Faceless and heartless

A November to remember, said a writer recently. This is so for me as well, but not for reasons as pleasant. For pensioners, November is the month for signing the Life Certificate in person in order to establish their bona fides. Since I worked as a teacher, my pension falls under the Employees' Pension Scheme. While working, we had to contribute to the scheme by apportioning a part of our Provident Fund and, therefore, at least part of it is our own hard-earned money.

Last year, because of demonetisation, the long trip to the concerned bank yielded no results. We had to go to the Provident Fund Office to do the needful. They had digitised the procedure and though it was time-consuming, we were assured that it would ease the process in the coming years. Thumb-impressions were taken and apparently stored. When I asked what would happen if, with the passage of years, the fingermarks faded, I was assured that it would not matter.

November 1-30 is the time allotted for processing the Life Certificate. When I went to the bank on 15th this month, I was told they had not received the requisite forms and was asked to come back after 20th. The deadline of November 30, I was told, would remain. In spite of being in poor health, I made the long and taxing journey on two successive days.

On the first day, there was a power outage and, to my utter dismay, their generator was not working. They had failed to repair it, although the breakdown had occurred a week ago. In spite of spending almost all their working hours there, nothing was achieved. On the second day, a biometric system had been set up, but again the long wait in the queue went in vain. For me and for many others, fingerprinting could not be done because the marks on the fingers had faded with time. Appeals to them to accept our signatures, as was done before, fell on deaf ears. The manager claimed that this was the government's rule and they had to abide by it. He had no further suggestions. We could go to the PPF Office or any other centre assigned for the purpose.

Many of the pensioners are old, feeble and unable to take the strain of long and repeated trips to claim what is their inalienable right. Interestingly, newspapers had issued a notice to the public on that very day, that where digital fingerprinting was unsuccessful, signatures were acceptable. The bank, however, maintained that the press could say what it wanted, but that they were not bound by it.

Reminding them that the RBI had notified banks that they should go to the extent of visiting senior citizens for their banking needs failed to make any impression. The result is that senior citizens who have spent the best part of their lives serving the society are running from pillar to post for their legitimate rights. It is not unknown that the government is faceless, but does it have to be heartless, too?

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