Depressed over not having received the government's old-age pension for the past six months, an 83-year-old rickshaw-puller set himself ablaze on Saturday outside Punjab National Bank at Dhilwan, 25 km from here.
The pension is a paltry Rs 250 a month. Som Nath has been admitted to Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, with 80% burns. He has been living alone at Dhilwan for the past few years. His son is a labourer in Ludhiana and the daughter is married.
His son-in-law, Ramesh Kumar, said that as Som Nath's financial condition was bad, he repeatedly used to visit the bank to get his pension but had to return empty-handed. Som Nath on April 16 wrote to the district social security officer, asking for the release of his pension. He had written a similar letter on March 25 as well.
Kumar said that as his pension account was in Punjab National Bank, he had also put up a banner to register his protest for non-receipt of pension on Saturday, but after minutes of his protest he set himself ablaze.
Bank manager Bhupinder Singh called an ambulance that rushed him to the civil hospital here. However, given his critical condition, he was shifted to the CMCH, Ludhiana.
Deputy commissioner DS Mangat said Som Nath had received pension till December, while the pension for the months January to March was pending.
However, sources said he had received pension only till September 2014. "This too was delivered in December last year. From October 2014, no pension had been disbursed by the government," sources said.
Additional deputy commissioner Paramjit Singh, who rushed to the civil hospital, said it was still not clear why Som Nath took the step. All expenses on his treatment would be incurred by the administration," he said.
Dhilwan station house officer Amarjit Singh said no one seemed to have seen him pouring kerosene and setting himself afire. "People saw him ablaze and rushed to his help. Som Nath is not fit to record his statement yet," he added.
Verification delaying pension
There are 32,445 registered old-age pensioners in Kapurthala district who have not received pension for the past several months. "The pension has been delayed as authorities are conducting a verification process of pensioners to weed out the ineligible pensioners from the list. Also linking of pension with Aadhaar cards of pensioners is being done," sources said, adding that the situation was the same across the state.