Rashid Paul

SHRC raps Forest dept for denying pension benefits to deceased Forest Guard’s family for 30 years

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Srinagar, Apr 19: In a classic case of “inaction and insensitivity” by the Forest department wherein it threw the family of one of its deceased Class IVth employee into the morass of destitution, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) today directed the government to release the pensionary benefits deprived to the family of the departed employee for the past thirty years.

Mohammad Abdullah Bhat of Kawoosa Khalsa Budgam worked as Forest Guard in Pir Panjal Forest Division, Budgam. He died while on duty on September 20, 1990, leaving behind five children and an illiterate young wife.

After the death of her husband, his widow asked for pensionary benefits from the department but was declined on the ground that the service records including the appointment order of her dead husband were missing.

The salary statement obtained by the family through an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals that Abdullah drew his salary regularly from December 1980 till his death in 1990.

Late Abdullah’s widow knocked the doors of all the officials ranging from clerk to the Principal Chief Conservator of the Forest department (PCCF). But the ruthless officialdom continued to deny her justice and harped on the service book records of her deceased husband although the state service rules explicitly entrusts the government departments with the custodianship of the service records of its employees.

The widow continued her battle to sustain her children. Her lone son Javeed, has ended up as an ATM guard despite being well-educated.

It is worth mentioning that besides pension, a member of Abdullah’s family was entitled to employment in government service under J&K (Compassionate Appointment) Rules, 1994 promulgated vide SRO 43 of 1994.

Unable to bear the expenses of a suit in a civil court, Javeed with the help of his cousin Mohammed Iqbal, (a contractual lecturer) in 2017 approached the SHRC.

The SHRC while adjudicating the matter today termed the case to be a reflection (of the rot) on the system people of Kashmir are living in.

A poor Forest Guard has died in 1990. Almost 30 years have passed and his family has not received pension. His leave salary, gratuity has not been paid to his family. His family has not been extended other benefits which otherwise his family was entitled to, it said.

Justice (retd.) Bilal Nazki, the SHRC chairman, who heard the matter, observed “even if wrongs committed by the Forest department are tried to be corrected, the family cannot be compensated for the agony it must have undergone during the last three decades.”

This all has been done on the ground that service book and appointment order of the deceased is not available with the department, he observed adding “it is the fault of the department”.

The “Department”, he said “is the custodian of service book, and other service records of the employee. Due to fault of the department the family of the deceased forest guard is suffering”.

He expressed his anguish that despite possessing a decade-long salary statement of its employee, the department is denying payment of the genuine compensation to the helpless family left behind by the deceased.

SHRC chairman directed the Forest department “shall immediately pay leave salary, gratuity and the provident fund to the deceased’s family. For fixation of pension, Accountant General be informed that service book is not available”.

Copy of the order has been directed to be sent to the state Chief Secretary to apprise him of the injustice that has been done to the family for last 30 years.

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