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Rajasthan govt stops payment to 15.5 lakh social security pensioners

Social activists spearheading the protest by the pensioners, say the government’s excuse of verifying the pensioners' details along with technical glitches like mismatches in the names on Aadhar card and Jan-Aadhar, do not hold any water.
Last Updated 05 March 2024, 14:48 IST

Jaipur: At least 15.5 lakh social security pension holders in Rajasthan have stopped receiving their pension since January this year, with the present government citing 'verification issues'.

Rajasthan has at least one crore social security pension (Samajik Suraksha Pension) holders, out of which 1/7th of them have stopped receiving their pension from January. Many of the pension holders have been protesting at Jaipur’s Shahid Samarak demanding their rightful dues for days now.

Launched by the Social Justice and Empowerment department, the scheme that has become an Act now, provides Rs 1,000 per month to benefit senior citizens, widows and disabled people, mainly from the economically weaker sections of society — primarily those whose earnings are below Rs 48,000 annually.

The scheme was launched in 2013 but it became an Act in 2023 and now comes with a legal guarantee. The BJP government in its first Budget has raised the pension amount to Rs 1,150 from the coming year.

Social activists from Soochna Evum Rojgar Adhikar Abhiyan (SERAA), who are spearheading the protest by the pensioners, say the government’s excuse of updating and verifying the pensioners' details along with technical glitches like mismatches in the names on Aadhar card and Jan-Aadhar delaying pensions, do not hold any water.

Nikhil De, founder member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and Soochna Evum Rojgar Adhikar Abhiyan (SERAA), says, “The verification part has to be done by the government. It cannot be a burden on the beneficiaries, who are old and infirm. The main contention is that these pensioners are sanctioned pensioners, who have been receiving their pension for years. Suddenly they have been stopped which is questionable and in a way indicates the intention of the government... Poor people would be left in the lurch because of administrative issues.”

After the Acts were passed, the model code of conduct had set in before the Rajasthan Assembly elections in November. And now just before Lok Sabha elections, the model of conduct will come into effect again. This means the government only has a few days to frame concrete rules to implement these Acts in the state.

Social activists lament that despite Acts like Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Act, MGNREGA (Rural) under which 25 extra days have been added to the already sanctioned 100 days, Indira Gandhi Shahari Rojgar Yojana Act, under which 100 days of employment have been promised to families residing in urban areas, Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare Act), Right to Health Act, being passed by the Legislative Assembly, there has been no effort to frame rules for these acts, which make them pointless for the beneficiaries.

The Gig Workers Act is a pioneering act not just in India but world as well. The law provides for a Welfare Board, which can register all gig workers, notify the social security schemes for those registered and ensure that workers have access to benefits under the plans.

The Act also introduces a social security and welfare fund to benefit gig workers. De says,"But the Rs 200 crore budgetary provision for the Act remains unutilised."

Protestors say the government which came to power on the promise of good governance is sitting tight over these constitutionally guaranteed Acts.

Kavita Srivastav, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) says : “There is lack of clarity on whether the Acts would be implemented or not, as rules have not been framed under any of these Acts. The bureaucracy, it seems, has stopped working. These Acts have been passed by the Vidhan Sabha, in which BJP members were also present. And all [this] relates to the welfare of the people. No rules have been framed under the Right to Health Act — they are all on paper. Good health is non-negotiable. People are confused over Chiranjeevi Yojana, which offers insurance upto Rs 25 lakh and Ayushman Bharat whose limit is Rs 5 Lakh. For framing rules under these constitutionally guaranteed Act, somebody must be accountable. All these laws have the Governor's assent and they are not laws formed by ordinance. The non-implementation of these laws violates the Constitution.”

The government on its part has formed a sub-committee to look into the decisions taken by the previous government. “But a committee simply cannot review the Acts. They have already been passed but there is no time-frame to form laws and that is why the present government can afford to sit over them.”

Activists say this government which promised good governance, transparency and measures to counter corruption, is not making any efforts to frame rules for Acts which ensure welfare for the downtrodden people. Despite several attempts to meet the Chief Minister, the activists and beneficiaries have not been given a time to meet.

Despite DH reaching out to Health minister Gajendra Singh Khimsar several times on the phone, no response was received by the time of publication.

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(Published 05 March 2024, 14:48 IST)

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