RTI query helps restore pension for 'dead' widow

85-year-old Lakshmamma survived on food neighbours gave her

RTI query helps restore  pension for 'dead' widow

Lakshmamma, an 85-year-old widow, had never thought that the twilight of her life would be marked by a struggle for a widow pension of Rs 500 per month.

Living in the dingy room of a slum at Kallahalli near Ulsoor, the octogenarian would have lost her battle, but for the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

A widow for the past 32 years, Lakshmamma was getting her old age pension from 1983 to November 2011, when it was stopped abruptly as her name figured in the list of dead beneficiaries, following a revision of the list.

Sources said the revision of the list reduced the number of beneficiaries to 41.88 lakh from 48 lakh. The revised list comprises 10.58 lakh widow pensioners.

While the government claims that the names deleted were fake ones, there are counter claims too.

Lakshmamma's case proves the point that the revision was not done properly. Like every month, in November 2011 too, she went to the post office to collect her pension, only to learn that it had been stopped. Seeing her face turn pale, a post office employee gave her Rs 200 from her pocket. Her neighbours, who too are from the economically weaker sections, offered her food.

For nearly 11 months, the post office employee gave Lakshmamma Rs 200 every month, while the neighbours shared their meals with her.

One fine day, local RTI activist Kalidas Reddy took up her case.

Reddy says, “After I filed the RTI application to know the status of Lakshmamma's widow pension, I briefed Chief Information Commissioner A K M Nayak about the plight of the woman. He took personal interest in the case, which resulted in its early hearing.”
The tahsildar, who initially gave the hearing a miss, finally showed up and restored Lakshmamma's pension with arrears of two months, Reddy said.

Not a stray case

Kathyayini Chamaraj of Civic Bangalore says this is not a stray case. At Devasandra in Bangalore, there are 31 people whose pension was stopped because the revenue officers got a 'wrong feedback' about the beneficiaries (that they were dead).

The revenue officers have their own explanation. They say the pensions were stopped, either because the beneficiaries were not present at the given address or their neighbours had told the survey officials that the beneficiaries were dead.

“This means that the survey was not conducted properly. We wanted to speak to the successive secretaries in the Revenue department, but they did not hear us. For many of us, Rs 500 could be a pittance. But there are people for whom every rupee matters,” she said.

A senior officer in the Revenue department said the revision helped remove fake beneficiaries. She said the postmen had a nexus with some fake beneficiaries to siphon off the pension of dead beneficiaries.

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