The Congress-led Chhattisgarh government has cancelled the monthly pension scheme for those jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) enacted during the Emergency period from 1975 to 1977.
An order issued by the general administration department (GAD) on Thursday said that the pension started on August 5, 2008, by the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been cancelled.
Records show there are about 300 people who were getting benefits from this pension scheme across Chhattisgarh. Under the Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan (MISA/Defence of India Rules detainees) Samman Nidhi Rule, launched in 2008 by the then BJP government, people who spent three months in jail under MISA provisions during the Emergency were given Rs 10,000 a month. Those imprisoned for six months got Rs 15,000 a month and those jailed for over six months got Rs 25,000. Under the rule, MISA detainees with no criminal cases were given pensions, and after their deaths, their wives were given half the amount.
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In January 2019, when Congress came to power in Chattisgarh, the state government stopped the payments, after which beneficiaries moved to court. As the case still remains pending in court, on the 23 January the government scrapped the scheme leaving many angry and helpless.
“The pension was given to the people who fought for the democratic values during Emergency and by cancelling the pension scheme, the Congress government made it clear that they have no respect for democratic values, This is condemnable and we will knock the doors of the court”, Leader of Opposition, Dharmlal Kaushik, said.
On the other hand, Congress claimed that MISA pensioners were not freedom fighters.
Advocate Supriya Upasane, who represents the pensioners in the Bilaspur High Court, says, “The High Court had asked the government to pay the arrears. Instead of paying the money, they scrapped the rule. We will carry on fighting for the Samman Nidhi.”
Advocate General Satish Verma, who is representing the state government in court, however, says, “No court of law ever found them (beneficiaries of the scheme) to be victims. They protested, went against the law and were thus jailed. We are not under any compulsion to pay the pension. It was an earlier government’s decision and we have changed it.”
“The decision is clearly a revenge tactic by Congress. The government hardly needed Rs 8 crore a year for this pension. The felicitation money should, in fact, have been used to encourage the younger generation that is taking to the streets now. This is a meagre amount for the government but meant a lot for these old people. Taking it away is a bad decision by the government,” says Virendra Pandey, a politician who was earlier in the BJP.