Sometimes there is nothing you can do, sometimes they don’t have enough to fight with. ~Tamora pierce
“Will you help me?” escaped from her lips, a 85 year old childless widow, looking grim stood before a group of aspiring journalists. Beaming with hope of help so much so that she put the sun that shone so bright that day to shame.
Seetalaksmi a resident of Pavaikullam village, is a cashew nut breaker who works thrice a week to earn a meagre Rs.150. Her old age makes her a pawn in the hands of her employers who pay her half the daily wage.
An unaware Seetalakshmi, is bereft not only of help but also a line of government schemes that have been designed for people like her.
Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension (IGNOAP) ,Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension (IGNWP) provide Rs.500 each for Below Poverty Line (BPL) persons who are above 80 years and widows above 40 years respectively, whereas Annapurna scheme gives free 10 kg rice to those who remain uncovered under IGNOAP.
The lack of awareness is not the only culprit here, this also sheds light at the level of incompetence of the Village Administration.
Explaining how one gets registered under the scheme, a The Hindu reporter said, ” Each village has a Village Administration Officer (VAO) who collects data and reports to the union office with the list of people falling under different categories of schemes.” Reassuringly he added that all villages in the Cuddalore district have a list of the same.
Earning approx Rs.600 a month, she is BPL but devoid of the much needed and desired help. Surprisingly she got the compensation for her flood-damaged house but still languishes at the mercy of others.
The IGNOAP and Annapurna scheme though aims to help the elderly, it has a few loopholes that need to be tended. Only those who do not have children are entitled under the scheme as the children are deemed as bread winners.
K.Govindrajan and Kamisha residents of Onankuppam village are both nearing 70, the wife is partially blind and therefore out of work whereas the husband is unemployed due to his age. The village administration denies them any help as they have a son. But what they fail to take in notice is that they also have a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
” After the floods, a lot of tress fell, we collected wood and made broomsticks, selling them will fetch some money at least “said a seemingly tired Govindrajan(68).
The floods caused further damage, as many lost their ration card and other IDs. To avail government schemes or any relief material, identity proofs are necessary. Although camps were organised for the same , several villages alleged that they were not made aware of any such camps.
Arvazhagan (62) in Keeliruppu was getting benefits through IGNOAP but lost his ration card during the floods and even after six visits to the office, has not been issued a new one. His concern revolves around the Rs.200 he would get under the scheme as he has been out of work for over five months now and mostly either begs or does odd jobs to make ends meet.
On the other hand, Savunthara (78) from Kachirayantham village lost her husband 20 years ago and since has been living with her alcoholic son who spends most of his earnings on alcohol and tobacco, pushing the family into penury. On being asked, she was not aware of any widow pension and neither was her educated daughter-in-law.
Villagers in Kachirayantham village added, ” Many a times, the village in charge asks for money or other favours in return of adding names in the list, if they’re not met, the names are either not entered or the list goes missing. ”
The Village Administration Officer of Onankuppam and Kachirayantham remained unavailable for comments on the same.