Pradeep Pattanayak

The joy of getting an old age pension pales into insignificance when compared to the difficulties endured by the elderly beneficiaries of Ekamania village under Aul block in Kendrapara district. 

Gangadhara Parida, Rangadhara Parida and Haladhara Nayak, are on the wrong side of 80. The residents of Ekamania panchayat, they all sport grey hair, wrinkles on faces and frail bodies. At this age when they should have been enjoying the comfort of their houses with family members, they once a month cover a distance of 17 kilometers to get a paltry pension of Rs 700, putting their lives at risk. 

To reach Keradagada where the branch of the Bank of Borada is located, their family members first carry them in slings to the river bank. From there, they embark on a boat ride to reach the other side of the river. And from there, they go to the bank. 

Narrating his difficulties, Rangadhara Parida said, “We are carried either in slings or in arms up to the river. Sometimes, our hectic journey to the bank is proved futile as we are asked to come on another day.”

Seconding Rangadhara, Baishnab Charan Parida demanded that the bank officials should visit their village to deliver pension at the doorstep. 

This trio is not alone in their predicament. Over 50 elderly pension beneficiaries of Amania, Nalapahi and Dakhinadia villages under Ekamania Panchayat in the district have to undergo such risky journey every month. 

They have no other options left as well. The Panchayat is surrounded by the Brahmani and Kharasrota rivers from four sides. If they chose to go to the bank by road, they have to cover a distance of 40 kilometers. 

The enraged villagers alleged that earlier the 318 beneficiaries of the Panchayat would receive their pensions from the Panchayat office itself. After the introduction of digitisation, they have to embark on such a risky water journey. 

Surprisingly enough, the district administration is not in a position to admit the prevailing of such a situation. The ADM attributed all these things to sponsored ones to tarnish the image of the district administration. 

When contacted Kendrapara ADM over the phone, he said, “You have brought the matter to our knowledge. We are sure that the allegations are baseless. Yet, we will do a probe and take necessary steps accordingly.”

Notably, the struggle of a septuagenarian woman of Nabarangpur district for availing old-age pension hogged the headlines when she was spotted walking barefoot in the scorching sun with the support of a broken chair to reach a bank to collect her pension.

As the video was widely circulated on social media, it caught the attention of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who expressed concern over the incident and wanted the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Department of Financial Services to take cognizance and act humanely.

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