Octogenarian rickshawpuller Som Nath’s attempting to burn himself near here on Saturday for Rs 250 pension has exposed how a few offices have become immune to poor people’s complaints.
The man’s family claims that he had not received his pension since last September; and that for two months, he had scurried between offices for his Rs 1,750. Nobody heard him out. The family has copies of a letter that he wrote on March 25 to district social security officer, asking him to release the amount.
The letter has his thumb impression and reads that he was assured of payment at the earliest. “The Punjab National Bank manager at Dhilwan, Desh Raj, told me that the pension was about to arrive into my account, but it didn’t. I have written many times to your office,” it reads.
The letter suggests that he ended his fast-unto-death for the release of pensions to the poor after assurance of quick payment. On April 16, he wrote to the Kapurthala senior superintendent of police (SSP), informing him about the extreme step he was going to take, but the office ignored it.
In the letter, he accuses chief minister Parkash Singh Badal of not disbursing pension after September (2014). “Jadddon daftraan which jayida hai…afsar da jabaab hunda hai ke khazane which paisa nhi hai……jadki Badal ne March which aapne ate mantriyan de vetan nu dugna kar leya hai (When we go to the offices to ask for pension, we are told that the treasury is empty, even though Badal gave himself and his ministers a double pay hike in March),” he wrote.
Asked to react, Kapurthala SSP Ashish Chaudhary said his office had never received any letter of this kind. Asked if the officers concerned would face inquiry, the deputy commissioner said there was no plan.
Meanwhile, the Congress has demanded a public apology from the CM and the deputy CM. “The government officials who ignored the man’s letters should be penalised,” said Congress spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira adding that Sukhbir, who had claimed Punjab to better off than the US and Japan, must be embarrassed.
State leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar accused the state government of diverting the money meant for social security. “This government that promises moon to the public doesn’t have the money to pay Rs 250-per-month pension. I have information that it diverted this money to Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL),” said Jakhar.
Death comes in hospital
Kapurthala: Som Nath, 83-year-old rickshaw-puller who set himself ablaze on Saturday for Rs 250 pension died in Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, at 1.45am on Sunday.
The resident of Dhilwan near Kapurthala had suffered 80% burns. His son, Subhash Chandar, said the comments of the bank employees whom he pestered for pension must have hurt him, and driven him to taking the extreme step. “Today my father has suffered,” he said, “tomorrow it will be someone else.”
He said his father’s protest was “not for himself but all the people harassed by the government and bureaucrats”. “We don’t need compensation but justice,” he said.