Shivkumar Ahirwar has been running around various government offices for the past two months, trying to convince the authorities that he is still alive. Armed with an application approved by his village sarpanch, the 24-year-old, a resident of Chanderi tehsil in Madhya Pradesh’s Ashok Nagar district, is often heard telling officials who give him an audience, “Main zinda hu (I’m alive)”.
Shivkumar, a labourer who often picked up odd-jobs, in 2018 decided to enrol in the state government’s flagship Mukhyamantri Jan Kalyan Sambal Yojna, which aims to uplift the unorganised sector in the state by providing monetary assistance for post-natal care, deaths, PDS distribution, healthcare benefits and others.
At first, he faced no hiccups – soon after enrolling himself in the scheme, his son was born and he received Rs 18,000 from the government. However, when he visited the block office in March this year after the birth of his daughter, he learnt that he has officially been declared dead.
“The officer told me that as per government records, I was declared dead in 2019. I was shocked. I tried to tell the m that I was Shivkumar and I was alive but no one would listen. They asked me to get it rectified from higher authorities and only then can any benefits be transferred to me,” Shivkumar said.
At that point, Shivkumar said he got a letter issued by his village sarpanch stating that he is alive and since then, he has been doing the rounds of the collector’s office.
A letter that showed Shivkumar’s registration to the scheme being cancelled states that an application of his death was received by the panchayat secretary in March 2018, which was approved by Gram Yojna Sahayak Santosh Rao in May 2018. It was updated by data entry clerk Gourav Lodhi in October 2019.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Shivkumar claimed last year, he had been approached by Rao, who asked him if he would be interested in some monetary benefit if he was declared dead. “He told me that I will get Rs 2 lakh from the government as benefits and I could keep half of the money. But I did not agree,” he said.
When contacted, Chanderi tehsil SDM Devendra Singh explained that in October 2019, when a physical verification of all beneficiaries was being carried out, an error by a clerk led to Shivkumar being declared dead.
When asked about the offer that Shivkumar claims Rao made, Singh said, “Prima facie, it does not appear that the clerk and the gram yojna sahayak were involved… However, we will initiate an inquiry into the allegation.”
On Saturday, an inquiry by Janpad officer for Chanderi stated that the error was made by data entry clerk Gourav Lodhi, who has been issued a showcause notice. Ashok Nagar Collector Abhay Verma told The Indian Express, “The error is being rectified and it will be fixed in the next one week. All benefits that Shivkumar is entitled to will be duly transferred.”