Finally, she sought the help of Satark Nagrik Sangathan, a citizens group working in the area. With its help in June 2013, she filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking information on the status of her pension. Upon receiving incomplete information, she filed a second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC) some months later. In the hearing, the CIC ordered the women and child development department to pay her Rs 43,500 as the amount of pension due to her for 29 months and a compensation of Rs 5,000 a month for stopping her pension without notice, a violation of the RTI Act and her human rights.
Instead, the department concerned said that it had indeed informed the general public about the changed rules - through newspaper advertisements and the internet. "It's farcical," says Anjali Bhardwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan. "How can the department expect people as old and as helpless as Sumitra Devi to access pension rules through newspapers, let alone the internet?" In a landmark judgment on Sumitra Devi's case on March 31, March 2015, the CIC imposed a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 and disciplinary action against the government official responsible for arbitrarily discontinuing Sumitra's old age pension without informing her, chiding her (the official) for lack of compassion. Further, it has also directed that Sumitra Devi's dues be cleared with interest without any further ado. As a result, after three long years, the septuagenarian will finally receive her pension with arrears as well as the compensation due to her.
It's a victory for Sumitra Devi as well as the RTI movement in India, but it's a victory doomed to remain pyrrhic unless we are able to replace some of the bureaucratic red tape with plain and simple kindness and compassion, especially when dealing with the Sumitra Devis of this world.
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