EC directive on pension distribution kicks up row in poll-bound Andhra | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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EC directive on pension distribution kicks up row in poll-bound Andhra

By, Hyderabad
Apr 02, 2024 07:10 AM IST

According to the EC directive, Andhra Pradesh government was asked to keep the village and ward volunteers away from distribution of pensions to senior citizens at their doorstep in the wake of model code of conduct ahead of Lok Sabha polls

A directive from the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the Andhra Pradesh government on Saturday to keep the village and ward volunteers away from distribution of pensions to senior citizens at their doorstep in the wake of enforcement of model code of conduct has kicked up a major controversy in the state.

The directive by the election commission of India to the Andhra Pradesh government was issued on Saturday. (HT Archive)
The directive by the election commission of India to the Andhra Pradesh government was issued on Saturday. (HT Archive)

Acting on a petition filed by Citizens for Democracy, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a series of reports in the media that the village and ward volunteers were working as agents of the ruling YSR Congress party, the EC directed that the volunteers be barred from distribution of cash benefits under any scheme (including pensions) to eligible beneficiaries.

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It asked the volunteers to deposit the handheld devices (mobile/tablets/any other) provided to them with the district election officers till the completion of model code of conduct.

The EC asked the state government to make alternative arrangements for distribution of benefits of ongoing schemes to already selected beneficiaries using DBT (electronic transfer) preferably or through other regular government employees.

As the disbursement of pensions, which was supposed to take place on Monday, came to a halt, the YSRCP leaders raised a hue and cry over the EC order and accused the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) of hatching a conspiracy to deny disbursement of pensions to the old aged people by volunteers, on the pretext that it would fetch mileage to the ruling party.

YSRCP general secretary and advisor to the state government Sajjala Ramakrishna said the disbursement of pensions came to a halt due to the alleged complaint from the TDP. “The so-called NGO, which gave the complaint to the EC, is a pocket organisation of TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu working with the sole purpose of undermining the volunteer system,” he alleged.

Reddy said the elderly people, who had been getting pensions at their doorsteps every month for the last four and a half years, would now suffer due to selfish politics of Naidu. “Naidu revealed his true colours to the public before the elections. Everyone should take note of this,” he said.

Across the state, hundreds of village and ward volunteers started submitting their resignations from their posts, alleging that political motives were being attributed to them unnecessarily, though they were doing selfless service to the people.

In Machilipatnam, more than 1,200 ward volunteers submitted their resignations in the municipal commissioner’s office en masse, stating that they were terribly hurt by the allegations levelled against them that they were serving the interests of the ruling party.

TDP candidate for Machilipatnam assembly seat Kolluy Ravindra said the volunteers were resorting to mass resignation under pressure from the YSRCP leaders. “How can the TDP be blamed for the EC order? We have not given any such complaint to the EC,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government clarified that the distribution of pensions would continue in the offices of village and ward secretariats, instead of door-to-door distribution.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty under department of rural development D Muralidhar Reddy, in a statement on Monday, said all the village and ward secretariat staff would take up distribution of pensions to the old-aged.

“The mandal parishad development officers and municipal commissioners will issue an authorization letter to the panchayat secretary and welfare and education assistant in rural areas and ward administrative secretaries and ward welfare development secretaries in urban areas for carrying cash from banks to their respective secretariats for distribution among the beneficiaries,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of TDP leaders comprising Nakka Anand Babu, Devineni Uma Maheswara Rao, Varla Ramaiah and others met state chief secretary KS Jawahar Reddy and submitted a petition expressing concerns over the delay in pension distribution. They urged the chief secretary to mandate door-to-door pension distribution.

On Sunday evening, TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu also wrote to the chief secretary and chief electoral officer MK Meena separately, urging them to ensure uninterrupted distribution of social security pensions in the state.

Naidu said though the EC had barred the distribution of pensions through village and ward volunteers, the state government can still take up distribution of cash to the beneficiaries,” he said.

The TDP chief requested that arrangements be made for timely disbursement of pensions by secretariat employees and other field staff, and permission be given secretariat staff to withdraw pension amounts from banks.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Srinivasa Rao is Senior Assistant Editor based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana . He has over three decades of reporting experience.

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