The last few days have been a nightmare for 69-year-old V. Chandrasekhar, a retired professor who has been trying to submit his life certificate, a mandatory procedure to continue receiving his pension. When he and a few other pensioners visited the Beasant Nagar branch of the State Bank of India, they were informed that the branch did not have the machine. They were directed to visit the bank’s T. Nagar branch, which is 8 km away. At the Beasant Nagar branch, they even refused to accept the certificates in physical form.
“Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) Besant Nagar branch has the machine through which digital life certificates can be submitted. But the pensioners were informed that only those receiving pension through IOB can submit certificates there,” said Mr. Chandrasekhar, who is the president of a senior citizens group of Besant Nagar and Mylapore.
When the pensioners visited the e-seva kendra at the Corporation office in Adyar, they were informed that the computers were not working. The pensioners said it was difficult for them to go all the way to the EPF Office in Royapettah to submit the life certificates.
The dozen pensioners The Hindu spoke to across the State said they faced similar challenges. One of them said, “We are old and many of us have health issues and are in wheelchair. We are dependent on the pension money for our daily food and medical expense. Submitting this certificate is becoming a mental trauma. Banks and government should understand that we are all technically challenged, not so comfortable with doing things online,” he added.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Jeevan Pramaan, which enables generation of digital life certificate for individual pensioner using his/her Aadhaar number and biometrics. The Centre’s plan has now hit a roadblock with pensioners facing infrastructure problems such as non-availability of machines in banks and connectivity issues at e-seva centres.
A senior official from the Employee Provident Fund Regional Office (EPFO), Chennai, admitted that pensioners were indeed facing hardship. “In the old system, the pensioner had to go to the home branch to submit the life certificate. Now, he or she can submit it from anywhere as per his convenience. However, lack of infrastructure has been the main problem,” he said.
Mr .Chandrasekhar finally managed to submit his certificate at the bank but he along with other pensioners have raised the issue with the Finance Minister, the Prime Minister and the Reserve Bank of India. They are in the process of filing a public interest litigation in the High Court.