443 freedom fighters in dist struggle for equalityhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/443-freedom-fighters-in-dist-struggle-for-equality/

443 freedom fighters in dist struggle for equality

express rti Want pension on par with what central beneficiaries get; 1,095 freedom fighters in district,fifth highest in the state

express rti Want pension on par with what central beneficiaries get; 1,095 freedom fighters in district,fifth highest in the state

Of the 1,095 freedom fighters drawing pension in Pune district,443 get it from the state government and the remaining 652 get a higher pension from the central government,the eligibility being the months they spent in jail during the freedom struggle.

According to data received after an RTI query was filed with the district collectorate by The Indian Express,the central government pays Rs 15,352 a month to those who spent six or more months in jail and the state provides Rs 8,000 a month to those incarcerated for fewer than six months. Those eligible for the central pension also get an additional Rs 500 from the state government,taking their total to 15,852.

The state has been increasing allocation for welfare of freedom fighters and last fiscal,the amount for Pune district was Rs 4.62 crore. The state government beneficiaries have been demanding that their pension be brought on a par with the central government pension,arguing what they get was much less compared to what many other states pay their freedom fighters.

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However,the large number of freedom fighters in Maharashtra seems to be coming in the way of increasing pension.

Maharashtra is among states with a large number of freedom fighters,15,876,of whom 9,201 draw state government pension and 6,675 are central beneficiaries. As per the RTI data,there were 1,296 freedom fighters in Pune district,which,came down to 1,095 this year,though it is still the fifth highest in the state. Statistics available shows that Jalna leads the list with 1,490,followed by Nanded with 1,326,Beed with 1,274,Osmanabad with 1,008 and Pune with 1,095. Figures available with the state government show Gadchiroli has only six beneficiaries,Nandurbar 17,Amravati 41 and Buldhana 64,among the lowest in the state.

Pension for state government beneficiaries was increased from Rs 4,000 in 2009 to Rs 6,000 in 2010 and to Rs 8,000 last year. According to the RTI reply,the allocation for 2010-11 for Pune district was Rs 3.64 crore and Rs 3.27 crore in 2009-10.

“With pension allocation increasing,all beneficiaries are paid on time,” said a district official.

“However,pension needs to be on par with other states,” said PV Mahajan (74),a freedom fighter of the Akhil Bharatiya Goa Swantantrya Sangh. He said the president of his sangh Rambhau Tupe has placed a proposal to make the state pension equal to the central dole. “We have been trying to meet the CM over the issue. However,we have been denied an appointment,’’ he added.

Another freedom fighter,JY Jedhe said the state government needs to pay heed to health concerns of freedom fighters. They were allocated Rs 10,000 once a year for health expenses and Rs 5,000 for marriage expenses of children. On the death of a freedom fighter,the family gets Rs 5,000 and if the spouse of a pensioner dies,Rs 1000 is paid for the last rites.

“With growing medical expenses and rising prices,the package is too small. Most of us are above 70 years. The government needs to take a relook at the pension,’’ says YVR Deshmukh,another freedom fighter.

According to available statistics,in 2011-12,Rs 5,000 was paid in 20 cases and only one demanded Rs 10,000 as medical expenses. In 2010-11,Rs 5,000 was given in 18 cases and three got medical expenses of Rs 10,000. In 2008-09,Rs 5,000 was given in 11 cases. The same year,the government declared that Rs 10,000 medical expenses will be paid once in a lifetime.

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Officials of the freedom fighters cell at the Mantralaya,the state administrative headquarters in Mumbai,said hiking pension to the central pension level seemed unlikely. “The demand has been placed. The state government is yet to take a decision,’’ said a senior official of the Mantralaya.