The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a welfare programme being administered by the Ministry of Rural Development. This programme is being implemented in rural areas as well as urban areas. NSAP represents a significant step towards the fulfilment of the Directive Principles of State Policyenshrined in the Constitution of India which enjoin upon the State to undertake within its means a number of welfare measures. These are intended to secure for the citizens adequate means of livelihood, raise the standard of living, improve public health,provide free and compulsory education for children etc. In particular, Article 41 of the Constitution of India directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want within the limit of its economic capacity and development. It is in accordance with these noble principles that the Government of India on 15thAugust 1995 included the National Social Assistance Programme in the Central Budget for 1995-96.The Prime Minister in his broadcast to the Nation on 28thJuly 1995 announced that the programme will come into effect from 15thAugust 1995.Accordingly the Govt. of India launched NSAP as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme w.e.f 15th August 1995 towards fulfilment of these principles.
The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) then comprised of National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS),NationalFamily Benefit Scheme (NFBS) and National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS). These programmes were meant for providing social assistance benefit to the aged, the BPL households in the case of death of the primary breadwinner and for maternity. These programmes were aimed to ensure minimum national standards in addition to the benefits that the States were then providing or would provide in future.
The scale of benefit and eligibility for various schemes of NSAP when first started were as follows:
(i)National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS): Rs 75 per month is provided per beneficiary for destituteabove 65 years.The scheme covered destitutehaving little or no regular means of subsistence from his / her own sources of income or through financial support from family members or other sources. In order to determine destitution, the criteria, if any, currently in force in the State / UT Governments were adapted. The Government of India reserved the right to review these criteria and suggest appropriate revised criteria.
(ii)National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS): A grant of Rs 5000 in case of death due to natural causes and Rs 10,000 in case of accidental death of the “primary breadwinner” is provided to the bereaved household under this scheme. The primary breadwinner as specified in the scheme, whether male or female, had to be a member of the household whose earning contributed substantially to the total household income. The death of such a primary breadwinner occurring whilst he or she is in the age group of 18 to 64 years i.e., more than 18 years of age and less than 65 years of age, makes the family eligible to receive grants under the scheme.
(iii)National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS):Under the scheme, Rs 300 per pregnancy upto the first two live births is provided. The beneficiary should belong to ahousehold Below the Poverty Line (BPL) according to the criteria prescribed by Government of India.
In 1998, the amount of benefit under NFBS was raised to Rs 10,000 in case of death due to natural causes as well as accidental causes. The assistance under the National Maternity Benefit Scheme which was at Rs 300/-,was increased to Rs 500/-per pregnancy.