No money for medical treatment: KSRTC retiree’s death puts focus on debt-ridden Corporation
For 34 years, V V Roy worked as a bus conductor for the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). After beginning his career as part of the non-contractual staff, he was finally regularised along with hundreds of others in September 2002.
When he retired in 2015, Roy hoped that his monthly pension would financially sustain him, his wife and two young daughters. But in September 2017, his family claims, the money abruptly stopped.
Roy, who suffered from diabetes and serious heart ailments, grew worried when doctors informed him that he had to undergo an urgent angioplasty. Needing Rs 4 lakh for the surgery, Roy kept deferring it until it cost him dear.
“On Monday evening, he was drinking tea when he suddenly said he couldn’t breathe. We immediately took him in an autorickshaw to a private hospital and then to the general hospital in Ernakulam. But he died before we reached the hospital. He didn’t say a word before he left,” Roy’s tear-eyed wife Bindu told The Indian Express.
Roy’s death lends further heft to the raging agitation of defaulting pensions to be paid by the government to over 38,000 retired employees of the beleaguered public sector company.
In January, a pensioner’s widow ended her life purportedly over extreme financial difficulties owing to stoppage of arrear payment. Many of the ex-employees haven’t received pension or arrears for years with successive governments citing the KSRTC’s financial health as a reason for the delay in pension payments. Last month, the Kerala High Court ordered that the corporation’s lofty debts cannot be stated as a reason for government’s inaction on pension dues. For now, the government has promised that a consortium of cooperative banks would pool in the first instalment of Rs 284 crore to clear pension arrears by March.
But Bindu, who works as a domestic help in a residential society, knows what government promises sound like. She hasn’t knocked on the doors of the Corporation or the local panchayat precisely for this reason.
“If he had gotten his pension on time, we could have bought medicines. He wouldn’t have died so suddenly,” she says. As her grand-daughter plays with a teddy bear outside the house, Bindu doesn’t know when the debtors would come calling. Their modest one-room house stands by the edge of a drain on revenue land with no proper ‘pattayam’ (land deed) in their hands. With her elder daughter married off, Bindu has the responsibility of taking care of her younger daughter’s school expenses.
“Achan ennu paranjal jeevan aayirunnu,” she says, indicating that her children were very close to their father.
Just then, her son-in-law arrives. Handing him a sheaf of papers, she tells him to go to the bus depot and distribute them to the employees there. “Sanjayanam (a part of last rites) is on Saturday,” she says, before retreating into the house.
Written by Vishnu Varma.