No Pension For Months, Rajasthan Villagers Declared 'Dead' In Records

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Without a pension for six months, Hanja took the expensive trip to the office, but only to be shocked.


Jaipur:  75-year-old Hanja Bai's pension stopped unexpectedly. A resident of a village in Rajasthan's Rajsamand district has trouble walking, has a hearing impairment and the Rs 750 a month is her only means to survive. So she decided to pay the regional pension office a visit.

Without a pension for six months, Hanja took the expensive trip to the office, but only to be shocked.

"I went to the office in the taluk to ask why I'm not getting any pension. The man at the counter looked at the records and said - I'm dead," Hanja said.

According to Rajasthan government' records, both Hanja Bai and her husband are shown as 'dead' in got records. They stopped getting pension six months ago. But a visit was not enough to prove that she was indeed alive and needed help. She has now written an appeal endorsed by the village Sarpanch (chief), stating that she's alive and that her and her husband's pension should be resumed.

"With no pension, you can imagine how difficult it has been to survive in these times of this price rise. At my age, no one is even willing to give me any work under the employment guarantee scheme either," she said.

Like Hanja Bai, Lila Devi used to get Rs 500 per month as widow's pension till a few months ago, which entitled her to get subsidised foodgrains for her 4 children. But that suddenly stopped when the government records declared her dead too.

But the two women are not the only to go through the bizarre ordeal.

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan surveyed Lila Devi and Hanja Bai's village and found that of the 11 people marked as dead in the government's list in Kushalpura panchayat, nine were alive.

The organisation claims that across the state of 68 lakh pensioners, the government stopped paying pensions to 10 lakh a few months ago, and has knocked off close to 7 lakh beneficiaries from this list.

"These are extremely poor people and to deny them their basic rights is gross injustice. This is a life and death situation for them. Under the guise of 'savings' for the government, if genuine people are losing out then there is something seriously wrong with the system," Aruna Roy of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan told NDTV.

The Rajasthan government has said it had carried out a detailed verification process to eliminate duplicate and ineligible pensioners but will look into the case of these women.

State's Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Arun Chaturvedi said, "We have done a verification drive. Pension was delivered by money order earlier, we have moved it to the banking system. Pension has a rule that you have to update if a person is receiving pension and is alive. Computer operator may have made a mistake.

Mr Chaturvedi said the district collector has visited Hansa Bai's village and any shortcomings will be rectified. He said the government's aim was "not to deny pensions".

But till the time the discrepancies are rectified, people like Lila Devi and Hanja Bai have being given no reconciliation except the hope of justice.

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