Atal Pension Yojana indefinitely extended, scope broadened (Lead)

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New Delhi : The Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to indefinitely extend the Atal Pension Scheme, which lapsed in August, while doubling the accident insurance and relaxing the age criteria by five years to further incentivise the scheme.

Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is a social security scheme launched by the government in 2015 to provide a defined pension between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the media after the cabinet meeting that the scheme in its new avatar will expand its focus to target individuals, instead of households.

According to government data, over 1 crore people have benefited from the government's flagship scheme.

"The scheme, which was earlier for four years, lapsed in August 2018. But seeing the mass participation in this runaway-success scheme, the cabinet has decided to extend it and keep it open-ended," Jaitley said.

To further incentivize people's participation in the scheme, Jaitley said the government had decided to relax the age criteria for participation in the scheme.

"Earlier, people of age 18 to 60 years were entitled to enrol in the scheme. But looking at the rise in average age-expectancy, now we have relaxed it further to 65 years," he said.

Jaitley added that all accounts opened after August 28 will have an accident insurance limit of Rs 2 lakh, double the earlier Rs 1 lakh limit.

"We have also increased the overdraft facility of the scheme from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000," he said.

He said the Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojana is "the largest financial inclusion initiatives in the world". The scheme had in the last four years changed lives of millions of Indians, he added.

"Those who were left out of financial system must be brought within it for realising the dream of New India. The NDA government is committed to make life of every Indian better than before. The benefits of the scheme speak loudly about the same," he said.

He added that out of the 32.41 crore accounts have been opened under the scheme, 53 per cent account holders are women, 59 per cent accounts belong to rural and semi-urban areas, and 83 per cent accounts are Aadhar seeded with 24.4 crore having RuPay debit cards.

"The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana has been a boon to rural households, especially women, as they are the largest beneficiaries of this scheme, which has not only given them financial independence but has led to empowerment," Jaitley said.