Widows, differently abled have not got pension since Onam
It has now become routine for Krishnamma to move from cabin to cabin at the Thiruvananthapuram city Corporation to raise her grievance with various officials. The 75-year-old woman from Marappalam is a familiar face at the Corporation. For the past six months, she has been coming here “twice a week”, in the hope of getting her widow pension.
“I have 10 children who work at different places as labourers. They do send me a part of their earnings, but it’s not fair to depend on them as they have to look after their families. This pension has been a boon. But now that has stopped too,” she says.
The government funds for widows, old age and differently abled persons last reached the civic body during Onam. Only the pension for agricultural labourers and unmarried persons above 50 years was deposited recently.
In a move that worsened its economic burden, the government eased the norms related to annual income and age in November 2013.
The maximum annual income, which was earlier set at Rs.11,000, was raised to Rs. 3 lakh, which effectively did away with the Below Poverty Line condition. The minimum age for old-age pension was reduced from 65 to 60.
“The change in norms resulted in a rush of applicants. Many who do not deserve the pension have made it to the list. Since it is given for individuals, even those whose spouses are retired government employees now get old-age pension. In some cases, they produce a certificate from the village officer saying they are not staying with their children, ” says Welfare standing committee chairperson Palayam Rajan.
The social security pensions are a favourite of the councillors, as it is the easiest way to reach out to the electorate in their wards. Many councillors reluctantly admit that the Rs.3-lakh limit is unfair, but are wary of admitting it in the open. “The councillors are the first to screen the applications for pension. But they never reject any application. Though there is one more level of screening by the officials concerned, undeserving beneficiaries do get in, ” says an employee at the pension wing.