Revised regulation in Security Allowance Act hangs single helpless women out to dryThe new regulation issued by the Department of National ID and Civil Registration to exclude single women below 60 years of age from receiving the Helpless Single Woman Allowance.
Ramesh Kumar Paudel
On March 16, the Department of National ID and Civil Registration notified all local units in the country to provide security allowance to widows/single women in accordance with the new regulation. The new regulation stipulates security allowance be given only to single women who reach 60 years of age by the end of this fiscal year as opposed to the allowance being extended to all single women with no source of income or income lower than the minimum wage stipulated by the government.
According to the notice issued by Sabitri Basnet, a section officer at the department, all local units will stop providing security allowance to single women below the age of 60 from the coming fiscal year.
The federal government distributes Rs 2,000 (every month) as security allowance to single women with no source of income or income lower than the minimum wage. The lump sum amount is distributed once every four months. In the current fiscal year, security allowances have already been distributed thrice. The next distribution is scheduled for mid-July.
Following the new regulation, the local units in Chitwan have started to notify locals about the new development. On May 14, GN Mahato, the chairman of Kalika Municipality Ward No. 5, issued a letter to notify that single women who have not reached age 60 will not receive security allowance next installment onwards.
This new development has Bishnumaya Pandey, a single mother in her 50’s in Mangalpur, Bharatpur, worried about her future.
“I used to manage expenses for medicines and children’s school supplies from the government’s allowance. I also have to pay my grocery bills at the local shops. But now they say I won’t receive the allowance; this is a difficult situation for women like me to be in,” she said.
Kunda Sharma, president of Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group, said, “We do not accept the new regulation. The government must revise it and if it doesn’t, we will protest.”
The federal government had issued the Social Security Act in 2018. In Chapter-2 under the Helpless Single Woman allowance section of the act, single women who have reached the age of sixty years shall get the helpless single woman allowance in a sum as specified by the Government of Nepal. The section further clarifies that even if a woman has not reached 60 years of age but is single, has no source of income or has an income less than minimum wage stipulated by the government, she is entitled to receive the helpless single woman allowance.
According to Sharma, the Supreme Court had ordered the government some 11 years ago to provide allowances under the above-mentioned heading to all women who are widowed or single.
“The government cannot change the court’s decision that was made 11 years ago,” said Sharma.
The data of the Department of National ID and Civil Registration showed that there are more than 800,000 widows/single women receiving the security allowance in the country at present. “Among them, around 350,000 women are under age 60,” said Jitendra Basnet, the director general of the Department of National ID and Civil Registration. “We have started the process to amend the Social Security Act in accordance with the new regulation in the present session of the parliament. Widows/single women who are currently in the security allowance list may not be excluded,” said Basnet.
According to Sharma, 86 percent of widow/single women are illiterate in the country. “The government has exploited this group. During this time of pandemic, we will be forced to stage demonstrations on the streets if the government does not revise the decision. We have started to discuss with our representatives in the province and districts,” said Sharma.