For Manipur's electricity department, L Ningthemjao was an employee who retired in 2001 and whose pension benefits were being duly paid as per the official procedure. Till recently, what it did not know, or did not bother to find out, was that Ningthemjao died 22 years ago. And that his family till today has not received a single penny.
Ningthemjao's family son Rishikanta and wife Tombi came to know only last month that someone else was being paid all the money that was rightfully theirs. All these years, they did not know, nor did anyone tell them, that they were entitled to pension benefits.
Ningthemjao of Kiyam Siphai village in Thoubal district died on June 21, 1985, due to illness after serving in the electricity department for 14 years. His son was too young to know about any financial benefits that the family was entitled to. And his wife was not educated enough. The employees union had provided some monetary help. That was all that family got. Rishikanta said, “It was only in 2004 that we sent an application to the electricity department to find out about my father’s pension.”
Advocate Meihoubam Rakesh of Human Rights Law Network told HT that after Rishikanta approached for help, he sent a legal notice to the chief engineer of the electricity department on January 17 this year.
Failing to make much progress, Tombi and Rishikanta then sent two applications under the Right to Information Act to the electricity department. After 30 days and no action in sight, the family approached the state information commission on July 7.
Rishikanta’s mother filed a complaint with the state chief information commissioner to seek service-related documents of Ningthemjao from the electricity department. By this time, the family had suspected that someone had been drawing the salary of the deceased.
The state information commission directed the chief engineer to furnish Ningthemjao’s service documents. It was found that Ningthemjao was promoted as lineman on January 16, 1998 13 years after his death. Thereafter, he retired on August 31, 2001, more than 16 years after his death.
No officer of the electricity department was willing to be quoted.
A senior official confirmed on condition of anonymity that Ningthemjao worked as an assistant lineman in 1998. At that time, his salary was around Rs 1,000 per month. The last salary paid to whoever impersonating as Ningthemjao was over Rs 3,000 a month. Ningthemjao's son and wife are now planning to file a criminal case against the department and approach the Gauhati High Court.