Bogus, dead, school going students, scholars, parents of affluent getting old age pension in J&K

Old Age pension scam in Social Welfare Deptt

Syed Junaid Hashmi

JAMMU, Sept 22: Social Welfare Department of Jammu and Kashmir has entered bogus names of beneficiaries of the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS).

Not only has the department entered the names but the same are being paid old-age pension without any delay. Though the amount is meagre but the same is paid to bogus beneficiaries numbering in several hundred thousand. This has been brought to the limelight by Department of Economics and Statistics of Jammu and Kashmir in its evaluation study of scheme for two districts namely Samba and Shopian.

The evaluators were shocked at the casual and non-responsible attitude of the Social Welfare Department in implementing the scheme. A handsome number of 18 percent beneficiaries out of those selected for verification were not traced in the field. They said that these were indicative of the fictitious cases which needed in-depth departmental enquiry for establishment of facts and fixation of responsibility.

Besides non-traceable cases, several hundred cases were found dead on the date of survey which suggested that the Implementing Department was not prompt in reporting and consequently in weeding-out the expired beneficiaries from the live list of beneficiaries under IGNOAPS. Evaluators recommended that the Social Welfare Department must put in place all administrative and monitory measures to enhance legitimate activities of its field functionaries for in-time and smooth delivery of assistance under various Social Security Schemes being implemented through it.

In-time reporting of expired cases would have also paved way for inclusion of other deserving people within the available financial resources of the Department, the evaluators argued. They further found out that while the assistance under IGNOAPS is explicitly for destitutes above 65 years of age, field study conducted across Samba and Shopian revealed that 13 percent of the contacted beneficiaries were well below the age of 65 years even on the date of survey and would have naturally been much younger at the time of sanctioning.

Astonishingly instances of even 9th class students were found receiving old age pension under the scheme. A couple of students undergoing PG courses in Universities were found deliciously receiving the old age destitute pension. Physical progress of the scheme very clearly indicated that the Implementing Department had restricted the coverage of beneficiaries to a certain limit. The yearly allocations made available hardly allowed them to increase the number of beneficiaries.

In respect of district Shopian, the number of beneficiaries remained stagnant for all the three years of reference period. Given the fact that the allocations were not demand driven, the Implementing Department had chosen to accommodate new cases to the extent of weeded out beneficiaries on yearly basis. In all during reference period, Samba and Shopian districts managed to accommodate new cases for benefit under IGNOAPS against weeded out beneficiaries with the result the number of beneficiaries virtually decreased.

Evaluators further found out that scores of cases were pending in the Social Welfare Department awaiting sanction for coverage. Hence, report has strongly questioned the decrease in the number of beneficiaries and said that it was not justified. The field observations were mostly suggestive of the fact that maximum number of beneficiaries belonged to the poor families but the instances of economically moderate families managing coverage under IGNOAPS were also there.

For instance in Shopian district a couple of beneficiaries were parents of two serving Government employees each which implies that they were not eligible as per scheme norms. Social Welfare Department itself had been the basic source of awareness about the scheme for maximum number of beneficiaries followed by Village Panchayat. The village headmen and Anganwari Workers have also been the source of awareness to a sizeable number of beneficiaries.

Out of contacted beneficiaries across the sample districts, 43 percent got their cases sanctioned from the Department within 6 months and 57 percent managed their cases sanctioned within a period ranging from 6 months to 12 months. However, evaluators have suggested that disposal of cases should not result in indiscriminate sanctioning without any regard to rules, regulations and norms governing the scheme.

Regarding payment of Pension, 13% stated that the payment was being made to them on monthly basis while as majority of them i.e. 85 percent informed that payments were mostly released on quarterly basis. Some even said that they had not received any pension though their name figured in the list of pension holders under IGNOAPS.