Mumbai: Months after restoring a pension scheme for those who were jailed during the Emergency, the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government has decided to pay arrears to the beneficiaries to compensate for the duration when it was scrapped by the previous government.
The state government, comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shinde’s Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, has set aside Rs 61.22 crore as arrears for 3,339 beneficiaries of the scheme, according to a 21 October government resolution that ThePrint has seen. The arrears are for the period from 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2022.
The previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government — which comprised the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — had scrapped the scheme in July 2020 citing fiscal burden during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Shinde-led government brought it back in July this year, within a month of coming to power.
A state government official who did not wish to be named, said, “The current government was of the opinion that it would only be fair that the beneficiaries who were approved under the scheme as per the 2018 decision should get an uninterrupted pension. When the government decided to restore the scheme, we also said that we would grant arrears for the period for which the scheme was scrapped.”
“But we had to do some groundwork to arrive at the exact number of beneficiaries and the amount. We collected data from district collectors for the same,” he told ThePrint.
The pension scheme
The scheme of awarding pension to those jailed during the 1975-1977 Emergency period was first launched in 2018 when BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was the chief minister, following in the footsteps of many other BJP governments at the time.
Under it, those who spent more than a month behind bars get a pension of Rs 10,000 per month. In case of the death of such persons, their spouse will get a pension of Rs 5,000 a month.
Similarly, those who spent less than a month are entitled a monthly pension of Rs 5,000, while their next of kin, in the event of their death, get a pension of Rs 2,500.
One of many reversed decisions
The current government has reversed over half a dozen decisions of the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led government, including the one on the pension scheme.
One of the Shinde government’s first decisions was to revert to the contentious plan to build a Metro car depot at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, which Thackeray as chief minister had relocated to Kanjurmarg in October 2020.
Last week, the Shinde-Fadnavis government also restored the general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct probes in Maharashtra. The MVA government had scrapped the general consent during their tug of war with the BJP over the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
The current government has also decided to bring back a few other decisions by the earlier Fadnavis-led government that the MVA government had scrapped — direct election of sarpanches and presidents of municipal councils, voting rights to farmers in Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee polls, and Fadnavis’ pet project, the Jalyukt Shivar scheme, aimed at increasing the soil moisture content.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)