Major scandal of Social Welfare Deptt comes to fore in Doda distt
Startling revelations necessitate verification across the State
JAMMU, Sept 7: A major scandal has surfaced in the Social Welfare Department whereby benefit of Social Security Schemes is being extended to the large number of ineligible persons including Government servants. Moreover, financial assistance is found to be drawn on the names of dead and fake persons thereby causing huge loss to the exchequer.
The startling revelations, which have come to the fore in Doda district, have made it imperative for the Government to get verification of beneficiaries of these schemes conducted in all the districts of the State so as to weed out ineligible persons from the lists and to put an end to the long wait of deserving persons for obtaining benefit.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that Deputy Commissioner Doda, Simrandeep Singh recently collected data of beneficiaries seeking pensions under the Integrated Social Security Scheme (ISSS) of the State Government and National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) of the Union Government in the categories of old age, widow and physically challenged persons from the District Social Welfare Officer.
In order to get accurate authentication, the Deputy Commissioner assigned the task of extensive verification of all the pensioners to the Tehsildars. During this tehsil-wise exercise conducted for about a month, startling revelations came to the fore, sources said while disclosing that a total of 1930 persons were found to be completely ineligible for the benefit of these Social Security Schemes.
It has surfaced that financial assistance of Rs 1000 per month is being drawn on the names of 780 dead persons across the district while as 165 widows, who have been shown as the beneficiaries, don’t meet the eligibility criteria on account of their re-marriage etc, sources informed.
Similarly, 252 persons are being given disability pension despite the fact that the status of their disability is doubtful. Moreover, 710 pensioners of these schemes could not be traced during the extensive exercise conducted by the Tehsildars, which means they are not residing at the addresses shown against their names in the lists prepared by the Social Welfare Department.
“Most shocking aspect is that 23 Government employees are also getting pension under these schemes although they are not eligible for the same”, sources said while disclosing that these employees belong to Education, Public Health Engineering, Police and Revenue Departments.
The extension of benefit on the names of dead and fake persons or to other ineligible persons was putting undue burden on the exchequer and at the same time was depriving the benefit to those eligible persons whose applications are pending for approval for several years on the ground of lack of quota, sources further said.
According to the sources, Deputy Commissioner Doda has directed the District Social Welfare Officer to delete 1930 names from the lists after completion of formalities and include genuine applicants as per the wait list maintained in the office of Social Welfare Department in the most transparent manner within 60 days.
It has also been observed that many people are drawing double pension under NSAP and ISSS and Deputy Commissioner Doda has sought scheme wise details of pensioners from the District Social Welfare Officer for second round of verification to weed out duplication by relying on Aadhar numbers of beneficiaries, sources informed.
“It is a matter of serious concern that Social Welfare Department never tried to conduct such a verification of the beneficiaries and allowed the loss to the exchequer”, they said, adding the startling revelations came to fore in the Doda district should be an eye opener for the Government particularly those at the helm of affairs in the Social Welfare Department and such a verification should be conducted in all the districts of the State so as to weed out ineligible persons from the lists of the beneficiaries.
When contacted DC Doda, Simrandeep said, “while it is true that Social welfare Department is badly understaffed to undertake such an exercise (to verify the credentials of more than 20,000 beneficiaries) on its own, therefore Revenue Department, which has strong network at grass root level, was entrusted with this task.”
However, the DC did not rule out some vested interest or mafia actually allowing this business to continue to siphon off the money.
It is pertinent to mention here that whenever the issue of pending applications under ISSS and NSAP came up for discussion in the State Legislature it was stated that their disposal would be ensured following increase in allocation under these schemes by the State and Union Governments. However, thrust on verification of existing beneficiaries was never laid.
It is estimated that if this kind of exercise is undertaken in all the districts of the State, an additional quota of at least 35,000 beneficiaries can be created which will benefit a vast number of needy people.