For over a year, Dhir Singh (75) — a resident of Jhanjjian Khurd village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district — made several rounds of the corridors of power, from his village sarpanch to the district social security officer, (DSSO), to determine why his pension had been stopped. The daily wager had last received his pension in February 2014.
It was only after Fatehgarh Churian-based RTI activist Sukhchain Singh came to his aid that Dhir discovered the reason why he had not received the meagre Rs 250 a month for a year. As far as the Punjab government was concerned, the daily wager was dead.
As per an RTI reply, signed by DSSO, Gurdaspur, Amarjit Kaur, Dhir Singh’s pension had been discontinued “due to his death on February 11, 2014”. This, after allegedly denying him the information for six months.
Singh said he had to write to the director, social security, in Chandigarh, who finally directed the DSSO Gurdaspur to provide him the information.
Embarrassed, the department has also said in the same reply that his pension would be resumed soon.
Dhir Singh, whose right eye is damaged since birth, now alleges that he was declared dead on paper at the behest of certain political leaders from his area who were upset with him for not voting for them.
“I met the village sarpanch, made countless rounds of other offices. But nobody listened to me,” Dhir Singh said.
Gurdaspur DSSO Amarjit Kaur, however, said that Singh’s case appeared to be a clerical error as they were asked to verify the list of pensioners recently. “I was posted here only two months ago. I am not aware of the case. I will study it on Tuesday and will be able to give information only a day after that. I can only say that I will personally ensure his name is included in the list. We have asked him for the copy of his Aadhar card. The pension will be restarted,” he said.