As the country immersed itself in fervent political discourse in the last two months, Red Cross Old Age Home in Khanna, Punjab was immune to the excitement for most part. When I visited the Old Age home in first week of April, Gurcharan Lal, 84, was sitting on a ramshackle-cemented bench outside the premises of the home, looking at the cars passing by on the NH 1 that skirts the home.
When I asked Lal his story (typical of anyone with any sort of journalistic pretensions), he didn’t say much. Instead, he just directed me to Ikbal Kaur, the septuagenarian responsible for keeping things in order at the home.
Kaur, who uses a stick to walk around and speaks decent English, lives in a sparse room with an attached bathroom. In her room, there is a single bed and several boxes of grocery. Kaur is more forthcoming about her “story”. “My husband Harbans Singh died 5 years ago. He ran several successful businesses and we used to be more than well off.
“After his death, my relatives offered to take me with them but I was advised by one senior officer to not to move with them. He said they’d cheat me of my money. So I came here and gave everything I had to my new home.”
In the evening, Kaur took me to the hall in the centre of the building where almost everyone had gathered to chit chat in the evening.
“Haryana Government pays Rs 750 per month , Delhi Government pays Rs 1500 per month as pension to every old aged but why Punjab Government pays only Rs 250??”, said 74 years old Ram Ratan Singh ,with extreme aggressiveness in his eyes.
Old Age pension scheme was introduced in Punjab in 1964. The amount of the pension was Rs 150 before it was increased to Rs 200 in 1995 and the move was repeated in 2006 to increase the pension amount to Rs 250. According to Dailymail.co.uk Report there are 14.43 lakh pensioners in Punjab.
RAM RATAN SINGH RECITING HIS POETRY LINES…
Ram Ratan Singh is an educated man, Served as a top notch employee in the steel factories in Mandi Gobindgarh for more than 40 years and owns a home in a village called Bholeya near Nabha. Ram Ratan Singh has two sons. “Both my sons are educated and well settled with their families, I used to live with my younger son but one night after consuming alcohol he abused me, then I decided I won’t live with any of my son and moved here to this old age home.” said Ratan Singh.
FOUNDATION STONE OF RED CROSS OLD AGE HOME…
Red Cross Old Age Home was inaugurated on 7th Jan, 1993 by Former Punjab Chief Minister S. Beant Singh. Beant Singh, member of INC, served as a Chief Minsiter of Punjab from 1992 to 1995 until he was assassinated on 31st August by suicide bomber Dilwar Singh Babbar of Babbar Khalsa International. Gurkirat Singh Kotli, beant Singh’s Grandson is an MLA from Khanna.
In this general elections youth casted their votes enthusiastically and every political party whether national or regional was so keen to address them and fill their manifestoes with freebees for them but The enthusiasm for voting of old aged people can’t be ignored at any point. “In last assembly elections they (Ikbal kaur and others) did not have voter cards, but this time we visited government officials and got their voter cards issued.” Interfered Khushhaal Chand, Secretary of the Old age Home. When asked whom will you vote for Ikbal Kaur said,”hajey tey pta nai, koi aaya hi ni sanu millan” *Haven’t decided yet, no one came to meet us”.
Their long list of problems doesn’t include basic amenities but some serious issuances which are yet to be hashed out. “It pretty much seems that this old age home is being run by Government funds but truth is hidden, Government pays us nothing. Rich people of the city donate us time to time.”, Protested Ikbal Kaur when asked what amount you get every month from Government??
“In 2011, MLA of the city came to us and said he will give us a grant of 1 lakh and asked us to get the foundation stone made and we did so. But he never came back”, ikbal kaur added,”in 2012 we got a call from someone who asked us to provide the details of the consumption of grant of 1 lakh given to your old age home by the same person who came to us and made false promises”.
IKBAL KAUR HOLDING FOUNDATION STONE…
The only thing they all complain is why no candidate goes to them to seek votes? Don’t they come under their vote bank? Why? Because they are few in number??
Khanna falls in the Fatehgarh Sahib constituency – a reserved seat – and as many as 15 candidates were in the fray. The man who’ll finally represent the constituency is H.S. Khalsa from the AAM AADMI PARTY.
The Aam Aadmi Party met very few expectations this time. The expectations of the residents of Red Cross Old Age Home are modest. HS Khalsa would do well to meet some of them at least.