Chandigarh [India], July 26 (ANI): Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday said the 70,000 odd beneficiaries removed from the ambit of social security were fraudulent cases who were drawing benefits at the cost of genuine ones, according to a release by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO).
The Chief Minister said that Rs 162.35 crore that he had ordered to be recovered from them will now go into raising the amount of financial assistance to the deserving beneficiaries.
"My government had added 6 lakh genuine beneficiaries to the list since taking over the state's reins while weeding out the ineligible ones, who were fraudulently getting social security benefits under the patronage of the erstwhile SAD-BJP government. These things happen when political parties become selfish and indulge in wrongful acts to promote their own interests," Singh said.
Only the undeserving people had been removed from the beneficiary list, he said, adding that the total number of beneficiaries had actually gone up from 19 lakh to 25 lakhs in this 3-year period.
An official spokesperson pointed out that as many as 70,137 fake social security beneficiaries have been weeded out after thorough verification and re-verification exercise conducted by the Social Security and Women & Child Development Department on the directives of the Chief Minister.
"Pointing out that most of these ineligible beneficiaries were from the constituencies of the Badal clan, the Chief Minister later lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders for `bribing' voters with bogus social security pension/financial assistance in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections," read the CMO release.
"Due to whopping Rs 162.35 crore losses incurred by the state exchequer as a result of the diversion of the social security benefits, including old age and widow pensions, to these fraudulent beneficiaries, genuine beneficiaries had been deprived of the higher benefits of various government schemes, as promised by the Captain Amarinder government ahead of the 2017 polls," it said.
The notification to investigate and identify suspect pensioners was issued by the Social Security department in June 2017, on the directions of the Chief Minister, after the Congress government came to power in the state.
"The exercise has revealed that as many as 36617 persons had been taking old age pensions fraudulently despite not fulfilling the age criteria of 58 years for women and 65 for men. Other categories of fake beneficiaries included widows, destitute women and the disabled," the release said.
"While Sangrur reported the maximum of 12,573 ineligible beneficiaries, deriving benefits worth Rs. 26.63 crores, Bathinda - the parliamentary constituency of Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal - came a close 2nd with 8762 fake beneficiaries in Bathinda District and 6663 in Mansa District, causing exchequer losses of Rs. 17 crores and Rs. 18.87 crores respectively. In Mukhtsar district, the Badal's so-called bastion, 7441 ineligible beneficiaries were availing benefits to the extent of Rs. 15.70 crores," it said.
According to the CMO release, in Fazilka district, which includes Jalalabad assembly constituency of former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Fazilka segment of the then Social Security Minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, 2452 ineligible beneficiaries were availing benefits to the extent of Rs 6.14 crores.
"In Amritsar District, the stronghold of the Majithia family, a total of 7853 ineligible beneficiaries were found to be getting benefits to the tune of Rs 19.95 crores," it said.
The old-age pension was enhanced from Rs 500 to Rs 750 per month from July 1, 2017. (ANI)