Lethargy and Aadhaar should not stop pension
It was an interesting experience. An artiste performed his theatre skills before the Information Commission while hearing the second appeal through video conferencing between Guntur and New Delhi. The issue was that the artist pension has got stuck due to lethargy and inaction. When the octogenarian artiste used the RTI, his pension was sanctioned. It is a success story of the RTI. But payment of pension is linked to ‘Aadhaar’ and digital life certificate.
Guntupalli Anjaneyulu is a senior citizen and an artiste who applied for artiste’s pension and till recently neither there was any response nor information on the status of his application. He has an excellent track record as a theatre artiste, a celebrated singer and has portrayed several characters of Indian mythology in Telugu dramas.
He started his career in the year 1962 and has been incessantly performing various stage plays across the border of Andhra Pradesh. His representative requested the commission to hear him singing a poem from the role of Karna of Mahabharat as part of “Eka Patra Abhinaya”. He effortlessly rendered a long monologue and sang a padyam (poem) in traditional style of a yesteryears’ drama artiste.
As there is no encouragement to the theatre artistes of this traditional style, he is finding it difficult to make his both the ends meet. It is the duty of the public authority to inform him whether his application is rejected or under consideration and how long they sit over the application.
The commission directed the authorities to provide point-wise information within 30 days and also directed the CPIO to show-cause why penalty should not be imposed for not responding within the time stipulated and recommended to consider his application for pension and enquire into the lethargy of the people in dealing with such applications for pension from economically poor but culturally rich artistes like the applicant.
The response from the authority was: The information was provided to the applicant that his pension will be released. He was also informed and requested that every year he should submit life certificate in respective bank branch so that pension is credited continuously without any break.
However, the delay happened on part of EPFO, Regional Office, Kanpur, is regretted and same shall not be repeated. However, directions have been issued to fix the responsibility for the delay. (c) It is also submitted that he has submitted his life certificate in May 2016 and accordingly, his pension was released in June 2016.
He has been informed several times that every year pensioner needs to submit life certificate in respective bank branch for continuance of his pension. The pensioner is well aware and informed about the rules/condition as is evident from the correspondences with pensioner. It is his duty and responsibility to submit life certificate in respective bank branch in time.
(ii) Time and again, the matter has been taken up with bank branches to ensure submission of life certificates and send life certificate available with banks for continuance of pensions.
(iii) From time to time, press release regarding appeal to pensioners for submission of life certificates has been issued for publication in news papers.
The Pensioner is well aware of the rules and there was no delay in release of his pension (after submission of life certificate). It is humbly prayed and submitted that no compensation should be allowed to the appellant. Now Aadhaar linking (with PPO) is being done and only after that, the pension is being released. This facility of Aadhaar linking is available in this office and also with CSC centres.
On June 8 this year, I A Kamal, Under Secretary to the Government of India wrote to the appellant: “With reference to the Central Information Commissioner’s video conference held on 10/05/2018 in the appeal made by you for release of artistes pension, I would like to inform that on scrutinising the application/documents furnished by you, it has been observed that you have not furnished Digital Life Certificate (DLC) which is essential requirement as per norms/guidelines of the scheme.
Accordingly, you are requested to furnish your DLC processed through Jeevan Pramaan Portal (LINK “https://jeevanpramaan.gov.in https://jeevanpramaan.gov.in) by using necessary information like Aadhaar number, mobile number, bank account number and Pension Payment Order (PPO) to enable this Ministry to process your case for disbursement of monthly pension. Your PPO for generation of DLC is 4079AP2017.
The appellant wrote to CIC: “I am very happy to inform you that I have received a letter from the Ministry of Culture requesting me to furnish Digital Life Certificate (DLC) so as to enable the Ministry to process my case for disbursement of monthly pension as cited in the first reference, as per your orders. In obedience to the above direction, I have submitted my Digital Life Certificate (DLC) on 16.06.2018 and also sent by post on 18.06.2018 but I have not received the pension so far.”
The commission noted that there are two information related issues involved in this case. One: The pensioner should be intimated sufficiently before stopping the pension that he/she has to submit the DLC online.
Two: The pension payment is being linked to Aadhaar. The Commission, while appreciating the efforts of the public authorities in facilitating filing of digital life certificate, would like to direct the public authority to put in a place a mechanism to compulsorily intimate the pensioner about the last date for filing DLC before stopping the pension.
Keeping in view of the advance age of the pensioner and possible issues in access to digital mechanism, pensioners shall be reminded of the requirement before stopping the pension. As the artistes are getting old age pensions which helps them to survive with dignity, without depending upon others including their sons or sons-in-law, it is even desirable to make telephone call and take all measures to inform the pensioner or his family members instead of resorting harsh step of not paying the pension.
The commission took a serious note of attempting to link the pension payment with Aadhaar. The public authority shall not use Aadhaar as a ground or non-submission of online DLC to suspend the payment of pension without due information and opportunity to pensioner. (Based on the order in CIC/MCULT/A/2017/134438 Guntupalli Anjaneyuluv. PIO, M/o Culture, Nagpur on 28.8.2018)