The Punjab government’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) scheme to take pension to the doorsteps of widows, old aged, disabled and destitute has become another disaster as a large number of beneficiaries in villages across the district have failed to get their pensions.
Despite getting their smart cards from the banks concerned, the beneficiaries have failed to get their pensions.
The department of social security cleared the entire backlog in September last year, but a large number of beneficiaries are still waiting for the banks to clear their dues.
Under the scheme, the state government is currently paying `250 per month as pension to each beneficiary, while the central government is paying `300 to the beneficiaries below 80 years and `500 to those above 80 years.
After receiving a tip-off from Agaaz, a city-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), about the alleged misappropriation of pension funds, HT Correspondent visited Aitiyana village near Raikot, wherein more than three dozen beneficiaries made shocking revelations.
The survival of Ajaib Kaur, 93, of Aitiyana village has become a challenge as she is unable to make her both ends meet. She has not been receiving widow pension for the past six months.
“Whenever I visit the bank to get my pension, the in-charge there says the machine is not taking my finger prints due to my bad skin condition, hence, the pension can’t be disbursed. What am I supposed to do?” rues the nonagenarian.
This is not the only case of unpaid pension as of the total 144 pensioners there are more than five dozen individuals who have failed to get widow, old age and disability pension in Aitiyana village.
Pritam Kaur, who is in her sixties and connected with the NGO for more than a decade, took up the cause of all pensioners and pointed towards the “pension scam” in the village. “My cumulative pension from the state and central government came out to be `4,300 but I was paid only `1,250. When I asked the person hired by ICICI bank for the remaining amount, he said it was not there in the account,” Pritam said.
Report by anganwadi workers
In a report sent to the district social security officer, the anganwadi workers in Aitiyana village had given the detail of each and every pensioner. The list also included the details of the individuals who had died over the years (see box).
Referring to the “unpaid” pensions, deputy commissioner (DC) Rajat Agarwal said: “The problem has come to my notice and I have already taken it up with the higher officials of ICICI bank, which is authorised to disburse pension to all beneficiaries in the district, but to no avail. I have already apprised the higher authorities of the Punjab government and am hopeful of getting a solution to the problem soon.”