Senior citizens, widows, disabled struggle to register online for assistance

Old age pensioners wait for online registration in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Old age pensioners wait for online registration in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Dec 1: Elderly pensioners, disabled, and widows in Kashmir are having trouble registering online, which is essential to guarantee they receive the meager Government financial aid since the Department of Social Welfare has moved the payment process online.
Since the last few days, thousands of beneficiaries-particularly the elderly and the disabled-have been spending hours outside Government-designated centres in the bone chilling cold because they fear that their pensions will be terminated if they do not register online. The issue is even worse in rural areas since senior citizens frequently travel great distances and make several journeys to gather the necessary Aadhar information, age certificates, and handicap certificates from authorized agencies to update their documents online.

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At one of the authorized age verification centres, the District Medical Board in Srinagar, a huge line of beneficiaries was seen waiting for the paperwork in the freezing cold. An elderly pensioner from the Malabagh area of Srinagar, Ghulam Ahmad, told Excelsior that the officials had returned him after he had arrived at the centre at approximately 8 am to get the documents for his bedridden wife.
“They asked me to bring my wife here after an hour of standing in the queue. How can I bring her since she cannot walk due to a fractured ankle? She also has chest issues, so exposing her to this cold could worsen her condition,” he said, adding that the Government should appoint a committee that can visit our residences and obtain the required data.
Another beneficiary, Nissar Ahmad, left the Centre discouraged because it was a major task for someone like him to bring his mother here with a hunched back. How can I explain why I was forced to bring my elderly mother here? She can barely walk, and there are hundreds like her across the Valley. The Government should think with an open mind and treat these senior citizens with respect,” he said.
There have been similar accounts of beneficiaries in other districts having to wait for hours for their papers at registration centers owing to a staffing shortage. A woman from South Kashmir’s Anantnag, who has received Government support for the last three years, claimed that she has been forced to run from one place to another and has no idea what to do. “I have been hopping from pillar to post since I am a widow. They advised us to travel to a different location, which I am not aware of,” she said.
Mohammad Shafiq Chalk, Director of the Social Welfare Department, told Excelsior that the process was due because they had not done the re-verification in many years. “It is a requirement under the rules. We used to carry the re-verification after every five years but that has not been done over last many years,” he said.
He, however, assured that no beneficiary’s pension will be suspended until the process is completed and that each beneficiary will be given enough time to register. “There is no need to worry; we are also humans and are aware of the difficulties faced by the beneficiaries. They should not panic,” he said, adding that anyone having difficulty getting to the centres should notify the department, and the department will do everything possible to assist.
Meanwhile, the Government has designated more centres in Srinagar’s Khanyar, Zadibal, Batamaloo, and SR Gunj zones due to the overwhelming number of people who have been visiting the age certification centre at the District Medical Board in Jawahar Nagar, NTPHC Rainawari, NTPHC Bazar, Trauma Center Lawaypora, PHC Laloo, NTPHC Jawahar Nagar, PHC Lasjan, PHC S.R Gunj, and NTPHC Narwara are among the authorized facilities.