Let me today take your attention towards something which is actually news worthy in real sense. For me news is something which readers don't know and I am sure what you will be reading ahead here in this column would definitely be adding to your knowledge. And I am equally sure that you would be spreading a word about it to trigger a change – a change for betterment in the societies.
More than 10000 workforce in all cadres in the Jammu & Kashmir Bank outside the ambit of official rules in the recent past joined together to help each other in the times of distress. They have given one-time consent to the bank authorities to deduct a contribution of Rs.300 from their salary whenever any of their in-service colleagues succumbs to a disease or loses life in an accident. The pooled amount, which is usually more than Rs.30 lakhs, is handed over to his/her family as a future financial security for them.
This initiative has its own background. Normally bank employees are burdened with huge loans having repayment schedule spreading over the period of their active service. It has been seen that any unforeseen eventuality resulting in the death of the employee would leave his/her family burdened with loan liability. All perks would get consumed in repaying those liabilities of the deceased employee, resulting in their financial disaster. But now, the voluntary contribution of all employees, which has got official backing now, has built blocks of social security in true sense for the employees.
This system of voluntarism and taking the concept of social security to higher level is unheard of. Here I have an interesting story to share. Once I received an interesting post card on my official address. The post card was from an eighty years old anonymous senior citizen. He had narrated some shades of miseries at his domestic front with money shortage as baseline of all his problems. He had found a reason to write to me as in one of my columns I had written about 'Reverse Mortgage' scheme which was introduced as a major initiative for providing social security to senior citizens. The senior citizen was owning a house worth a few crores, but was neglected by his family. His source of income was an issue and had to struggle to meet even his basic needs.
Notably, Reverse Mortgage is a scheme all the more useful for people who do not receive any kind of pension or are unable to manage cash flow for even routine living. It's a scheme which facilitates senior citizens to earn a sort of old-age pension out of their owned house property. Under the scheme the house remains mortgage to the bank, against which the owner receives regular cash flow.
The senior citizen had sought my guidance to access the scheme to ensure financial or in simpler terms social security for remaining part of life. But unfortunately no bank was offering the scheme in Kashmir.
Basically, social security has always remained a concern. Over a period of time it has assumed significance and equally the system driving it has come in the line of fire. Providing of this security cover normally falls within the domain of government. Besides, the most eligible section of society for this social security cover is universally identified as those who are poorest of the poor with little or no means of income.
In the context of our place, the social security has remained a challenging issue for the kind of conflict situation populations are gripped in. Precisely, there's nothing so social about social security. Here economic growth has always remained a concern and growth has always remained loaded with a pattern which is accentuating insecurities. Are the gains achieved through whatever economic growth routed back to achieve social security for everyone? I don't think it happens.
Let me quote Amartya Sen who denotes protection against a fall in living standards and living conditions through ill health, accidents. Yet another economist Jean Dreze focuses on promotional aspect of social security – enhanced living conditions, helping everyone overcome persistent capabilities deprivation.
Here 'protection' stands eroded and 'promotion' threatened with shrinking funds. Precisely, the scenario doesn't guarantee social protection to citizens.
Meanwhile, the voluntarism of J&K Bank employees in driving the concept of social security rather than roaming with begging bowls needs to be emulated by others without banking upon government donations. It will go a long way to provide individuals and families the confidence that their standard of living will not be eroded by meeting with such socio-economic contingencies in their life.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)