Cassian Baliarsingh

The struggle of a septuagenarian woman in Odisha for availing old-age pension has hogged the headlines and exposed the grave lapses in the system. Surya Harijan, a resident of Jharigaon in Nabarangpur district, was seen walking barefoot in the scorching heat with the support of a broken chair to reach a bank to collect her pension.

The trouble the 70-year-old had to endure for allowance is heart-wrenching. She has neither strength to walk properly, nor the energy to speak in an audible voice.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday expressed concern over the incident and wanted the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Department of Financial Services to take cognisance and act humanely.

She further questioned if there was no bank Mitra to help the elderly woman.

“Can see the manager of the @TheOfficialSBI responding but yet wish @DFS_India and @TheOfficialSBI take cognisance of this and act humanely. Are they no bank Mitra?,” FM Nirmala Sitharaman wrote.

Replying to the Finance Minister, the SBI authorities wrote, “Madam, we are equally pained to see the video. Smt Surya Harijan in the video used to withdraw her old age pension from the CSP point situated in her village every month. Due to her old age, her fingerprints were not matching at the CSP Point.”

“She visited our Jharigaon branch with her relative. Our Branch Manager immediately paid the amount by manually debiting her account. Our Branch Manager has also communicated that her pension will be delivered to her doorstep from next month.”

The SBI also promised to handover a wheelchair to Surya Harijan.