Now, govt to weed out fake pensioners

After launching a drive to detect bogus ration cards and gas connections, the State Government has planned to launch in the first week of March a campaign to unearth bogus claimants of pension under various social security schemes.

If the statistics of the government are any indication, the number of widows in Karnataka is rising, the number of physically challenged people is increasing and the number of aged persons is increasing, placing a heavy burden on the budget of the State government.

Two reasons are attributed to the phenomena. First, ineligible people are accessing the benefits. Second, relaxation of norms by government for extending pension benefits has swelled the figures.

In 2006-07, pensioners in the State numbered 16.5 lakh. In 2007-08 the figure went up to 19.25 lakh, rising to 20.23 lakh in 2008-09. Figures for the current year will be available by March. The annual budget for the present year of the Directorate of Social Securities and Pensions, which functions under the Revenue Department, is Rs 1,780 crore. There has been an average of 20 per cent increase in the budget allocation for the directorate which handles seven social security schemes. About five per cent of the total budget meets the establishment cost.

Under the Sandhya Suraksha (old age pension) scheme, the entitled persons below the poverty line get a minimum of Rs 400 every month, while physically challenged persons get Rs 1,000 a month. With the pension schemes becoming attractive, the number of pensioners too is growing.

While 10 per cent of the beneficiaries are paid through banks, the rest are paid through money orders. Instances of a pensioner getting more than one pension under various schemes by producing fake documents have been noticed, official sources said.

Plan to verify

Sources said a plan is in place to conduct physical verification of social security pensioners numbering nearly 40 lakh across the State. The department of revenue has tied up with the National Informatics Centre to digitise the data to be collected. Smart cards will be issued to the eligible pensioners, which will have UID compatibility.

The information will be hosted on a website. A circular will be issued to deputy commissioners in the next couple of days directing them to make arrangements for conducting the drive to check the bona fides of the pensioners.

Sources said the government has prepared grounds for collecting accurate information of the beneficiaries. The data of beneficiaries will be tallied with the information available with the treasury records. Officials of the revenue department, anganwadi workers, health, agriculture assistants, village accountants and others will be involved in the data collection which may go on for up to six months.

Each beneficiary has to furnish not less than 20 types of information besides the required documents to those who conduct the survey which will cost Rs four crore. Bankers have also been roped by the government to weed out the bogus claimants.

Till the physical verification is completed, there will be fresh inclusion of names in the lists of beneficiaries of the state-funded pensions. However, current beneficiaries would not be affected, official sources said.

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