Coronavirus in Mumbai: Retired BMC school peon dies of Covid-19 amid pension tussle

Mumbai: A retired clerk's six-year-long fight for pension was tragically cut short by coronavirus on May 20. He had worked for a private, aided school under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and had not received pension since 2014, just like the approximately 100 retired teachers, clerks and non-teaching staff of private-aided schools under the BMC.

This group of people, including the peon, had retired in 2014 but have not received their pensions from the BMC till date, despite repeated appeals to the civic administration and filing writ petitions in the Bombay High Court (HC).

"This pension is our only source of income in the lockdown," claimed Meena Bhavsar, a 63-year-old retired teacher. Bhavsar said, "I completed 28 years of teaching and retired in 2014. But I have not received a single penny in pension. Isn't it our right for years of dedicated service? Then why is the civic administration not granting it?"

According to the HC's direction of 2015, the BMC had to remit pension to 85 teachers who retired in 2014. Jayant Gangakhedkar, a retired deputy registrar, said, "My wife was denied her pension despite 28 years of service as assistant teacher in a private, aided civic school. I filed several petitions and finally got her pension sanctioned in 2012, almost a year after her retirement in June 2011. But there are many staff who are still waiting."

"We are old and cannot do the exhausting legwork for our pension, which should be given to us in our retirement," said Bhavsar. "Whenever we appeal to the BMC, the officials tell us to get a signature, stamp or a missing document. We are senior citizens and cannot run around at this age. It is sad to hear about the demise of our fellow support staff whose family could not receive any financial help in terms of due pension. We need funds to survive in the lockdown and this pension is our only hope. We have approached the HC and the Supreme Court (SC) but the BMC is still reluctant," she said.

According to BMC Education Officer Mahesh Palkar, "The pension amount of these teachers, non-teaching and support staff in private-aided schools have not been sanctioned because there are several issues of permissions, posts, appointments and school regulations. We will look into this as the matter is being heard in the court."

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