The Man from Madras Musings has often heard those employed in the private sector lamenting about the index-linked pensions that their counterparts in Government service get. The money they say keeps increasing with time, though here MMM does have a counter – it keeps dropping in value anyway. But that cuts no ice with the private sector people, once referred to as boxwallahs.
But MMM does look at both sides and he feels that it is no easy task being a retired Government servant. One of the key objections is the way you have to keep proving to the authorities that you are alive and therefore entitled to your pension. In the early days, this was a simple matter – you sent them a signed declaration by post and they transferred your money. In case you could not sign you affixed your thumb impression. But that latter alternative was misused and so the entire process of self-attestation was rendered null and void.
The story is actually quite macabre and at the same time funny. Apparently some retired Government servant claimed his pension for years by sending a letter that bore his thumb impression and the Government duly paid up. It was only when someone in the department did some calculation and came up with the finding that the pensioner ought to be around 135 years old that they did some investigating. They called at the old man’s home to learn that he had long gone but his relatives had had the foresight to cut off his thumb before they cremated/buried him and preserved the said digit in alcohol. On the day of claiming pension they took it out, dried it, used it for what it was meant for and pickled it once again.
That led to the Government passing a new rule – all pensioners had to appear before a designated authority once a year to show that they were alive. Nobody protested, for after all their earnings depended on it. And that brings MMM to the crux of his story. A friend of his, a retired pensioner, travelled abroad for a few months in summer (a very wise decision in MMM’s view for there is no point in staying on in Chennai and baking on a daily basis). He consequently missed his appointment with the appropriate authority to whom he had to prove that he, the pensioner, was alive and well. He returned in September to find that his pension had stopped in June, the month he went abroad. And so he duly fixed an appointment with the appropriate authority, met the functionary and soon thereafter found his pension resumed, but from the month of September only.
What of July and August he wondered. He then decided to meet the appropriate authority once again. Having heard him out, the panjandrum pondered for a few minutes and came up with the appropriate answer – the pensioner had appeared in September and proved that he was alive that month and so had had his pension resumed thereafter. But there was no way of ascertaining if the pensioner was alive in July and August. Which is why the payment was not made. It was in vain that MMM’s friend argued that since he was alive in September he ought to have been alive in July and August as well. The appropriate authority reflected over it and said he saw the logic in the argument. But the Government cannot be moved unless there is something in writing. It was therefore decided that MMM’s friend, the pensioner, would give a declaration in writing that he, the pensioner, was alive and well during the period aforementioned, to whit – July and August. This to be done in triplicate, and attested by a gazetted officer.