Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today set in motion the process of increasing old age pensions while approving new criteria to ensure that only bonafide candidates benefit from the state’s financial assistance schemes. He also directed the Department of Social Security and Women & Child Development to undertake a survey of the existing beneficiaries, which could be clubbed with the ongoing review of the ‘Atta Dal’ scheme beneficiaries, to weed out the ineligible candidates from the list. Chairing a department meeting here, Amarinder directed the introduction of new forms, with the new criteria, to be filled up by all pensioners including the existing ones, in order to streamline the process and free the beneficiaries from the clutches of Sarpanches and Nambardars.
The existing pensioners, however, will continue to get the pension benefit pending review of the list, it was decided at the meeting. All existing beneficiaries will be required to fill new forms till June-end to become eligible for drawing pension from April 2017 onwards, with a provision for 5 per cent random check by Deputy Commissioner, SDM, etc., as per the new norms agreed upon at the meeting. Disclosing details of the meeting, an official spokesperson said the Chief Minister has also initiated the process of implementation of the Congress promise to enhance old age pension.
The meeting decided to introduce quarterly pension to bring about greater transparency in the system. As per the new criteria which the meeting agreed upon, Aadhaar card will replace ration card as certification document for all applicants, who would also be required to verify their land ownership, which would then be reverified from the Patwari.The verification process for both urban and rural pensions will be simplified with the applicants only required to provide a self-declaration instead of the current system of verification from Municipal Councillor in case of urban pensioners and, in case of rural, from one either two Panchayat members or one Panchayat member along with Sarpanch/Numbardar/Block Samiti member, Zila Parishad chairperson or member.
All applications would be received by the District Social Security Office (DSSO) and the applicants would be intimated of the acceptance or rejection of their applications within a month, it was further decided at the meeting. During the check, if an applicant is found ineligible then recovery of the double amount shall be made from those who recommended/certified the case. This recovery shall be made under Arrears of Land Revenue Act. In an effort to make the system fool-proof, it has also been decided to take action against officer/officials found to have wrongly included a beneficiary, the spokesperson said.
Addressing the meeting, Amarinder said that the previous government followed a “discriminatory” approach by sanctioning pensions to their party workers and ignoring the genuine beneficiaries just to strengthen their vote bank. The Chief Minister directed the Finance Minister to make a budgetary provision to fund these schemes in the forthcoming budget session to ensure regular and uninterrupted disbursement of pensions.