Officially dead but physically alive. That is what more than 100 elderly people are in Jharkhand.
During a household survey, administrative officials of Tamad block declared live people dead after not finding them in their houses.
Mahendra Mahato, Urmila Devi, Gurbari Devi and Mankishore Mahato, all from Ichadih village, are dead according to records. These senior citizens, who slog in the farms and jungles to scrounge a living, do not know how to convince authorities they are alive.
And the carelessness of the officials is indeed killing them. They are now cut off old-age pensions, their main source of income.
The elders said they showed up at the block office many times urging officials to correct the error and resume their old age pensions, but it didn’t help a bit.
“My legs do not have enough strength to visit the block office every day. I am walking, talking, working. Isn’t that enough proof that I am alive,” said Urmila Devi.
Despite being located barely 50 km east of capital Ranchi, Tamad is one of the most underdeveloped blocks of the state. It is beset by left-wing extremism, which has for long been a major excuse for government officials to shirk duty.
A human rights activist said across Tamad there were more than 600 live elderly citizens who had either been declared dead or missing by the block officials. “I have documentary evidence to substantiate my claim,” he said.
The victims met a few reporters visiting their place and produced documentary evidence to show they are alive.
No official in the block office came on record to speak on the lapse. A circle officer said to avail of any social security scheme, the beneficiary must submit their Aadhar cards. “These elderly citizens must not have submitted the Aadhar cards and hence the confusion,” she said.
Rural development minister Neelkanth Munda said he would ensure speedy corrective actions.
Local legislator Vikas Munda said he would demand a high-level inquiry into the grave lapses and actions against the errant officials if found guilty.