Give my pension, I’m not 18, says old woman

By Imran Khan, IANS

Patna : Menka Devi, who is in her early 70s, has been running from pillar to post to convince officials that she is not aged 18 years – as mentioned in the village records – but old enough to get old age pension.

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The Dalit woman, a resident of Bagha village in West Champaran district of Bihar, says she is being passed off as a teenager in the official list so as to deprive her of the pension.

“I am not less than 70 years old but my age is shown as 18 in the official records of the village so as to deprive me of old age pension,” said the emaciated Menka Devi, her wrinkled face giving away her years.

She has accused the head of her village panchayat of manipulating her age in the official list to teach her a lesson for not voting in his favour.

“I was made 18 years old in the official list to deprive me of an old age pension for my refusal to cast a vote in his favour,” Menka Devi told IANS. She along with scores of other men and women were here to attend the two-day People’s Summit for Hunger Free Bihar that ended Wednesday.

Menka Devi demanded that the state government send an official team to her village to verify her actual age to expose manipulation by the village body head.

“Instead of an old woman, I was shown as a young girl to punish me for exercising my democratic right,” she said.

Many such stories abound. They talk of the powerful nexus between local officials and elected members of village bodies that deprives hundreds of poor people of the benefits of government welfare schemes.

“From the block development officer to the village headman, they all openly demand bribes in order to sanction old age pension and free foodgrains for people below the poverty line,” said Geeta Devi, another old woman.

Janaki Devi, who is in her 60s, said 50 percent of her old age pension of Rs.200 gets taken away by the village headman. “The government gives me Rs.200 but I gets only Rs.100 because the village head takes Rs.100,” she said.

Manohar Paswan, 50, a landless labourer, said the chief of his village body demands Rs.1,000 for entering a name in the below poverty line list. “Corruption is rampant in the local administration,” Paswan said.