He, with a sad but proud grin, stepped out of that office, a multi-storied but dilapidated one with dusty furniture and gloomy faces, leaning on to the crutches to support the weakened and pale legs which were dragging on the floors, while trying to hold on to the heavy files, which contains piles of papers procured from various offices to prove that he is not a destitute, not drawing any other social welfare pension, not residing in a poor home , not having family income of more than Rupees One Lakh, a medical certificate to prove the disability and finally a certificate to prove that he is not a beggar!! ‘At last, I am going to get a pension of Rs 140/- per month’, he made a great sigh of relief, and carefully folded the Government Order number GO(P)11/97 issued by Government of Kerala and kept it back to the plastic bag which remained torn, as proof of the humongous efforts to get that paltry sum approved.
While walking across the busy street, his eyes got filled with gratitude, as this new pension will add to the pension on his wife, Suma, under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan-Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY), an old age pension scheme for all land holding Small and Marginal Farmers in the country, which is now the primary source of income for his family. However, the monthly pension of Rs. 1000/- being paid under PM-KMY is also based on the monthly contribution of Rs 200/- paid out of her hard earned money, he sighed.
Just across the junction there was a huge protest going on against the Governor of Kerala, who had questioned the illegality and arbitrariness of extending pension for the personal staffs of the Ministers and Opposition leader of Kerala, who were being appointed from among the party cadres. Though the sun was burning heavily and the legs were paining due to heat emitting from the bitumen laid road, he looked around, while listening to the argumentative speech of the party leader who was authentically questioning the constitutionality of the office of the Governor!
Though he was not educated enough to understand the intricacies of that lengthy speech, some logical questions aroused in his mind instantaneously. To get the pension benefit under EPS, one have to complete ten years of service and he/she should have reached the age of 50 years to get early pension. For a regular pension one must be at least 58 years old. The minimum eligibility period for receipt of pension is 10 years. A Central Government servant retiring in accordance with the Pension Rules is entitled to receive pension on completion of at least 10 years of qualifying service. In the case of Family Pension the widow is eligible to receive family pension on death of her spouse after completion of one year of continuous service or even before completion of one year if the Government servant had been examined by the appropriate Medical Authority and declared fit for Government service. If one is an employee of a private entity, he/she shall governed by the EPFO guidelines and other service conditions to get proper pension. However, in no case, an employee who is having service period of just two years will get life long pension!.
What is the educational qualification and experience of the said recruit who is getting appointed to the personal staff cadre of the Minister? If Government is paying the pension of the personal staff of Ministers from public fund, then why the said recruitment procedure is not transparent? If the public is taking the burden their pension, then are the qualifications and experience of the recruit is a not a matter while recruiting? If they are being selected by the party leaders, then is it not that party that responsible to pay their pension? Are these benefits extended to others in this society and are everyone being treated equally? When rest of the people in the society are getting only contributory pension, why there is an exception to a specified class of persons? How the personal staff of the Ministers and Opposition leaders alone are getting these fortunes when other eligible candidates of the society are suffering? Why only the Government of Kerala is making such arbitrary appointments and providing such unethical pensions, whereas no other States or Central Governments have such generosity!. Is it not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India? Is it not highly arbitrary and against the principles of natural justice? Is that not an extreme form of gratification and favouritism by unethical means? Is this wrong practice not creating a separate class of people in the society by giving them all the benefits at the cost of others? If that is the fact then why there is protest against the Governor who had questioned the said wrong practice? Why the party leadership is trying to remove the Governor from his office? Why the political leadership of opposition is also maintaining a strategic silence on this matter? Are these personnel are getting too much personal?
Though these logical questions regurgitated from his mind to mouth, he kept is lips shut to avoid any controversies and adverse classifications, by holding to his pension papers which was received after a long struggle with bureaucracy. Of course the Common men are donkeys, but are they destined to wag their tails too like dogs, for the mistake of putting their vote to elect their leaders and is there any more room for such logical questions?. So he continued his walk…..relentlessly, without giving an ear to the shameless speech of the party leader and by avoiding the logical but irrelevant questions that came to his mind.
‘After-all there is no free lunch anywhere in this World’, he tried to shred off the exasperation to justify the generous action of the welfare state towards the personal staff of Ministers and moved on further. But somewhere from the bottom of his heart, a strong sense of disappointment creeped up like a worm, for the mistake of educating his son to get a job. It would have been far better if he was trained to be an affiliate of any political outfit and if it was so, he should have been getting a handsome monthly pension of Rs 80000/- by being a henchman of a political leader and his father does not have to beg before the bureaucrats for the meagre pension amount of Rs 140/-!!
Bijoy P Pulipra