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Penny Vera-Sanso


Despite having the second largest population of people over age 60, India has yet to generate an effective national framework for confronting the exigencies of later life, especially those that are derived from a lifetime of poverty. This article demonstrates that this lack of interest in 'past' generations is driven by the unfortunate coincidence of externally endorsed concerns and concepts, and internal politics. Foundational assumptions on the economy and development and on old-age capacities and inter-generational relations, push for evidence collation which disincentivises more empirically relevant analyses, creating the fiction of dependency ratios and inhibiting the generation of evidence-based knowledge on later life. The consequence is that India prioitises current and future generations over ‘past’ generations. Policies on older people, who are treated as 'other' at international and national levels, are tied to competition for votes at national and state elections. Currently, policy is not designed around the concept of older people’s rights, nor of meeting need. The first outcome of external and internal drivers is that national and state governments are not interested in, nor know, how many older people qualify for a pension; instead they fix budget ceilings and, at a local level, allocate and manage pensions in a random fashion. The second outcome is that pension values are allowed to wither on the vine, waiting on the political context in which one or more parties places a pension uplift at the centre of their manifesto.