A week after Scroll.in published a report on the five-month delay in disbursement of social security pensions in Jharkhand, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the government of Jharkhand and the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment giving them six weeks to submit a detailed report on the delays.
On March 2, Scroll.in’s report titled “No pensions for five months: How Jharkhand’s poor were left poorer during the pandemic” highlighted how the state government failed to provide monthly pensions of Rs 1,000 per person to 10 lakh impoverished senior citizens, widows and persons with disabilities for at least five months since July 2020.
In Jharkhand’s Latehar district, an official claimed this delay occurred because the central government’s share of the pension fund was used for making Covid-relief payments of Rs 1,000 in two instalments from April to June 2020, after the Centre allegedly delayed sending Covid-relief funds to the state government on time.
In West Singhbhum district, however, an official claimed that Covid-relief payments were made from funds meant for disaster management, and pensions were “probably” delayed because of delays in receiving the Centre’s pension fund share.
In its notice to the state and central governments, the NHRC has taken suo moto cognizance of this report and observed that if true, the contents of the report “raise a serious issue of human rights violation”.
The NHRC statement on Monday stated that “the commission has expressed concern how the money received from the Centre under one head was reportedly utilized for another head, resulting thereby in denial of basic need for survival of the poor people”.
It also pointed out the NHRC’s concern about “a reported huge gap between the beneficiaries on the roll and those actually getting the pension under various categories”. Scroll.in’s March 2 report highlighted this gap by quoting an activist from Jharkhand’s Right to Food Campaign, which studied census data and government records to find that only 36% of elderly, widows and disabled persons actually get pensions in West Singhbhum district.