Srinagar, June 3: In a grand gesture proving that their traditional, fraternal ties are still strong, retired Kashmiri Pandit bank employees living in different parts of the country joined their Muslim counterparts in the Kashmir Valley to help a poor colleague get pension.
The story of Ghaffar (name changed) reads like any common place tragedy of an abandoned, helpless old man. Ghaffar, who worked for a local regional rural bank (RRB) called “Ellaquai Dehati Bank” in the state, retired from service in 2009 as a bank attendant.
There was no pension for RRB personnel then and his terminal benefits amounted to around Rs 9 lakh.
Ghaffar lived in a village in Ganderbal district with his son and daughter-in-law who reportedly served him till they used all his life’s savings for repairing their house, buying household goods and other items to make their life comfortable.
Once the money got over, Ghaffar was thrown out of the house.
Left with no means of livelihood, Ghaffar started repairing shoes at a market.
However, a recent verdict by the Supreme Court said that all RRB staff in the country would get pension and various RRBs were told to pay pension to their retired officers/employees.
But there was a rider to obtain the pension.
Each retired staff member had to declare his/her option for the pension scheme by depositing the bank’s share of their provident fund they had taken along with their terminal benefits.
Ellaquai Dehati Bank released a list of its retired staff members showing the amount of the provident fund to be deposited by them to become eligible to get pension, with June 3, 2019 as the last date to deposit the money.
But Ghaffar did not have money to even travel to the bank’s head office in Srinagar, leave alone paying around Rs 2 lakh to the bank to become eligible for pension.
Retired bank staffers in the Valley sent WhatsApp messages to retired Kashmiri Pandit colleagues, now living in various parts of the country, recounting Ghaffar’s ordeal and how they had to collect Rs 2 lakh through donations in a day so that it could be deposited in Ghaffar’s account to make him eligible for pension.
Though the local retired employees and the Kashmiri Pandits had not met for 30 years, the response to the appeal was overwhelming. Pandit ex-employees from Pune, Delhi, Jammu and many other places not only sent their contributions but were the first to pitch in.
The contributions from their Pandit colleagues triggered such a response in the local Muslim staff members that Ghaffar’s account was oversubscribed even before Monday afternoon.
Choked with emotion at the solidarity shown by the migrant Pandits, retired senior officer Junaid Kawoos said: “They have led the initiative and this proves that nothing is lost. The trust, compassion, sympathy and concern between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits lives forever.”
Ghaffar has now become eligible for pension – and his son and daughter-in-law may come again to take him home.