Bhopal: The newly formed Madhya Pradesh Congress government is planning to strike down a pension scheme for Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) detainees arrested during the Emergency – between 1975 and 1977.
The pension scheme – Loknayak Jayaprakash Samman Nidhi – was introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2008 for the MISA detainees from the state.
About 4,000 people in the state were arrested during the Emergency according to a report published in the India Today in August 2008. In case a MISA detainee dies, the spouse is entitled to take 50 per cent of the honorarium amount.
As per the rule which was amended in 2016, those who had spent more than a month in jail will get Rs 25,000 a month. The state government has been spending Rs 70 to 75 crore each year on MISA detainees.
Initially, those, who had spent over six months in jail, were entitled to get Rs 6,000 a month, while those, who were detained for three to six months, received Rs 3,000 a month. But in 2012, under the pressure from the pension recipients, the government hiked the amount to Rs 15,000 for the former, and to Rs 10,000 for the latter.
On the other hand, freedom fighters receive a fixed amount of Rs 4,000 per month.
According to sources, the state government has prepared a bill to defy the existing pension scheme, and is planning to introduce in the winter session of the assembly which is going to begin from the first week of January 2019.
According to the state government data, more than 4,000 people have been benefiting from the pension scheme. However, Congress believes that the pension is benefiting senior RSS leaders, and by discontinuing it, the state government can save more than Rs 70 crore a year.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress media in-charge Shobha Oza said, “Through this pension scheme, the BJP government has been feeding senior RSS leaders since 2008. This squandering of public money must stop when the state has a debt of around Rs 1.86 lakh crore.”
The state government’s move has triggered a controversy in the state. The chairman of Loktantra Senani Sanghatan and senior BJP leader Tapan Bhowmick has threatened not only to challenge the move in the High Court, but also to launch state-wide protest against the state government.
He said, “If Madhya Pradesh government shuts the pension scheme, the association will knock on the High Court’s door, and will launch a protest. We did the same in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and we succeeded too.”
Madhya Pradesh’s former and longest serving Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too is one the beneficiaries of the scheme. He was barely 16 in 1975, when the police arrested him during a demonstration at Chowk Bazaar of Sehore district. He was released after four months on the account of his young age.
The other beneficiaries from the BJP are – former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, former minister Ajay Vishnoi, Sharad Jain, Nagendra Singh Nagod, Ramkrishna Kusmaria, Rajya Sabha member Kailash Soni, Retired Justice and Deputy Lokayukta UC Maheshwari among others.
Perhaps anticipating loss in the recently held assembly election, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led former BJP government had turned Loktantra Senani Samman Adhiniyam 2018 into a law by passing it in the previous summer session of the state assembly, in June 2018. So, if Congress wanted to abolish this law, then the ruling government would have to pass a law in the assembly.
Timeline of Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Samman Nidhi
In June 2008, the state government had introduced a scheme for MISA detainees, and had ordered to pay a pension of Rs 6,000 to those who had spent up to six months in the jail and Rs 3,000 to those who spent less than six months in jail.
In 2012, the state government hiked the pension amount to Rs 15,000 (for imprisonment of six months and above) and Rs 10,000 (for imprisonment of less than six months) respectively following the pressure from MISA detainees’ association.
In 2016, the state government issued a notification to pay Rs 25,000 to all those who had spent more than a month in prison during Emergency, and Rs 8,000 to those spent less than a month.
In 2017, a controversy erupted regarding Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot that he had spent only 13 days in jail during emergency, and getting Rs 25,000 a month. Then, the state government abolished the time limit rule and made those spent a day in the jail beneficiaries.
In June 2018, the BJP government turned this scheme into a law by passing the Loktantra Senani Samman Adhiniyam 2018 in the summer session of the state assembly.