The newly-elected Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has suspended the payments of pension to those who were detained during the Emergency under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act and Defence of India Rules, reported The Indian Express on Thursday.
The controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act, which allowed for indefinite preventive detention, was repealed when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi lost power after the Emergency was lifted in 1977. Nearly 2,000 people in the state who were in jail during the period get a monthly pension of Rs 25,000 under the Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan Samman Nidhi Niyam, which was launched by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2008.
In a circular on December 29, the state government said the process to distribute the pension needs to be made “accurate and transparent”. The circular cited reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General that reportedly showed that amounts more than what was allocated were spent under the scheme. The circular was issued by the General Administration Department, which is led by Chief Minister Kamal Nath, to all district collectors and divisional commissioners.
“There were reports of overspending of Loktantra Senani Samman Nidhi than the budget provisions during audits,” the circular said, according to The Times of India. “To regularise the funds, it is now mandatory to table a new bill in the Assembly and seek excess funds. This calls for a new proper, transparent process and scrutiny of MISA detainees. For this, separate instructions will be released. Till then, it has been decided to suspend disbursement of pension of MISA detainees.”
The circular does not provide a time-frame for verifying the beneficiaries. The honorarium for January has been disbursed to most beneficiaries.
Rajya Sabha MP Kailash Soni, who is national head of the Loktantra Senani Sangh, said a CAG report on irregularities in the scheme had never been submitted on the floor of the Assembly. Soni said the scheme cannot be scrapped by an administrative order.
Soni said the scheme cannot be scrapped or tinkered with by an administrative order. “If any such illegality is committed we will challenge it in court,’’ he told The Indian Express. He said banks that disburse the honorarium verify beneficiaries every month.
BJP leader Tapan Bhaumik, who was detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, said the government circular was not clear and that the party will move court. “The government has not mentioned date or a time limit to restart the process,” Bhaumik said. “This is meant to confuse the beneficiaries.”