IU Impact: Video Helps Elderly get Pensions. No Tensions.

34 senior citizens in a village in the state of Jharkhand were approved for senior citizen pension of Rs. 400/- a month in the year 2008. But the money never seemed to arrive. They made numerous trips to the Block Development office and the bank where they had opened their accounts. Each time, they returned home tired and dejected. It was a matter of pure chance that a member of the community met with IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Kamal Kishor Purthy. When they told their woes, Kamal askd if they could say the same on camera. He produced a video on the people’s issues and took the video to the concerned authorities. It wasn’t easy but Kamal stuck to his purpose. He flattened his souls walimg up and down the government welfare office. But within a month, 27 senior citizens received not just their monthly pensions but arrears for the months they had lost out. Of the remaining seven, a few have unfortunately passed on and a few are having their bank details straightened out and are soon expecting to receive their money. 

This is Kamal’s second impact and he wears the honor with pride and satisfaction. Read below for his account of how it unfolded…

“It was a matter of chance. I was taking a friend to the hospital and I don’t remember it too well but we were talking about government health and sanitation schemes… I don’t know why we were talking about it but we were. We must have been talking aloud because a woman sitting next to me turned to me and taped me on my shoulder.”

“She asked me – How do you know about such things?”

“I told her – It’s my job to know.”

“What do you mean it’s your job to know? – she asked.”

“I told her about IndiaUnheard and how our videos helped connect the people’s voices to the ears of the decision makers and the world at large. I spoke about how our videos were getting the systems moving, having impacts on the ground. I told her about my own impact. How when I made a video on the people who had not received their housing welfare money the authorities got so scared that they immediately released the funds.”

“It sounded like boasting when I was trying to say it. It seemed unreal. I was afraid the woman would thinking I’m lying but instead she spoke to me about a problem in her village. She told me about the 34 senior citizens who had not received their pensions. She asked me if there was something I could do about it.”

“Of course,  it’s my job – I told her.”

“A few days later she called a meeting where all the senior citizens had assembled in the village square. They told me about how they had registered for the government pension scheme but had no idea how to get about it. Each one of them started telling me their tale of woe. About how they couldn’t earn on their own anymore because of bad health. Most were manual and farm laborers and they couldn’t carry on because their bodies were weakening of sge. The Rs. 400/- pension was not a big amount but it would support them in a big way.”

“I told them – Can you tell all the things you have just told me into my camera?”

“What are you going to do with it – they asked me.”

“You must have seen the news? I’m the reporter and you and your issues are the news. I will record your news and will put it out into the world for all the people to see. I will put in the video the phone number of the Block Development Officer and concerned individuals from across the world who see you on their computers will call him and ask him why hasn’t given you your pensions.”

“The people were convinced. I made the video and as soon as I was done with it, I visited the Block Development Office. I showed the video to the officer and asked him for an explanation. I asked him if I could see the applications and the list of senior citizens of the village. The BDO told me that the papers had not arrived from the ward.”

“But it’s been 4 years – I told him.”

“I’m new here and I am still finding my way around – he told me.”

“He was lying. He had been in office for 6 months. But then I decided to go to the ward offices and check the BDO’s claims for myself. By the time I reached the ward office, they had already heard the news that I had made a video and gone over to the BDOs office. The ward office promised me that the money will soon be released into the bank accounts.”

“I believed them and left for the day but I kept following up on them at least twice a week. I knew that if I showed signs of slowing down they would just give up and go slack. But I kept at it. In a little over a month, after more than a few trips to the ward office and the welfare office, the formalities were completed by the authorities. The money was deposited into the people’s accounts. I immediately called up the villagers and told them the good news.”

“We won! Go over to the bank, fill out your slips and withdraw the money. It’s waiting for you – I told them. They were overjoyed but somehow they managed to contain themselves.”

“They said – We are not withdrawing your money until you come with us. This is the moment we have all been waiting for for the last few years. It is a moment we had given up on. You have made it come true. Tell us when you will be passing by our village. We want to meet you and have you with us when the money is given to us. It will be an honor.”

“I tried to tell them that it is only my job and I was only doing what was required of me but they refused to listen. I didn’t want to keep them away from the money anymore. And especially on my account. So I went to see them the very next day.”

“There they were – bright and shining on a beautiful day. It was a great feeling to be among them. Suddenly, I was happy that I had made the decision to come. I stood among them and watched each one walk into the bank and come out with their money. It was a great feeling. It was happiness and I felt this confidence surge inside. It was almost overwhelming. I kept thinking – don’t get too many airs. It’s just your job.”

“The people kept insisting I take some money for the work I had done. I told them I was already getting paid for what I did and I wouldn’t take any money from them. They started by offering me Rs. 500/- and we bargained down to a token twenty rupees and I still didn’t accept it. It would be wrong of me.They gave up and finally they gave me the biggest gift of all.”

“The doors of our houses will always be open for you – they said.”

“I graciously accepted their offer. As I was journeying back home my mind kept going back to the moment the people came out of their bank with the money. Some laughing. some smiling, some almost with tears in their eyes. I don’t think I will ever forget that momenta and the wonderful feeling that came over me.”

“I realized the purpose of my videos so clearly that day. To take an unheard issue and make a video on it. To struggle and lead the community till they get change and justice. To persevere until the moment of victory.”

“That is my job.”