Bhubaneswar, June 16 (LocalWire) At least 40.52 per cent of the elderly population in Odisha are staying at home due to corona pandemic and getting government pensions but the state needs to create more awareness among others as violations are rampant, says a survey.
The maiden telephonic survey by New Delhi based Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation, formed by several former bureaucrats, was carried out as parts of an all India survey, in all the 30 districts of the state during the period of 1st May 2020 to 20th May 2020.
It covered the incidence of chronic diseases, awareness about guidelines to prevent COVID-19, government assistance and spending pattern of the old and poor people.
The first Covid-19 bound ‘lockdown’ of 21 days (beginning with 25th March 2020) was announced by the Government on 24th March 2020.
Along with this, four months advance payment of pensions under Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme and the Madhu Babu Pension Yojana were delivered to beneficiaries in the state between the 4th week of March 2020 and the 1st week of April 2020.
The study was mainly to capture information from the beneficiaries regarding their expenditure pattern and whether such lump-sum payment in one instalment was to their advantage or disadvantage, the foundation said.
Secondly, since the poor old people are also the most vulnerable section in so far as Covid-19 pandemic is concerned, through the study, an attempt was made to gather information regarding their health status and the preventive measures that they have been following for the safety of their health during this period, it said.
In the survey, the incidence of chronic diseases in the families of the beneficiaries was found to be substantial.
4.20% of the beneficiaries were found to be having multiple chronic diseases, 22.88% had single chronic disease and 10.46% beneficiaries had at least one family member suffering from a listed chronic disease.
In case of the beneficiaries, the common chronic diseases reported were Hypertension, Blood Pressure (BP)- 48.78%, followed by Diabetes, Sugar- 19.51% and Chronic (long-term) respiratory disease-13.94%.
Regarding the awareness about guidelines to prevent COVID-19, feedback from the old and poor respondents without prompt showed that the three most important measures they are aware of in connection to prevent the spread of the outbreak were “staying at home”, “maintaining social distancing”, and “wearing a mask”.
Rampant violations of government instruction
Despite massive propaganda by government machinery, the messages regarding COVID-19, especially its preventive measures, have not reached the people to the desired extent.
Awareness amongst beneficiaries (with prompt) has been observed to be in the range of only 37.25% with respect to ‘Prohibition of the congregation of more than 5 persons’ to 59.66% with respect to ‘Working from home’.
Even regarding the most common measures like ‘Staying in-home’, ‘Maintaining social distance’ and ‘Wearing mask’, only 47.81%, 51.91% and 57.24% respectively of the beneficiaries have informed their awareness and that too with prompt, the report said.
Low level of awareness and violation of the government instructions like the practice of staying in home was found to be as high as 40.52% amongst the old age persons i.e. within 15 days prior to the date of interview.
35.48% beneficiaries have also reported 3 to 4 days of moving out of home and 14.29% reported 5 to 6 days of moving out of the home during 15 days prior to the survey.
Moving out of home decreases with regard to beneficiaries of higher age groups.
Based on the findings, the survey found that the awareness campaign of the government on Covid-19 is not only reaching just a few susceptible people but also the instructions are rampantly violated by them.
Extend more help to prevent livelihood crisis
With respect to government assistance, more than 95% of the beneficiaries surveyed confirmed receipt of the advance pension.
It was observed that percentage of beneficiaries located in urban areas and under MBPOAP who received pensions (97.30% & 97.43% respectively) was higher than their counterparts in rural areas and under IGNOAPS (94.19% & 94.11% respectively).
Despite this discrepancy, feedbacks from a few citizens and public representatives suggest that all the targeted beneficiaries must have received the pension over time.
In addition to advance old age pension, targeted beneficiaries also received various assistances during the lockdown period like free ration under PDS (44.82% of beneficiary got rice and 6.54% wheat), lump-sum cash assistance (62.93%) and credit in Jan Dhan account (12.14%).
However, only about 45% of the families of OAP have received food grain free of cost, which should have been 100%, reported the survey.
The largest portion of the amount received as an advance pension has been spent by the beneficiaries in the first few weeks after receiving it.
It is found that 38.10% of beneficiaries have fully spent the advance pensions received by them in the first few weeks immediately after the receiving date.
81% to 99% of advances received were spent by 17.18% of beneficiaries and 61% to 80% by 20.45% of beneficiaries.
The advance payments of old-age pensions to the targeted beneficiaries have been fully or mostly spent within few weeks.
he findings establish the hypothesis of the study that people, irrespective of their economic status tend to spend more if they have more which may not augur well for the old and poor during a crisis period like lockdown as it may ultimately result in their livelihood crisis.
It may be more appropriate to extend such assistance more in kind and less in terms of cash during a crisis, the study said.
Perhaps the combination of ex-gratia cash assistance, which was given and assistance in kind, could have served the purpose by sticking to the ongoing monthly timeline of releasing pension to the old age people.