BERHAMPUR: The State government continues to provide Rs. 200 per month to widows, physically challenged and the aged as pension in this era of inflation when a cup of tea costs more than Rs. 2 at roadside kiosks.
The State government has named the pension scheme as ‘Madhu Babu Pension Yojana’. It is an irony that the beneficiaries do not get this amount every month. They are provided this allowance in bulk in four or six months. Both beneficiaries and social activists feel the pension amount is too meagre and it needs enhancement. “We feel it should be hiked so that the beneficiaries should feel they are getting a respectable assistance from the State government rather than alms,” said farmer leader Kailash Sadangi. In several other States amount provided through similar pension schemes is more. According to State secretariat member of CPI(M), in West Bengal beneficiaries of similar pension scheme get Rs.1,000, in Andhra Pradesh it is Rs. 500, in Kerala it is Rs. 750 and in Tripura the beneficiaries get Rs. 1,000 per month. “When the government could hike salary and perks of MLAs to around Rs. 60,000 per month in this poverty stricken State, no one in the government is thinking of providing a respectable succour to the poor beneficiaries of Madhu Babu Pension Yojana,” he said.
In the State the HIV positive persons are considered physically challenged and are also included under the Madhu Babu Pension Yojana. Some HIV positive beneficiaries say the amount they get under this pension scheme helps them travel to Berhampur for medical needs or to buy subsidised rice provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS). “The monthly pension is so low that the beneficiaries do not want to get it through cheque every month as they would lose more money for their encashmen,” said Soudamini Rath, social activist involved in rehabilitation of HIV positive persons.
Mr Sadangi also alleged that during disbursement of money to beneficiaries in rural areas, the local touts and panchayat members deduct a sum from the pension amount. “The money that these poor people get serves as pocket money for some and most prefer to buy their quota of subsidised PDS rice with it,” he said. According to him the meagre sum of Rs. 200 per month never helps in enhancing economic security of the beneficiaries as claimed by the scheme.