Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Securing Jameela's Future

The beaming face of Jameela Begum says it all as she walks into SNS’s Information Centre with a box of sweets and a toothless smile. She has finally started getting her old age widow pension.

Diminished by old age, Jameela is unable to do much remunerative work. Five years ago she lost her husband and was forced to live with one of her three married daughters. The son-in-law used to threaten to throw her out lest she willed her jhuggi – her only possession – in his name. Old age widow pension was her only hope of income. Her first application for pension to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was rejected citing her name on the form as incorrect. With the help of SNS volunteers, she made the requisite correction and applied again. However, the correction was ignored and her application was rejected again. When she approached the concerned officials she was told that she would have to give them money for “chai paani” (bribe) for her application to be processed. “Agar mere paas rishwat dene ko paise hote to mein pension kyun leti? Lagta tha pension kabhi naseeb nahin hogi”, says Jameela. (If I had money for bribing why would I need a pension? I thought I would never get the pension).

Members of SNS encouraged Jameela to file an RTI application asking for an explanation for the rejection of her applications, as well as the list of documents necessary for applying for the government’s pension scheme. MCD failed to provide this information on time, and she filed an application in the appellate authority, the PGC.

At the hearing in the PGC, unable to provide any valid reasons for rejecting her pension applications, the flustered MCD officials promised to instantly put in motion the procedure for making pension available to her.

Jameela has now started getting her pension and can lead a life of dignity at long last.

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