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FM Sitharaman rebuts Congress charges on Atal Pension Yojana

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New Delhi, March 26: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a strong rebuttal to Congress charges on the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) on Tuesday, described it as a scheme based on ‘best practice choice architecture’ and also underlined the fact that the APY subscribers are getting guaranteed 8 per cent return every year.

Sitharaman’s defence of the flagship scheme of the Modi government comes on the back of Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh’s claims that it was a ‘very poorly-designed scheme’ and people were ‘coerced and hoodwinked’ by the officials to join it.

Breaking down the best practice choice architecture, the Finance Minister said on X: “The feature was introduced for the best interest of subscribers. Instead of requiring people to decide each year to continue, they have to take a decision to discontinue.”

Further, refuting the Congress charges on ‘poor returns’, she said that the minimum return under the APY has been guaranteed by the government at least 8 per cent, regardless of prevailing interest rates and returns.

“This is an attractive guaranteed minimum return. GoI pays a subsidy to PFRDA to make up for any shortfall in actual returns. If higher investment returns are received on the contributions of subscribers of APY, the higher pension would be paid to the subscribers: In fact, currently the returns are more than 8 per cent,” the Finance Minister pointed out.

Taking strong objection to Jairam’s ‘this is fixed income pension’ comment, the Finance Minister accused the senior Congress leader of not even bothering to check the facts on the guaranteed pension scheme.

Earlier in the day, Congress communications in-charge stepped up his attack on the Centre and accused it of ‘befooling’ the public with a ‘very poorly designed scheme’. He also claimed that the paper tiger was hoodwinking and coercing people to participate in it.

Jairam Ramesh based his accusations on a news report which claimed that up to one-third of subscribers were enrolled into the scheme without “explicit permission”.

“Nearly 83 per cent of the subscribers are in the lowest slab of Rs 1,000 pension because the monthly contribution for it is low and it goes “unnoticed” by the beneficiaries,” he also claimed.

Slamming the ‘elitist mindset’ of the Congress party, Sitharaman further said: “The grand old party wants that poor should not have pensions so that they are forced to rely on government hand-outs which keeps them dependant on dynasty politicians.”

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