By Shri Venu Madhav Rao, Vice President, Singareni Retired Employees Association, Hyderabad
There are many sufferings of the Singareni workers who penetrate into the coal seams regardless of the outside world and work’’ day and night against nature to earn profits for the company and bring light to the world. There are many struggles of the workers in enjoying the incentives, gifts, bonus, free housing, free electricity, gas etc. given by the employer during the working period.
Darkness has set in the lives of retired coal workers, who enjoyed great salaries in those days. As the pension is not increased according to today’s prices, many people are facing severe hardships. According to the Coal Mines Pension Scheme introduced in 1998, 25 percent of the basic and drought allowance of the last month of the worker’s retirement is determined as pension. This pension fund is supervised by the members of the Coal Mines Provident Fund Trust, which is under the control of the Union Ministry of Coal. The Trust Board also includes representatives of the trade unions.
It is inhumane that the minimum pension of 350 rupees fixed according to their wages has not been increased till now for the workers who were retrenched 24 years ago. There are people who are taking pension of three hundred and five hundred rupees. It is surprising that the old-age pension paid by the Telangana state government is less than 2,016 rupees.
Coal Pensioners are not eligible for Asara Pension. Many of the retrenched workers are dependent on their heirs, family members, and poor governance has turned many into beggars. Some earn a living by working as security guards and selling fruits and vegetables. One can’t help but feel sorry to see these people who lived a decent life while in service.
The provident fund and gratuity money received when they retired were used like arathi camphor for children’s education and marriages. The worker worked in every labour union and participated in the strike called by the leaders of the labour unions. Singareni workers were the first to participate in the general strike for Telangana statehood.
Low pension along with the insurance of eight lakh rupees available through the medical card issued by the employer for diseases due to old age are no match for today’s medical expenses. If you go to the Singareni area hospital, even there they forget the sacrifices of retired employees and collect medical expenses from them.
Coal Mines Pension Scheme 1998 has the provision of reviewing the pension every three years to increase the minimum pension and increase the pension with drought allowance in line with today’s prices is saddening. We submitted petitions to increase the pension to hundred members of Parliament, Union Ministers, Coal Minister Prahlad Joshi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held a four-day dharna near Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, but the results have been zero.
Who will fill the light in the lives of those who lived as dark suns?