Pensions: Tales from the precipice

One fine morning four and a half years ago, hope returned to 75-year-old Rangaraveni Sayavva, door-delivered in the form of an old-age pension. For the frail widow weighed down by ill health, it didn’t take long to realise that this unexpected aid, though not a bounty, was the much-needed lifeline that would help her pass the rest of her life with less worry. With other schemes like rice scheme and Aarogyasri bringing in more benefits over the years, today she is fully confident that life will no longer be a daily struggle for her. Sayavva’s is a case of help reaching the needy without they asking for it. In fact, being an uneducated and uncared-for old woman,

Sayavva would not have known how to ask for help. Thanks to the initiative of officials, she is on her own now.

Sayavva’s is a typical case of a lonely, aged parent. Her husband died 40 years ago and she lost four of her five sons. The surviving son, Narsaiah (45), is a daily labourer struggling to run the family consisting of a wife and daughter besides the mother. As long as her body permitted, Sayavva contributed to the family’s income by doing stray jobs.

When she couldn’t work any more and realised she was becoming a burden on her son, she moved to her brother’s at Katta Rampur in Karimnagar. She struggled there to make her ends meet by selling vegetables.

That’s when the municipal officials noticed her plight. They included her name in the list of beneficiaries under the Regular Pension Scheme (Old Age Pension). Though she responded to all the questions posed by the officials at the time of enrolment in the scheme, she didn’t quite understand what it was all about and did not expect any real benefit to accrue.

When the pension reached her, she was overwhelmed. “I am very thankful to the government. I have no worry about my future now,’’ she says.

It’s not much. Asked how she manages with her pension of Rs 200, she says, “I spend Rs 150 on the medicines that I need to take daily. I buy kerosene with the remaining money. With the 10 kg rice I get under the Annapurna scheme and the little money I make from selling vegetabless life goes on smoothly,’’ Sayavva’s explains.

Pittala Yellavva (68), a pensioner from Mankondur in Karimnagar district, has a similar tale. Having lost her husband 20 years ago and her son, a farm hand, not in a position to support her, she has been living alone in a rented room surviving on the little money she makes from her odd jobs.

However, after the gram panchayat officials selected her under Indiramma Phase III old-age pension scheme, her life has become easier. Whether she goes to work or not her daily bread is ensured. “I buy rice and provisions with the pension. Once in a while I go to work and spend that money on other things,’’ Yellavva says.

In the case of Anthadupula Venkati (70), the old age pension has helped him regain his self-respect. With none to look after him and unable to take up any work, Venkati used to beg on the streets of Sthambhampally in Dharmapuri mandal. However, once he started getting the pension, he has stopped begging. He uses the money to buy rice and essentials. He doesn’t hold his hand out to anybody now but accepts any voluntary contribution from people. The pension becoming his main source of livelihood, he goes to the Gram Panchayat office promptly on the first of every month and collects his money with dignity.

While these are just a sample of the success stories of the revamped old-age pension scheme introduced by the Rajasekhara Reddy government, the programme though apparently dished out only a small amount of help has brought about a drastic improvement in the lives of many an old and infirm person.

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