ONE can only imagine what it would take for an elderly man to commit suicide. The recent case of one such individual, who had been making the rounds of Karachi’s Civic Centre to obtain pension that he had reportedly not been paid for 13 months, leaves one reeling with anger. His family says he had been making repeated trips to collect what was his due, and the staff that he spoke to made fun of him and his efforts to collect his pension. The resulting depression, according to his family, led him to take the extreme step of jumping off the building, and not the lack of payment. The explanations given by KMC, where the man worked all his life and from where he expected his pension, and by Karachi’s deputy mayor, somehow do not ring true. They claim that pension cheques worth Rs740m “have been readied” and will be disbursed once the Sindh government releases the funds.
Whatever amount may be ready, the fact of the matter is that if the pensioner had to suffer humiliation at the hands of KMC employees while visiting the office to ask for updates on his dues, then it just shows the level of dehumanisation that prevails in that organisation. Pensioners are one of the most vulnerable members of our society, and the sad part is that many governments, federal and provincial, balance their accounts on the backs of these aged people. Pensions are amongst the first payments to be blocked in the event of shortage of funds. The callousness that this category of citizens must suffer for each cheque is enough to break one’s heart. For pensioners, that cheque means the world because it is their own money, and gives them a sense of worth and independence. Karachi’s deputy mayor should do all in his power to determine whether or not the retired KMC worker faced humiliation, and ensure that others are not made to suffer similarly in the future.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2016