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What is Madhya Pradesh’s Emergency pension scheme, why the new govt has put it ‘on hold’

The Congress accuses the BJP of equating MISA and DIR detainees with freedom fighters, and that the scheme was a tool for the BJP to dole out largesse.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal |
Updated: January 7, 2019 7:54:41 am
What is Madhya Pradesh’s Emergency pension scheme, why the new govt has put it ‘on hold’ Then CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan honours former MISA detainees on the 33rd anniversary of the Emergency in 2008. (Source: PTI file photo)

Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh has put on hold the pensions of those who had been detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR) during the Emergency. The BJP has criticised the move as being “anti-democratic” and an “act of political vindictiveness”.

The pension scheme

Rules for the Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan (MISA or DIR, Persons Detained for Political or Social Reasons) Samman Nidhi were framed in 2008. Individuals who had been detained in jail or police stations between June 25, 1975, and March 21, 1977, for political and social reasons in Madhya Pradesh were eligible.

Applicants were required to be domiciled in the state, and to submit proof of having spent time in jail under MISA or DIR. Initially, the government verified jail and police records to crosscheck claims when applicants were unable to produce proof of detention; subsequently, applicants only had to get two beneficiaries of the scheme to attest that s/he was in jail or in police custody at the time.

The benefits, burden

The rules were amended from time to time to increase the pension amount and reduce the qualifying period of incarceration — ultimately, anyone who was able to provide reasonable evidence of having spent even a day in jail during the relevant period qualified for the pension.

In 2008, those who spent six months or more in jail got Rs 6,000; those who had spent lesser time got half that amount. In 2018, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government passed The Madhya Pradesh Loktantra Senani Samman Adhiniyam to replace the decade-old Rules — currently, anyone who spent a month or more in jail during the Emergency is entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 25,000, and those who spent less than a month, Rs 15,000. Widows of men detained during this period get half this amount. While moving the legislation, the government put the outgo of the scheme, which has 2,000 beneficiaries, at Rs 40 crore.

The Congress’s stand

The Congress government hasn’t stopped the pensions; only put them on hold. In fact, the January pension has been distributed, but there is a question mark on the February pension because the government wants to “redesign” the scheme and carry out a physical verification of beneficiaries. The government has argued that there were audit objections because money in excess of budgetary allocation was being paid every year. Since the scheme is governed by law, the government can’t scrap it without going through a legal process.

The Congress accuses the BJP of equating MISA and DIR detainees with freedom fighters, and alleges that most beneficiaries have BJP/RSS loyalties and that the scheme was a tool for the BJP to dole out largesse. It also says that not every beneficiary is genuine, and even those detained for other crimes during the Emergency are benefiting at the cost of taxpayers.

The CPM and other Left parties allege that very few beneficiaries were detained for the entire period of the Emergency, and that many sought leniency from the then Congress government after a few months or days. These parties claim that around 150 of their cadres qualified for the scheme, but were denied pensions.

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