One woman’s insistence for justice has brought change for almost 3,000 people in Bihar. One year ago Community Correspondent, Tanju Devi, had made a video on year-long pension arrears under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) of citizens in Gaunaha, West Champaran district of the state. Even after repeated pleas with the authorities, the citizens of Gaunaha saw no way out to receive their rightful pension under the NSAP, that provides financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions. This is when Bhuri Devi, Tanju’s neighbour and a physically challenged person, approached Tanju with the problem and urged her to take action for the issue. “When
When all other ways were shut, Bhuri Devi, Tanju’s neighbour and a physically challenged person, approached Tanju with the problem and urged her to take action for the issue. “When Bhuri approached me with this problem, I could relate to her. I have a physically challenged husband and an ageing mother-in-law. I know how important are a few hundred rupees in an impoverished person’s life. It means food, medicine and security,” Tanju says.
With a resolve to bring justice to all, Tanju set forth to show her community how persistence and harmony can bring accountability and change to the authorities. She recorded video testimonies of several affected residents and met with the Gaunaha Block Development Officer (BDO), along with her video and a requisition letter for the pensions. “Initially, the BDO gave assurances but there was no action from the department. But I was resolved to get the pensioner’s arrears cleared. I kept increasing the pressure on the BDO – sometimes with a women’s group, sometimes alone and sometimes by showing her pictures of the village meeting I had organised,” Tanju tells us. Finally, after five months of relentless trying and community pressure, the BDO was forced into action, assigning officers to conduct an investigation into the panchayat’s actions and clearing the arrears.
On 14th May’16, as many as 3,000 beneficiaries were called in a community gathering in Gaunaha and were given their due arrears.”I shall buy ration and medicines with this money,” says Bhuri.
While Bhuri feels relieved that her pension has started once again, one needs to ask how Rs. 300 disability pension per month (Rs. 13.33 per day), covers the cost of the most basic needs such as health, shelter, electricity, clothing and so on. The question remains the same for the widow and elderly pension of Rs. 400. For example, the failure of these social pension schemes to support the survival of the needy is demonstrated by the ‘revised’ old-age pension scheme. In 2008, the Government of India raised the old-age pension from Rs. 300 to Rs. 400. However, its’ inability to cover the most basic needs is evident by the data of Census 2011. According to the data, more than 1.17 crore people over the age of 70 are still working in India, with a majority of them being full-time employees. Of these, 25 lakh are over the age of 80, the report adds.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Tanju Devi.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.