The railways has referred to the central government a letter from a 32-year-old, who underwent a sex-change operation years ago to become a woman, demanding the family pension of her father, a retired employee who died in 2017.
Officials told The Indian Express that the letter was received by a division under the Chennai-based Southern Railway in the middle of 2018. But with its rules providing no clarity on the “unprecedented” request, the Railways sent the letter last week to the Ministry of Personnel, Pensions and Public Grievances, and the Department of Personnel and Training, for “wider consultations”.
Officials said that according to pension laws, sons over 25 years of age are not eligible for family pension in these cases. But there is no such bar on an unmarried or divorced dependent daughter, who is eligible for the pension after the death of her mother, the government employee’s wife.
The 32-year-old’s plea is that since she was already “living the life” of a woman before her father passed away, she is eligible for the pension as an unmarried dependent daughter.
“There is no precedence of a case like this in the 160-year history of Indian Railways. And since government policy on this is not quite clear, we could not address the matter at our levels,” said the Senior Divisional Personnel Officer of the division that first received the letter.
“She furnished an identity card issued by the Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Association issued in 2009 so we treated the matter as a transgender case. But even then, the law is either silent or at best unclear,” said a senior central government official.
When contacted by The Indian Express, the 32-year-old declined comment.
Officials said the woman lives with her partner, who is a transgender, and has been pursuing the case for a year, during which the letter was discussed at the divisional and zonal levels and the headquarters in Delhi. “The DoPT will take a decision because it is the nodal office in matters of family pensions in the central government,” said the official.
India’s family pension policy is governed by a number of laws, including The Pensions Act, 1871, the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, and Central Civil Services (Commutation of Pension) Rules, 1981, among others, all of which have been amended a number of times.