says Harsha Mander at the Public Hearing on Pensions Issues in Tamilnadu
Pension Parishad, an All India coalition of mass organizations and NGOs working on issues of social security, organized a public hearing in Chennai on issues in implementation of pension and social security schemes in Tamilnadu at ICSA, Egmore or 21st July 2015. Making his concluding remarks, Harsh Mander, (retired IAS officer), Supreme Court appointed Commissioner on Food Security, pointed out the centrality of social security in a welfare state, maintaining that at no point should we allow these to be compared to charity. He said that these are obligations that we as a nation make to our citizens, who have worked hard and are now old, who have been disadvantaged due to social circumstance or have been discriminated against. The pensions and social welfare measures are a way of repaying our debt and protecting our fellow citizens in their time of need. Outlaying the various issues that had been discussed, he said “we always rate Tamilnadu as one of the best performing states when it comes to issues of social welfare and so it severely pains me to know about the difficulties people face here to avail their rights, it is also a grim reminder of how bad the condition is in the rest of the nation. We have a serious crisis here.”
The panel comprised of Ms. Anne Raja, of National Federation of Indian Women along with Ms. Aruna Roy (social activist), Ms. Qudsai Gandhi (retd IAS officer), Prof Lakshmanan (MIDS, Chennai), Dr. Suresh (PUCL) and Justice Prabha Sridevan. Prof Lakshmanan, describing the inhuman treatment and corruption, said this public hearing unmasks the state government and debunks the notion that Tamilnadu is a progressive state. Anne Raja, maintained that the violations documented at the hearing amount to serious case of human rights violations and asked the Government officers to take note of this. She also said that any attempt to force Aadhar Cards should be opposed as the courts have made it clear that it is not mandatory requirement.
The secretary at the Manual Workers Welfare Board of Tamilnadu, Mr Balachandran, also participated in the proceedings, responding to queries and taking note of the petitions and grievances. He assured the panel and the public, that he will look into some of the petitions that were presented at the hearing. Talking to Thozhillar Koodum at the end of the hearing, he said that he had taken copies of the petitions and also notes of the grievances and would be taking necessary action on them at the earliest. These consultations help us to engage with the public and know the views of different sections. While we might have our own arguments, such spaces enable us to come together and clarify each others positions” he said. He added that though he was not fully accepting the allegations leveled here or the issues raised during the hearing, there were some cases made very valid issues and these would be looked into. The public hearing participants also gave him a standing ovation as he was the only member of any of the 17 welfare boards to have attended and actively participated in the proceedings.
Over 150 cases were heard at the hearing, their grievances recorded and their petitions submitted to the panel. The panel members, while indicating that the full report would take a few days to be prepared, provided a summary of issues raised at the hearing. These were
- Large scale termination of members in the pretext of verification leading to severe disruption of pension disbursement to genuine cases
- Registration and disbursement of benefits to the members of various welfare boards remain poor and the process need to be amended. For example only 23000 people are being provided pension through the construction welfare board though the actual number of old people is far higher.
- The need to revise or annul conditions pertaining to the old age pension of not having any adult children, or the minimum age requirement of widow’s that assume that only old women can be widowed, or the demand to show the degree of disability especially in case of mental health patients
Discussing the follow up of this public hearing, Mr Daniel, one of the organizers of this event and project manager at Centre for Advocacy and Research maintained that this was only a first step and it was important to bring all these people under one umbrella. “All of them here today have been facing issues individually and struggling with the officials, such an attempt allows them to come together and voice themselves effectively. Otherwise it is difficult to resolve these issues. The government is trying raise ridiculous issues so that it can decrease the outflow of money. But it has to be opposed collectively.” He claimed that the public hearing was a partial success. “though not many government officials came to the hearing, the fact that so many people came together and testified is a big boost to the issue” he maintained. The Report will be ready in the end of the week and kindly follow the updates on this issue.
find attached the note on demands published by Pension Parishad