CIC comes to widow's rescue over pension
As reported in Yahoo! News on Mar 6, 2008
For over 20 years, Parvati Bai Yadav of Kumharkala village in Chhattisgarh has been in the dark over her widow pension and allowances promised for her two children's education. Few years after her husband Rangnath, an employee in Madhya Pradesh State Mining Corporation Ltd, died on February 23, 1986, her children had to pull out of school and the family's income went below the poverty line.
The last straw for Parvati came on April 4, 2007, when the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Raipur, disposed of her appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, "correcting" Rangnath's date of death to
January 24, 1987. Worse still, as per the records cited by the Commissioner, her husband's claims were "settled" in 1988, post his "retirement", almost two years after his death.
Interestingly, Rangnath's date of death was cited as his date of retirement in the Commissioner's order. "Rangnath's claim was settled on November 16, 1988, at the Regional Office, Indore, and the date of leaving service was February 23, 1986. His date of death was given as January 24, 1987. Thus the case was not that of death while in service as per our records," observed the Commissioner.
Taking up the case, the Chief Information Commission (CIC), apex body under the RTI Act, noted that promoting "accountability" in the working of public authorities was still a "major concern".
"The fact that a widow and her children have been denied of their entitlements for decades demonstrates the lackadaisical attitude of the officials concerned who have failed in their duties," Information Commissioner M M Ansari observed in a recent decision.
Noting that a "large number of retired employees" were resorting to RTI to redress grievances on payment of employees' provident fund (EPF), the CIC quoted its February 15 order to the Central EPF Commissioner to file an action-taken report on the setting up of an "efficient system to meet the expectations of the retired employees within a reasonable timeframe".
Seeking particulars of the officials "responsible for non-payment of the widow pension" to Parvati, the RTI body directed the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Randra Samal, to show cause why a compensation of Rs 1 lakh ought not to be paid in favour of Parvati.
For "furnishing misleading and incorrect information about the date of Rangnath's death", the Commission gave the official 15-day time to explain why a penalty of Rs 25,000 not be imposed on him. The CPIO has been directed to be personally present before the RTI body on March 24.
"It is indeed difficult to believe that a woman pensioner in India of the 21st century has to wait for so long to get her entitlement," rued the CIC.
Copy of the Decision is available for download here.