About 2,000 senior citizens, who are working as agents for small savings schemes across the state, have got joyful news this Diwali.
The state government has decided to amend a recent controversial circular that debarred those above 70 years of age from working as agents.
The circular issued in August was going to affect 700 such agents in Mumbai. With the (August) circular, the (aged) agents would have started losing their agencies the moment they completed their existing licence terms. The licences are renewed every three years.
The state government has decided to amend the circular, which would allow 70 years plus agents to continue working but on condition of submitting fitness certificate from a doctor.
"I recently got a call from an authority of the concerned department in the state government who told me that the circular would be amended and the order in this regard would be issued in the first week of November," said 80-year-old Chamanlal Vora, who is practicing as small savings agent for the last 60 years.
For Vora and many others like him, such agencies are their livelihood. "I was fearing that I would lose my livelihood, but this news comes as a respite," he said.
The circular was anyway controversial, as the agents had contended that the savings schemes are launched by the central government and hence the state doesn't have power to change the rules.
Moreover, the central government has not defined any age limit for small savings agents.
Nassir Sajjad, Regional Director, National Savings, Mumbai region also told Hindustan Times that the state government can't change the rules because they are uniform for all the states.
Sajjad said that he had got calls from some agents who told him about the state government's decision to amend the earlier circular.
Jayesh Parekh, President, National Savings Schemes Agents' Association, who had protested after the August circular was issued, welcomed the state government's decision.
He said that the association had written 15 letters with 10 to the state government authorities and five to the central government demanding withdrawal of the August circular.
Parekh, however, said that if the fitness certificate criterion is made compulsory for senior citizens, the Association would oppose it. "Because this would give rise to corruption," he said.
Meanwhile Vora said that only fit senior citizens are working as agents. "Those who are not physically fit, would anyway give up the agency on their own," he said. "The investors too would not like to take services of an unfit person," he added.
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