also proposed extending the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana by two years, up to March 2020, and doubled the cap on investment in the scheme to ₹15 lakh. This annuity-cum-insurance(वार्षिकी-सह-बीमा ) scheme entitles the senior citizen policyholder to a guaranteed pension that equates to an annual return of 8% on investment. This pension plan, unlike the entirely government-funded Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme for the elderly who live below the poverty line, is contributory and is run by the Life Insurance Corporation of India. While all these Budget measures are laudable (प्रशंसा योग्य) insofar (तक) as they recognise that the right to a life with dignity doesn’t retire with the crossing of a chronological threshold (सीमा रेखा), much more needs to be done to address the needs of this rapidly growing demographic cohort (दल ). With more than 70% of the 104 million elderly living in the rural hinterland (समुद्र तटक्षेत्र), any serious initiative to improve the lot of senior citizens must incorporate adequate budgetary support for social welfare spending on the relevant programmes. While the Budget provisions ₹6,565 crore for the pension scheme for the elderly poor, its outlay for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s assistance to voluntary organisations for programmes relating to the ‘aged’ at ₹60 crore is starkly (स्पष्ट रूप से) inadequate. With the number of the elderly in India set to surge by 2050 to almost 300 million, or about a fifth of the population, governments need to make more comprehensive efforts to address the nation’s greying (पक्का हो जानेवाला) demographic.
1. Steeply: By a very large or sudden amount.
2. Escalating: Becoming more intense or serious.
Synonyms: accelerate, accumulate, appreciate, balloon, boom, build up, burgeon (also bourgeon), climb, enlarge, increase, expand, gain, mount, multiply, mushroom, proliferate, rise, roll up, snowball, spread, swell, wax
Antonyms: contract, decrease, diminish, dwindle, lessen, recede, wane
3. Allied: having a close connection like that between family members
Synonyms: affiliated, akin, related, kindred
Antonyms: unrelated, differentiable, discriminable, distinguishable
4. Laudable: deserving of high regard or great approval
Synonyms: applaudable, commendable, creditable, estimable, admirable, meritorious, praiseworthy
Antonyms: censurable, discreditable, illaudable, reprehensible, disgraceful, dishonorable, disreputable, ignominious, low, mean, scandalous
5. Insofar: to the degree that
Synonyms: inasmuch as, insomuch as, insomuch that, so far as
6. Threshold: the point at which something begins
Synonyms: alpha, baseline, birth, commencement, dawn, day one, genesis, get-go (also git-go), inception, incipience, incipiency, kickoff, launch, morning, nascence, nascency, onset, outset, start, beginning
Antonyms: close, conclusion, end, ending, omega, cessation, closing, closure, completion, finale, finish, period, stop, termination, windup
7. Cohort: one associated with another in wrongdoing
Synonyms: abettor (also abetter), accessory (also accessary), accomplice, confederate
8. Hinterland: a rural region that forms the edge of the settled or developed part of a country
Synonyms: backcountry, backland(s), backwater, backwoods, bush, frontier, outback, outlands, up-country
9. Starkly: In a way that is severe or harsh in appearance or outline.
10. Greying: used to describe a person whose hair is becoming grey or white, or the hair itself
Crisis in Male
Fresh elections, with the opposition free to contest, are the best option for the Maldives
Matters are coming to a head in the Maldives, with President Abdulla Yameen’s government pitted (गड्ढे बनाना) against the judiciary, polity and sections of the bureaucracy. Mr. Yameen has ruled since 2013 when he won power in an election, the result of which is still contested. He defeated Mohammad Nasheed, who had been deposed (पद से गिराना) in 2012 and who, in 2015, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of terrorism. Mr. Nasheed is now in exile. In an order on February 1, the Supreme Court cancelled his imprisonment term and that of eight other political leaders, reinstated 12 parliamentarians who had been disqualified last year, and ordered Mr. Yameen to allow the Maldivian parliament, or Majlis, to convene (एकत्र होना). Mr. Yameen has thus far failed to comply with any of these orders, despite an official statement on February 2 about his government’s “commitment to uphold and abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court”. The most egregious (ज़बरदस्त) failure is the government’s refusal to cancel the imprisonment of the nine leaders, amongst whom is Mr. Yameen’s former vice president and his former defence minister, members of parliament and leaders of major opposition parties, apart from Mr. Nasheed himself. The President has also refused to allow the Majlis to meet, which has led to the resignation of its Secretary General. In fact, the government sent in the army to stop lawmakers from entering the premises, besides arresting two parliamentarians at the airport. Meanwhile, several officials, including two police chiefs and the prison chief have resigned or been sacked, reportedly for seeking to implement the Supreme Court’s orders. The Attorney General has now announced that only the Constitution matters, not “illegal orders” from the court. In short, the Maldives is in the midst (मध्य) of a constitutional crisis. Calling fresh elections, which are in any case due later this year, may be the best way out.
Amidst (मध्यम में) the turmoil (खलबली), India has joined the U.S., the European Union and several other countries in calling for Mr. Yameen to carry out the Supreme Court’s order. New Delhi said in a statement that it is monitoring the situation in Male “closely”. But currently, Delhi’s leverage in the Maldives is less than it has ever been. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to cancel his visit to Male three years ago, has singled Maldives out as the only country in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Region that he hasn’t visited. Given that the Maldives has pulled out of the Commonwealth, and there is little semblance (अनुरूपता) of a SAARC process at present, India’s influence in Male is further limited. It will require concerted action from the international community to persuade (विश्वास दिलाना) Mr. Yameen to steer the Maldives out of this crisis, without taking recourse to coercive (अनिवार्य) means.
1. Pitted: Having a hollow or indentation on the surface.
Synonyms: pockmarked, pocked, scarred, blemished, marked, potholed, rutted, rutty, holey, bumpy, rough, uneven, eaten away
2. Deposed: Remove from office suddenly and forcefully.
Synonyms: overthrow, overturn, topple, bring down, remove from office, remove, unseat, dethrone, supplant, displace
Antonyms: crown, enthrone, throne
3. Convene: to bring together in assembly by or as if by command
Synonyms: assemble, call, convoke, muster, summon
Antonyms: break up, dissolve
4. Egregious: very noticeable especially for being incorrect or bad
Synonyms: blatant, conspicuous, flagrant, glaring, gross, obvious, patent, pronounced, rank, striking
Antonyms: inconsequential, inconsiderable, insignificant, slight, small, trifling, trivial, concealed, hidden, invisible
5. Midst: the most intense or characteristic phase of something
6. Amidst: in or into the middle of
Synonyms: among (or amidst), mid, midst, through
Antonyms: from, out of
7. Turmoil: a disturbed or uneasy state
Synonyms: disquiet, ferment, fermentation, restiveness, restlessness, Sturm und Drang, unrest, uneasiness, unquietness
Antonyms: calm, ease, peace, peacefulness, quiet, tranquillity (or tranquility)
8. Semblance: a display of emotion or behavior that is insincere or intended to deceive
Synonyms: act, airs, charade, disguise, facade (also façade), front, guise, playacting, pose, pretense (or pretence), put-on, masquerade, show
Antonyms: artlessness, genuineness, naïveté, bluntness, candidness, candor, directness, forthrightness, frankness, openheartedness, outspokenness, plainspokenness, sincerity, straightforwardness
9. Persuade: to cause (someone) to agree with a belief or course of action by using arguments or earnest request
Synonyms: argue, bring, bring around, convert, convince, gain, get, induce, move, prevail (on or upon), satisfy, talk (into), win (over)
Antonyms: deter, discourage, dissuade, unsell
10. Coercive: Relating to or using force or threats.
Synonyms: overbearing, authoritarian, imperious, high-handed, high and mighty, autocratic, autarchic