The elderly of Maski taluk have been going through a financial catastrophe as pensions fail to come from the district offices due to misplacement of records during establishment of the taluk.
By Yamini Chincholi
They say old age is the second childhood, but in reality, it is the most stressful and worrying for those who don’t get pensions from the government.
Kashimbi, Fakiramma, Naddim Sab, Hanumantha Sunkapura, Mallamma, Kantemma, Mariappa and Devamma are some of many who have been denied pensions from Indira Gandhi National Old Age pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) and widow pension schemes in Maski taluk.
Over 10 villages were visited in Maski taluk: Benaknal, Dignayakanbhavi, Maraldinni, Adibai, Udbal, Belladamaradi, Muldinitanda, Nagarbenchi, Antargange, Kaatgal and Mudgal to survey the reach of pension schemes.
Several senior citizens, especially widows, do not get their pensions every month on time because of administrative challenges since Maski was made a taluk combining Lingsur, Sindhnur and Buddhini.
Mr. Venkatesh, a tailor in Maraldinni receives letters and notices from the postman every day. He said middlemen may be the cause for eating up the pensions on the way to the beneficiaries. “The postman sometimes tells me that funds have not been deposited in the beneficiaries’ accounts so there won’t be any pension for them this month. It is especially irregular for those who have different names or ages in their Aadhar cards. People don’t update their biometrics or addresses,” he said.
The Indira Gandhi blanket scheme gives monthly pensions of Rs 500 to differently-abled, Rs 1000 for small and marginal farmers over the age of 60, and Rs 350 for widows below the poverty line.
Many claims of not getting pensions were because no papers were submitted in the first place. And those who claimed to have submitted papers, identity proof and required certificates had not tried to question higher-ups about the inconsistency. “We haven’t talked to the panchayat, let alone the Tehsildar,” said Devamma Googlimari from Maraldinni. She has not been receiving pensions for over a year. Her husband passed away around five years ago and she lives in poverty with her son. “Sometimes we get to have two meals, other times, we’re not so lucky. My son works in our farm, but when there’s no rain, how is anything guaranteed? The postman says there’s no money in my account every month.”
Maski was made a taluk in late 2017 – early 2018, and administrative departments like health, education, women and child development, tourism, treasury, etc., have not been established, all except the Tehsildar office. Government staff keeps shuffling between the old taluks, and the staff is not permanent. Documents and records cannot all be found in one place. Several schemes are not being implemented efficiently due to trouble in channelling the funds to the last person.
Maski is facing numerous administrative challenges because the documents, records, stats, profiles, government employees and departments need to be shuffled and established still.
The elderly from Dignayakanbhavi hadn’t been receiving pensions despite having submitted papers. Fakiramma had not been getting pensions for roughly a year, before which her papers were intact. When the taluks shifted, her husband’s death certificate was lost without which she was not eligible to avail the pension anymore. Despite knowing her personally, the panchayat or the town heads had refused to help her.
Ms. Tayyaba, the headmistress at the Urdu School in Dignayakanbhavi said that senior citizens resort to extreme measures to survive when pensions stop coming. “I have a six-year-old student called Suleiman. His grandmother hasn’t been receiving pensions for a year now. Their family has sold their farms and their ancestral property, even heirlooms and jewellery to feed the children and send them to school,” she said.
Suleiman’s mother confirmed that pensions stopped coming a year ago and that they are barely managing to make a living.
Kashimbi has not received pensions for over four years and has stopped asking about it at the panchayat meetings. Mr. Pampapati, in charge of availing schemes for the disabled at Dignayakanbhavi, said a child has been declared more than 75 percent disabled but no pension has been received as of yet. Several older citizens claimed that pensions are sometimes two to six months late. “They’re on and off. As funds reach the district, they reach the taluks. Because we have no treasury, it’s more of a challenge to avail any scheme,” said Naddim Sab who has not received pensions for 4-5 months now.
Mr. Hanumantha Sankapura, another villager at Dignayakanbhavi has not been receiving pensions for a year. The reason is unknown. Mallamma is a widow in Maraldinni who also dealt with the mix-up of her husband’s death certificate as the new taluk was established. She has submitted all documents to the district office in Raichur and has not received pensions for over a year. “The postman tells me funds have not been deposited in my account,” she said.
The Indira Gandhi Pension Scheme has around 42,000 beneficiaries from Raichur district, out of which 16,412 are from Maski taluk. The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maandhan Pension Yojna (PMKMY) is to provide old-age pension to small and marginal farmers. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has kept the budgetary allocation under the PMSYMY at Rs. 500 crores for 2020-21. The revised estimate for the scheme for 2019-20 had been kept at Rs. 408 crores.
Mr. Sharanappa Benaknal, a youth activist in Benaknal village told The Softcopy that many government schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Ayushman Bharat, Ujwala Yojna, Swach Bharat, Gruha Bhagya and Bhagya Lakshmi schemes are not implemented efficiently as funds don’t reach half the beneficiaries. Infrastructure, education, health, administration, water, sanitation and rural development are some of the areas being affected by the “lazy pace of the taluk officers”.
A few villages like Muldini Tanda haven’t had their panchayat budget announcement in over a year. Mr Satyanarayan Sindhanur, Maski town head said, “Our departments are slowly being established. There is an irrigation department and municipal office. There is a taluk panchayat office. We are yet to have a treasury. Our staff is also not permanent which delays many works in progress.”
Mr Chandrashekhar M., Headmaster of Maraldinni Higher Primary School manages the district level infrastructure department. “The treasury will be established in April in Maski taluk,” he said.
The Tehsildar of Maski taluk, Mr Balaram Kattimani, said that all is being managed fine and that the department has not received any complaints. “Pensions for differently-abled is being exploited and misused. More and more people are getting fake certificates by bribing the district medical officer and enjoying the benefit of pensions,” he said.
Differently-abled people must acquire a certificate of 60 – 75 percent disability by the district health officer in Raichur to avail monthly pensions. There are 7000 beneficiaries of this scheme from Raichur district, according to the Indira Gandhi Disability Pension Scheme website. “The district surgeon signs certificates even when a person’s disability is as less as 45 percent. Differently-abled individuals have been given tricycles and disability-friendly scooters. Each such scooter costs around Rs. 80,000 and disabled individuals have been given these by our government,” Mr Kattimani said.
Mr Reddy Rayanagowda, the Chief Officer of Maski Town Municipality pointed to old taluks having experienced the same problems due to illiteracy and ignorance among villagers. “Our schools, colleges, and hospitals have developed ten-fold. Maybe with more education and awareness, people will know who to approach and what documents are necessary to avail government schemes,” he said.
Dr Aishwarya S, political analyst in Bangalore said, “The non-payment is majorly because of the pace at which departments are being established. A political action committee should be found with immediate effect so that officials are answerable for their actions, or lack thereof. There is no scope for any scheme to be implemented if a treasury isn’t established in the taluk. The channel through which funds are transferred is an obstacle in itself. For now, what the revenue department can do is distribute funds equally among all departments and sectors like health, education, social infrastructure development, etc. so that it may lead to balanced development.”