In search of Old Age Pension
Recently on October 18th, I was driving through Karewas of Khansahib area in Budgam to attend a marriage function in a nearby village. It was around 1 pm, I could see an elderly couple seeking lift from me. I immediately stopped my car and asked them to get in. They were very weak and looked tired as they had already covered some 2 kms on foot. I asked them where they had to go? They said Kenroo, a village located around 7 kms from Khansahib town. While I continued my conversation with this couple, I came to know that they had come to visit J&K Bank branch at Khansahib to inquire whether the " Old Age Pension" has been credited into the account of Fata or not ? They told meit is more than 2 years since they applied for the this pension, but could not get the same due to unknown reasons. Hearing this sad story, I stopped my car on the way. I went inside a private school located on the road side which is run by one of my friends. I asked them to accompany me to the office of the school and fortunately, my friend was there during that time . I asked them to take some rest. Then they narrated their whole story.
Aziz Mir is around 72 years of age and his wife Fata few years younger to him, applied for the Old Age Pension under Integrated Social Security Scheme (ISSS) before the Tehsil Social Welfare Officer Khansahib in October 2014. In June 2015, Fata was asked to open a bank account in the local J&K Bank branch. From that day she is coming to Khansahib town every week along with her weak and old husband , but they always go back disappointed. Even during the ongoing agitation and hartals , the couple came to Khansahib 5 to 6 times walking all the way from Kenroo to Khansahib by foot, but they always went back disappointed.
I contacted District Social Welfare Officer Budgam and emailed him all the details about this couple along with scanned copies of Fata's bank passbook. The officer was courteous enough and called me back after 2 days and assured to help Fata in getting her pension.
This is not the case of Fata or Aziz Mir alone. In past also I have seen dozens of such old men and women waiting outside the offices of Tehsil Social Welfare Officers (TSWO's). I know many cases wherein these senior citizens have applied for the pension more than 5 to 6 years back , but their documents get misplaced in the Offices. Why cannot Government digitize all the applications and keep a track on these cases so that these old people would not have to make unnecessary rounds of the Govt offices? I know many cases wherein some selfish people and touts mislead these senior citizens by minting money from them under the garb of old age pension entitlement. I would appeal Mohalla committees, Auqaf Committees , Religious and Social organisations to come to rescue of these old people. It would be advisable that volunteers in each village , mohalla , colony assist these old age people in getting entitlements under old age pension scheme, so that they would not have to roam around the Govt offices and banks all the time. If we empower local Baitul Maal's and Zakat system , I think our poor old men and women would not need monthly pension of Rs 500 as we can take care of such people quite efficiently. There are hundreds of people who die during the struggle of getting entitled for this meager pension.