In a move that could reduce the number of pensioners under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation by up to 50 per cent, the civic body has linked disbursal of old-age pension to Aadhaar.
Linking pension to Aadhaar, officials say, could eliminate fake beneficiaries in corporation records. Plus, a large number of pensioners are not likely to have Aadhaar cards.
The standing committee of the corporation Wednesday debated the delay in disbursal of pensions, which are already running late by over two years. Before Diwali, the cash-strapped corporation had announced that funds would be arranged to pay old-age and other pensions for the last three months of 2014 “at the earliest”.
However, only 23 wards of the 104 under the North body have been covered so far. Officials attribute this to an acute shortage of funds and also to the fact that the civic body has linked pensions to Aadhaar for the first time.
The executive wing did this on the instructions of the Delhi HC, which ordered MCDs, on December 1, to conduct camps in each ward to verify old age pensioners. The order states that “beneficiaries in each ward” are requested “to attend the camps, along with requisite documents, which are mandatory under Old Age Pension Scheme of the Delhi government”.
There are 1,90,000 pensioners in the city on the rolls of the civic bodies, apart from those availing state government benefits. Additional commissioner, finance, Pankaj Singh said the corporation has been able to disburse Rs 4.65 crore in pension so far. With about 750 pensioners per ward, the corporation runs a total pension bill, which includes old-age and other pensions, of Rs 112 crore annually.
Singh said linking pension disbursal to Aadhaar, as per the Government rules for transfer of benefits and the Delhi High Court direction, will significantly reduce the number of pensioners.
Until now, pension was given out by cheque by local councillors. With pensioners under civic bodies being transferred to the Delhi government in January, 2016 because of cash crunch, Aadhaar verification has become essential to avoid duplicity.
But the BJP, which heads the North DMC, has argued that since the pension was being given even before beneficiaries were transferred to the state government, Aadhaar should not be made mandatory. “The HC order states that before handing over records of pensioners to the state, the MCD should verify those records and collect relevant documentation. This order is for pension being given out by the state but for our pensions, our House decides the norms and we do not mandate any documentation,” Leader of the House V P Pandey said. The Congress has also supported the move.
The executive, on the other hand, said that the legal position on the matter is that any central government subsidy is necessarily linked to Aadhaar. “It is not binding on the corporations but given that old-age pensions are prone to fraudulent data, linking it to Aadhaar is a way to check that,” a senior official said.