Rejia Begum, an 87-year-old widow from North Lakhimpur was in great hardship after her son Eden Ali, a police constable, died in harness. Rejia was entirely dependent on her late son and due to his untimely death and her old age, she was without any means of income and livelihood. She came to know of the (Assam Employees’ Parent Responsibility and Norms for Accountability and Monitoring) Act , 2017 through word of mouth and approached the PRANAM Commission for assistance from the compassionate pension of her late son, which was being drawn by his wife. The Commission granted Rejia Begum 8% of the monthly compassionate pension of her late son.
Similarly, after the untimely death of her son, who was working as a Junior Assistant at Kar Bhawan in Guwahati, Prabha Das was looking at a grim future. She approached her late son’s office for help. The Drawing and Disbursing Officer, through proper process as per the PRANAM Act, granted 12% of the monthly compassionate pension of her late son to Prabha.
It is a unique initiative of the Assam Government for ensuring the welfare of the parents and divyang siblings of the employees of the State Government. This Act is the brainchild of the then Finance Minister and at present the Chief Minister, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma. Assam is the first and the only State to have such a legislation
Salient Features of the Act:
All employees working under the State Government, Government Undertakings and State Public Sector Undertakings come under the purview of the PRANAM Act.
If any parent or divyang sibling of the Government employee is financially neglected, compensation up to 10% (and in exceptional cases up to 15%) can be claimed by them from the monthly salary of the concerned employee.
If a Government employee dies before retirement, the dependent and financially neglected parents and divyang siblings can claim compensation up to 10% (and in exceptional cases up to 15%) from the Compassionate Pension received by the spouse or legal heir of the deceased employee. However, this is not applicable in the case of Family Pension.
Procedure for seeking compensation:
A three-tier structure with time-bound procedure has been put in place by the Government of Assam to deliver timely justice to the parents and divyang siblings of the employees.
Aggrieved parents or divyang siblings need to submit their application to the DDO of the concerned employee. DDO is the designated authority who is empowered to determine the eligibility of the claim. The DDO is bound to dispose of the application within 90 days.
In case the DDO fails to dispose of the case within the time-limit or if the employee, parent or divyang sibling is aggrieved by the order of the designated authority, an appeal may be preferred to the First Appellate Authority, the Commissioner & Secretary, GAD, Assam Secretariat, Dispur.
In case, the Commissioner & Secretary, GAD fails to dispose of the case within 60 days or if any of the parties concerned is aggrieved by the order, an appeal may be preferred to PRANAM Commission.
PRANAM Commission will dispose of the appeal within 90 days and the decision of the Commission will be final and binding.
If the designated authority or the appropriate authority has, without any reasonable cause, refuses to receive an application or does not dispose of the application within the time-limit, PRANAM Commission will impose a penalty of ₹100/- per day on that authority. The maximum limit of such penalty is ₹25,000/-.
PRANAM Commission is a quasi-judicial body. All the proceedings by the designated authority, the First Appellate and PRANAM Commission are of a quasi-judicial nature. While inquiring into any complaint PRANAM Commission has the same powers vested in a civil court.
During my tenure as the first Chief Commissioner of the PRANAM Commission, I have come across cases that speak volumes of the foresight with which the Act was conceived. In terms of percentage, the number of cases coming to the Commission, which is the final appellate body, is low. However, ground reports suggest that several such cases are being disposed of at the appropriate level. What the Commission has done is to reach out to Government departments for awareness campaigns among the employees , thereby spreading the word. The Commission has also resorted to promotional activities undertaken through the help of the mass media in Assamese, English and Bengali to create awareness. Plans are afoot to use other languages of the State to ensure that not even one aggrieved person is left out of the Act’s safety net.
As an insider, what I feel is that due to the simple procedures prescribed in the PRANAM Act and Rules, the Act has been, in a great measure, a support to the aged parents and divyang siblings of Government employees. This is an Act that can and should be replicated by other States and even private organisations to provide the elderly parents and divayangs financial support in their difficult times.